Photo Credit: Facebook, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, composition
Former AP reporter Matti Friedman (upper left), AP director of media relations Paul Colford (upper right), former AP reporter Mark Lavie (lower left), former AP Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Gutnik (lower right)

It began with a “tell-something” tale by a former reporter. But as with so many small tempests, the shrill response of the alleged victim has fanned the winds to tornado strength.

A former AP reporter, Matti Friedman, publicly detailed allegations of biased coverage of the Israel-Arab conflict and claimed that Gerald Steinberg, a non anti-Israel expert, was banned by the AP. Friedman was immediately and with great force contradicted by Paul Colford, AP’s director of media relations.

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Colford claimed Friedman’s articles were filled with “distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies.” And he wrote, point blank, there was “no ban on AP’s use of Prof. Gerald Steinberg.”

So, it’s “he said – he said,” right? But as it turns out, we have a tie-breaker. A second former AP reporter explicitly confirmed to The Jewish Press that, despite Colford’s denial, there was indeed a ban in place in AP’s Jerusalem bureau on quoting Steinberg, and that he could state this with confidence. How? Because that ban was explained to him by the AP’s then Jerusalem bureau chief.

BACKGROUND

The original stories were written by a former Associated Press reporter, Matti Friedman. The first was in the online Tablet magazine, followed by another in The Atlantic.

Friedman provided substantial detail on what close followers of Middle East reporting already understand: the mainstream media has bought the Palestinian Arab story line about the Arab-Israeli conflict: the Palestinian Arabs are the Davids, the Israelis are the Goliath.

While this story is often hard to square with the facts, that only matters when the truth matters. And as Professor Richard Landes eloquently puts it: “you pay a high price for telling the truth about the Palestinian Arabs and no price for telling lies about Israel.”

Friedman’s pieces in the Tablet and The Atlantic offered numerous examples of what he described as AP staff looking the other way when Arabs violated laws of war or when Israel made peace offerings, including submitting to intimidation by Hamas.

In our last pass at this story, readers will recall that The Jewish Press zeroed in on a startling new fact Friedman had in his Atlantic article: that the AP had “banned” interviews with Bar Ilan Professor Gerald Steinberg and the use of materials by the non-governmental organization watchdog which Steinberg founded and heads, NGO-Monitor.

Friedman made this claim on the basis of his experience as a new reporter in AP’s Jerusalem bureau during Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 to January 2009) between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza.

In particular, Friedman was struck by the pedestal upon which self-proclaimed human rights organizations were placed by AP, and their claims, particularly condemnations of Israel, accepted without reservation. It was in this context that Friedman learned about the ban on Steinberg.

Friedman stated, without any qualifications, that in a region “with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor.”

The Jewish Press story was published in the early hours of Monday, Dec. 1, Israel time.

Paul Colford, the AP’s media relations director, began contacting The Jewish Press during the early hours of the business day on Monday, U.S. time. The subject line was: “Email address needed by AP.”

Colford informed the New York-based Jewish Press print editor that there were “inaccuracies” in our story and sought contact information for the reporter who wrote it.

It took some time for the New York editor to convey the request to the Jerusalem editor of the JewishPress.com, and then a little longer for the reporter to get the message. In the interim, the New York editor explained to Colford the relationship between the print and online versions of The Jewish Press (the online version is autonomous, although each has permission to run the other’s stories), and asked to know what inaccuracies were in the story.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. the only thing worse than muslim puppetmouth AP, is Reuters. creepier still is that "news"organizations' lazy and ignorant reporters and pundits use this disseminated blsht without monitoring or fact checking the outright lies and the historical inaccuracies.

  2. Glad you wrote this story. Funny, when I (a Forbes investigative reporter) wrote to Colford and his bosses — seeking comment about Matti's first article — they didn't respond. But I'll provide my comment here:

    Pay attention to what Colford (he also teaches tomorrow's journalists at the Columbia J-School) told Matti in the second article about AP's failure to report the pressure by armed Hamas militants that was placed on them to not show rocket launches. AP's readers and their thousands of media-outlet customers were not informed of this. Wouldn't they have liked and needed to know it? However, the AP "does not report many interactions with militias, armies, thugs or governments," reasoned Colford. "These incidents are part of the challenge of getting out the news—and not themselves news."

    Really? Colford may want to study up on the 1990-91 Gulf War, in which CNN was the only Western outlet permitted by Saddam Hussein's government to cover the war from Baghdad. Afterwards, CNN correspondent Peter Arnett conceded that his reports were subject to strict censorship by the Iraqis. "There was always an Iraqi at my elbow," he said. To say this situation shaped his reporting would be an understatement; CNN and Arnett came under fierce criticism afterwards. At least Arnett finally conceded this secret censorship and pressure to CNN's viewers after the war ended. But AP didn't bother doing so after the Israel-Hamas war ended. Nope; it took a former AP reporter to do it.

    The old Columbia Journalism Review might have given Colford and AP a "dart" for this—in their "Darts and Laurels" section. Let's see if they do, but I'm not holding my breath (for various reasons).

  3. Now this is journalism! Unfortunately while newsites like yahoo provide headlines and links to Al Jazeera and obscure sites that bash Israel next to links to AP and ATF stories, it is very unlikely that they will provide a link to this one.

  4. Wow! Real journalism! Not only was this a delight to read in terms of style and panache, but it was refreshing to see the inside workings of what it takes to verify sources! Thanks for this!

  5. I always think nothing more on the subject of hatred of Israel can be topped, but here we go again. So why am I so angry? Perhaps they are doing us a favor because anger is the only thing that is going to work in fighting this disgusting dreck. I for one, am going to tweet like crazy about this. We must tell the world what the Associated Press has done. Not only disparaging the entire work of The NGO Monitor but in targeting Professor Steinberg, who works tirelessly for us. For the truth, and for the survival of the Jewish people everywhere we must stand up to this specific act of intentional censorship of the truth in the mainstream media.

  6. Lori, I wish you would give us summaries of all nine articles in which Mr. Steinberg was quoted, and the quotations from Steinberg in each one. This would shed more light on whether there was ever a ban on quoting Steinberg to refute anti-Israel NGOs.

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