The Monitor is still trying to catch up with some of the more striking examples of media bias in the coverage of Israel’s recent anti-terrorist operations in the Palestinian areas. Topping this week’s list is the insufferable Ted Koppel and his separate interviews with Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat, both of which aired on the May 1 edition of ABC’s “Nightline.”
Koppel, whose swelled head has to be the secret behind his gravity-defying hairdo, maintained a confrontational stance throughout his session with Sharon, peppering the Israeli prime minister with sharp questions and interrupting him with harsh rebukes.
“You’re a very tough man,” Koppel remarked at one point to Sharon. “It’s very difficult to get a straight answer out of you. I mean, if I ask you, are you going to pull Israeli troops out of the West Bank and out of Gaza, I mean no disrespect, sir, but I haven’t heard an answer.”
In his sit-down with Arafat, by contrast, Koppel sounded as though he’d just matriculated from the Barbara Walters School of Sensitive Journalism, lamely tossing out one softball after another.
“Tell me,” Koppel earnestly asked Arafat midway through the interview, “what has been the most difficult part for you about these last 35 days?”
The highlight, though, came when Arafat, offended at a rather innocuous question from Koppel, berated the newsman in an indignant tone: “You are speaking with Yasir Arafat. You are attacking me….You are speaking to General Arafat.”
To which Koppel, the gruff lion with Sharon, became the gentlest of lambs and responded meekly, “I understand. I understand.”
Turning from the sanctimonious to the shameless, Geraldo Rivera was in fine form on Fox News Channel the night of Saturday, May 4. Rivera was interviewing Arafat when he lapsed into near total incoherence as he begged him to denounce suicide bombing:
“You know, but Mr. President you know, you know how I feel about you,” Geraldo sputtered. “You know how I feel about you and the Palestinian people…. I walk the streets with you today and I know the Palestinian people love you. Now, even more than, even before when they still love you then, now they, now you can take control of all of this. Now you can keep the peace on this side. If you keep the peace on this side then let the other side be the aggressor….”
Arafat was proving himself impervious to such blubbery importuning, so Geraldo, still very much on bended knee, offered up this bit of inspired wisdom: “I have a new slogan, I don’t want to take too much time, ‘Palestine is not Israel and Israel is not Palestine.’ Would you agree to that? Two separate states with the guarantee…. Just say, just say it for me. No more, no more, even if you love Palestine don’t do this, don’t do this suicide bombing, don’t do this terrorism. Say that now, say that now!….”
Arafat then began complaining about all the hellish deeds allegedly committed by Israel, which prompted Geraldo to move closer, affectionately pat the Palestinian Authority chairman on the shoulder and coo, “Mr. President, you know I understand. You know I understand. I understand the crime, I saw it with my eyes. But I saw it with my eyes. Now say it to the children, say, now say it to the children, say it for our children.”
Rounding out this week’s column is the Prince of Palestine himself, Peter Jennings, about whom the Monitor could easily fill an entire column week after week. On Monday, April 15, the ABC anchor, in contrast to his counterparts at NBC and CBS, completely ignored that day’s huge Washington rally in support of Israel, which by any standard was the largest pro-Israel event ever held in the United States.
And if you’re inclined to think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t possible on a busy news day to squeeze in any mention of the rally in a 30-minute newscast (22 minutes not counting commercials), be advised that Jennings did find time to report on another gathering thousands of miles away.
“In Lebanon today,” he intoned, “thousands of people demonstrated against Israel’s campaign against the Palestinians. And also against U.S. support of Israel.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org