Media bias: CNN and NPR are afraid to say “Apartheid” out loud

Media bias: CNN and NPR are afraid to say “Apartheid” out loud

Media bias: CNN is among the news outlets that are reluctant to report on news that places Israel in an unflattering light. Case in point: failure to report on the recent Israel Apartheid exposé.

As is standard practice in American mainstream media, CNN and NPR buried a major story critical of Israel so deep, it’s almost like it never happened.

by Kathryn Shihadah

On January 12, the respected Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released a bombshell report entitled “This is Apartheid: Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

The “apartheid” label is big news – especially from an Israel-based organization. It is relevant to every American because our government gives Israel $10 million a day in aid.

Those familiar with the Israel-Palestine issue have known for years that Israel is an apartheid regime – but also know that the bias in mainstream media has led to a shortage of deep reporting on stories critical of Israel (If Americans Knew has been reporting on it since the organization’s inception).

media bias israel
Palestinians protest in Hebron (socialistproject.ca)

We were therefore surprised to see the websites of several major media outlets report on this documentation of apartheid about “America’s closest ally.” The websites of both CNN and NPR contained articles on the topic. Associated Press (AP) also produced a report which was picked up by a number of news organizations.

For a moment, we wondered, is our country finally waking up to the reality of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians? Is mainstream media willing to tell hard truths about the so-called Jewish State after all these years?

It’s not that easy. Israel has called the shots in mainstream media for years, as If Americans Knew has revealed:

A study of 50 years of headlines in 5 top newspapers finds that media coverage of Israel-Palestine favors Israel by providing more overall coverage, more positive coverage, and greater access to Israeli voices than to Palestinian ones. Much of this can be attributed to pressure from the pro-Israel lobby.

(For more on the pro-Israel media bias, go here and here.)

Into the abyss

While CNN and NPR have websites, they are primarily broadcast media, so the litmus test for stories that matter is whether they make it on the air.

In both cases, the “Israeli apartheid” story did not make the cut.

So while both outlets carried news of the B’Tselem report, it was essentially “buried” where audiences rarely look.

Media investigative reporters have experienced this: when they report on a story that is unwelcome for some reason, it may never make it to the air, but instead be relegated to the abyss of the internet, unlikely to be noticed.

A busy news cycle?

January 12th was a big day for news, of course. The events at the Capitol and the coronavirus dominated the airwaves for both CNN and NPR.

But news producers make decisions about what will and will not make it on the air.

CNN transcripts for that day indicate that there was time for other topics: news anchors reported on Japan’s plans to go ahead with the Olympics in 2021, told a story about a women’s basketball team; and ran an interview with Prince Charles about climate change.

Yet CNN found no time to report on an astonishing accusation against America’s favorite “democracy” and beneficiary.

NPR squeezed in, between the political and pandemic news, reports on the death of a tuba virtuoso, a restaurant that tried to send pastry into outer space, and the new requirement for federal agencies to disclose what they know about UFOs.

Decision-makers clearly chose not to report on the major Israeli report showing that Israel is an apartheid regime that subjugates Palestinians.

The Israeli exemption

CNN was pressured by pro-Israel power brokers to fire Marc Lamont Hill for making a speech supporting Palestine in the United Nations, but Jake Tapper slipped in a dig at the Palestinians with no repercussions.

In fact, the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has taken CNN and every other mainstream media outlet to task many times by for their biased Israel-related journalism.

FAIR routinely points out failure by news giants like NBC, Fox, CBS, PBS, and CNN in their reports on major stories of Israeli misdeeds. In some cases, stories have been reported inaccurately, downplaying the seriousness of Israel’s actions or spinning the blame onto Palestinians (example); other times they have been reprimanded for flagrant omissions.

FAIR also identifies sleight of hand by major newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, as well as news services like Associated Press (AP). 

If Americans Knew researches and reports on misleading and incomplete coverage of the Israel-Palestine issue, and strives to provide the missing pieces for our audience.

Facts are stubborn things, and they need to be heard.


Kathryn Shihadah is a staff writer and editor for If Americans Knew. She also blogs at Palestine Home.


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