The Guardian reveals CNN’s pro-Israel bias is no accident, but a conscious and complex effort directed from the very top of the network.
The British Guardian has just published an extraordinary, thorough confirmation of what we already suspected — that CNN’s bias about reporting Israel’s war on Gaza is no accident, but a conscious and complex policy directed from the very top of the network.
The Guardian’s long report should be entered in every prize competition possible. Chris McGreal got six network insiders in multiple CNN newsrooms to talk. He also got his hands on “more than a dozen internal memos and emails.” The report — the Guardian does not have a paywall — runs on for 16 printed pages. Here is its lead sentence:
“CNN is facing a backlash from its own staff over editorial policies they say have led to a regurgitation of Israeli propaganda and the censoring of Palestinian perspectives in the network’s coverage of the war in Gaza.”
You get the impression that CNN spends just as much time distorting the news as it does actually gathering it. Here’s a quick summary:
“. . . daily news decisions are set by a flow of directives from the CNN headquarters in Atlanta that have set strict guidelines on coverage.
“They include tight restrictions on quoting Hamas and reporting other Palestinian perspectives while Israel government statements are taken at face value.”
Then, even more extraordinary:
“In addition, every story on the conflict must be cleared by the Jerusalem bureau before broadcast or publication.”
This is exactly how authoritarian regimes control their news output.
The CNN insiders told McGreal that the network’s bias
“resulted, particularly in the early weeks of the war, in a greater focus on Israeli suffering and the Israeli narrative of the war as a hunt for Hamas and its tunnels, and an insufficient focus on the scale of Palestinian civilian deaths and destruction in Gaza.
McGreal’s informants said “the tone of coverage is set at the top by its new editor in chief and CEO, Mark Thompson.” The CNN insiders pointed to Thompson’s track record in his previous 2004-2012 tenure at the head of the BBC, where
“. . . he was accused of bowing to Israeli government pressure on a number of occasions, including the demand to remove one of the corporation’s most prominent correspondents from her post in Jerusalem in 2005.”
(That veteran BBC correspondent, Orla Guerin, continues to report from just about every frontline crisis on the planet, and is arguably the British network’s most accomplished foreign correspondent. Yet you will rarely see her broadcasting in Jerusalem.)
McGreal unearthed a revealing two-page memo, openly called “an instruction from Mark,” that said that
“. . . while CNN would report the human consequences of the Israeli assault and the historical context of the story, ‘we must continue always to remind our audiences of the immediate cause of this current conflict, namely the Hamas attack and mass murder and kidnap of civilians.’
McGreal’s excellent report did leave out a key fact about Mark Thompson. After Thompson left the BBC, he went on to be president and CEO of the New York Times, from 2012 to 2020. Those of us who have spent years trying to explain the NYT’s chronic bias on Israel/Palestine may have just found one of the smoking guns….