CNN Executive Asks Pro-Israel Teenage Activist: 'Are You Brain Dead?'

December 26th, 2014 4:33 PM

In an article posted on the website for the Times of Israel newspaper, high school senior Hayley Nagelberg described a testy exchange between herself and Richard Davis in which the executive vice president of news standards and practices for the Cable News Network asked her if she’s “brain dead.”

The clash was a result of CNN's coverage of an attack on a synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, on November 18 by two Palestinians who wielded meat cleavers, axes and a gun to kill American Israeli rabbis Moshe Twersky, Calman Levine and Aryeh Kopinsky; British Israeli rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg; and first responder Zidan Saif.

The attackers were two Palestinian cousins, Abed Abu Jamal and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, and the student at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, New Jersey, said she was horrified when the first CNN headline on the incident read “Two Palestinians Killed,” followed by “Four Israelis, Two Palestinians Killed” in a story that claimed the violence took place inside a mosque and not a synagogue.

“CNN does not have a great reputation for a fair and balanced coverage of events involving Israel,” the student noted before stating that many cars throughout the country have bumper stickers with Hebrew words that translated in English read “CNN Lies.”

One month later, on December 21, more than 700 Jewish teenagers from around North America gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, for the United Synagogue Youth’s 64th annual international convention.

On the following day, Nagelberg joined approximately 30 other students and staff members “to listen to representatives from CNN, which has headquarters right next to our convention center.”

During an hour of listening to Davis and CNN's mobile editor, Etan Horrowitz, “I felt my jaw drop lower and lower in disbelief, and the scowl on my face grow increasingly intense in anger and frustration,” she stated.

“Davis told me and my peers and staff that it is up to us, and everyone else, as consumers to check other news sources if we think we may want more information,” Nagelberg recounted.

“I was confused” by his remarks, she indicated. “Isn’t it a news organization’s job to provide the facts? While an educated reader should always check a variety of news sources for different presentations, one should expect a leading news distributor to get the basic story right.”

Nagelberg continued: “Davis’s explanations for the aforementioned, horribly misleading and false headlines boiled down to human error.”

He then said that “these headlines only surfaced for minutes before being taken down.” However, he claimed, someone took a screenshot and circulated those headlines around the world, which was not CNN's fault.

“As our time with the CNN execs came to a close,” Nagelberg stated, “Davis explained to those of us that … when one person has an opinion about anything, a news report may seem wrong to that person. However, to everyone else, it could be perfectly right.”

After deciding that the answers the students received were nothing short of “a farce,” Nagelberg “decided to go get in one last word” with Davis, who said that calling the incident “a terrorist attack” would mean they had jumped to a conclusion without any evidence to back it up.

“Okay,” the high school senior said, “fully understanding the weight that the word 'terrorist' carries. But by the time it was known that it was four Israelis and two Palestinians, it was known that there were meat cleavers and stabbings involved. Why couldn’t you call it an ‘attack’?”

His response? “You’ve got to be kidding me! One word? Are you brain dead?

At the end of her article, Nagelberg had harsh words for Davis.

To answer your question: Yes, I am serious. Yes, it’s one word. It makes a difference. No, I am not brain dead. I am a 17-year-old girl from New Jersey who is appalled by the biased media coverage of Israel here in America.

How many mornings must I wake up in fear as I reach for my phone to scroll through countless stories, from countless news organizations, trying to get a complete picture of what happened in my homeland while I slept?

“How many hashtag campaigns, angry teenagers [and] nasty emails must you see before you understand that your news is not balanced, is not fair, and is not accurate?” she continued.

“I cannot sit back any longer and watch people like you continue to misreport the truth,” Nagelberg stated. “The time for change is now, and if you are not prepared to be a part of the change, I ask you: ‘Are you serious? … Are you brain dead?’”

If this pro-Israel activist isn't getting the information she's looking for on CNN, perhaps it's time to turn to another cable news channel, one that has “fair and balanced” as its motto.