If you thought the Monitor was finished with ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings last week, you don’t know the Monitor or Peter Jennings. Throughout his career, starting with his years as a Beirut-based correspondent in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, Jennings has evinced a sharp pro-Palestinian bias – one that goes well beyond the ritualistic bromides mouthed by garden variety journalists who strive with all their might to attain the proper level of political correctness.
Most of those would-be Murrows are merely going through the motions. Jennings means it.
It was during his time in the Middle East that Jennings marinated himself in Arab society and culture. “He had great contacts in the Arab world,” ex-ABC News president Elmer Lower once marveled. One of Jennings’s paramours in those days – he still speaks of her with great fondness – was the shrill Palestinian mouthpiece Hanan Ashrawi. (Don’t ask; she must have aged badly.)
After his first marriage broke up, Jennings married Anouchka Malouf, a Lebanese photographer with a Syrian mother and an Egyptian father. Through Anouchka, wrote Robert and Gerald Jay Goldberg in their 1990 book Anchors, “Jennings was immersed in the local [Beirut] community in a much deeper way than most journalists.”
A couple of decades – and wives – later, Jennings is widely viewed as the American network news figure most biased against Israel. And, as the following excerpts from a recent Media Research Center report make clear, he’s not about to let up:
Hamas is a “terrorist” group to everyone but Peter Jennings. In reporting on President Bush’s decision Tuesday to freeze the assets of a Texas group, charging that it funnels money to Hamas, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC directly or indirectly described Hamas as a terrorist operation. But not ABC’s Peter Jennings.
Jennings announced on the December 4 World News Tonight: “Today the Bush administration froze the financial assets and closed the offices of a major Muslim charity. The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation is accused of financing the militant Islamic group Hamas which claimed responsibility for last week’s suicide attacks against Israelis. Federal agents raided several Holy Land offices around the country today.”
On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather at least added the word “murder” before “suicide attacks” as he cast doubt upon the Texas group’s legitimacy as a “charity.” From Kabul Rather intoned: “The group Hamas has claimed responsibility for the latest murder/suicide attack inside Israel and today President Bush cracked down on a U.S., quote, ‘charity’ that has helped finance Hamas.”
For the second straight night following the terrorist attacks which killed 26 Israelis, Jennings portrayed Israel as the violent aggressor. On Monday night he wanted to know if the Bush administration wished to “restrain the Israelis?”
On Tuesday evening Jennings saw “an explosion of violence in the Middle East” with “Palestinians dead and wounded after Israeli attacks.” He soon suggested Israel is a repeat offender as he lamented how “Israelis have been on the attack again.”
Jennings started the newscast: “Good evening everyone. We’re going to begin in the Middle East tonight where the U.S. has so much at stake. The Israelis have been on the attack again against the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. The Israelis say they’re trying to force Mr. Arafat to stop Palestinian terrorists who are killing Israelis. The Palestinians say they’re making it impossible for him to do anything while his government is being attacked.”
Contrast the Jennings theme of Israel as the assailant with how Dan Rather approached the subject on the CBS Evening News. His tease at the top of the show: “Israel’s latest answer to a wave of Palestinian terror attacks: Air strikes hit just yards from Yasir Arafat’s office.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com