Pro-Israel Activists Voice Objections at CBS Shareholders Meeting
It does not take sixty minutes, but a mere few moments to level a smear against an entire nation. The recent CBS 60 Minutes program on Israel and its falsely alleged mistreatment of Christians was nothing less than a version of a modern-day blood libel against the Jewish State.
The program ignored the real facts and the realities, as well as the many testimonies of Muslim persecution against Christians in the PA territories.
A letter by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) director Andrea Levin to Jeffrey B. Fager, chairman of CBS News, quoted one such testimony by Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the guardian of the Roman Catholic Church's property in the Holy Land, which appeared in the New York Sun in 2005. To wit, "[a]lmost every day -- I repeat, almost every day -- our communities are harassed by the Islamic extremists in these regions. And if it's not the members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, there are clashes with ... the Palestinian Authority."
Program host Bob Simon described Israel's security fence as "completely surrounding" Bethlehem, which is simply false.
It is truly unfortunate, in light of the tragic persecution of Christians in so many Islamic nations, that 60 Minutes conjured up a spurious account in order to malign Israel, while disregarding those whose stories that truly need to be told.
On May 24, at a CBS shareholders meeting, board members of CAMERA were in attendance to respond to the charges leveled in the program. A letter by Andrea Levin which was distributed just prior to the meeting expressed the organization's goals: "Although we have attempted through Mr. Radcliffe to elicit corrections for a number of material errors and omissions, our efforts have been unsuccessful. These factual shortcomings do need to be rectified and we are writing once more to urge that CBS adhere to the fundamental tenets of journalism that require news reporting to be accurate and fair and that instances of false reporting be fully and forthrightly corrected -- on the air."
When CBS called for a vote on the new directors, CAMERA board member Carol Greenwald arose and asked if CBS has a policy in line with standards of professional journalists which requires prompt corrections of factual issues. Another CAMERA board member, Richard Allen, then asked if CBS had taken into account the impact on earnings if CBS News lost the confidence of the public as an institution devoted to accurate and balanced reporting.
CBS responded by attempting to whitewash the entire matter. The network's general counsel replied that they had received 476 comments on that 60 Minutes program and that half of them were positive. However, information supplied by CAMERA which monitors complaints by viewers told a very different story, stating that the number of complaints was significantly higher. The organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI) had sent 29,602 e-mails within the first 24 hours of its "action alert," and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs had sent 3,000, not even counting those of CAMERA and other individuals not affiliated with any of the aforementioned organizations.
During the meeting, Greenwald read a statement reiterating the requests of CAMERA -- namely, that CBS "go on the air and correct the calumny that Israel mistreats Christians" -- and stated that CBS "needs to broadcast a correction that distinguishes between the violence towards Christians in the Palestinian Authority controlled territories and the security enjoyed by Christians in Israel." Greenwald then continued, "We have provided an attachment which gives a brief litany of the horrors being visited upon Christians by Muslims in Muslim countries which puts the ridiculous accusations against Israel in perspective."
Many shareholders responded to statements by CAMERA members with applause. One individual thanked the CAMERA representatives and stated that she had been very upset by all the letters about the distorted 60 Minutes segment that were published in the newspaper, The Jewish Week. When the general counsel said Greenwald had to stop speaking because of time, several people called, out, "Let her talk, we want to hear what she has to say."
When Richard Allen said it was "too bad that CBS had decided to throw the Jews down the well[,]" Les Moonves, the president of CBS, responded that he was offended by that remark, which he denied was true. Allen countered that he was "sure that Moonves was offended and he should be because it was true." The chairman of CAMERA's board, Robert Weisberg, then spoke and told Moonves that he should not be "so defensive" about criticism of 60 Minutes because the problems were eminently "solvable by the Board of CBS."
Will CBS admit that its reporting was biased and offer a public correction? Not only have they not retracted the story, but the head of CBS news, Jeffrey Fager, wrote to CAMERA stating that CBS stands behind the story as fair reporting.
So much for accuracy and accountability at CBS.
Larry Domnitch is an educator and author.