When CNN came under new leadership last year, its message to the public was that the network wanted to “rebuild trust as a non-partisan news brand.” At the time, David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, spoke proudly of his vision of CNN “doing what journalists do best, which is to fight to tell the truth.”
Unfortunately, some at CNN seem to be fighting something else: Accountability for shoddy journalism.
Take, for example, CNN’s silence over an overtly antisemitic cartoon that remains on its website despite numerous emails, phone calls and social media posts directed at the network. There have also been articles in both Jewish and major national media outlets expressing criticism and disgust, as well as a video exposé.
The cartoon portrays Jews celebrating Passover surrounded by a sea of blood, an unmistakable reference to the centuries-old blood libel that Jews use the blood of murdered gentile children for ritual purposes or to make matzah. Even The Guardian, an outlet known for regularly minimizing the problem of antisemitism, had the ethical sense to take down a similarly antisemitic cartoon.
But the response from CNN? Crickets.
Another recent example of a shocking disregard for accountability came courtesy of longtime CNN personality Christiane Amanpour. During an interview with a former Israeli ambassador, Amanpour seemingly fabricated polling data to suggest “the latest polls” show the Palestinian people “want a peaceful, two-state solution to coexist” with Israelis.
Yet every single poll taken by Palestinian pollsters that CAMERA could find consistently showed the exact opposite: A substantial Palestinian majority is against a two-state solution.
What was CNN’s response to calls for evidence to back up Amanpour’s glib claim? Silence.
More recently, CNN correspondent Frederik Pleitgen described an incident in which terrorists shot at a car containing an Israeli mother and her two daughters. The terrorists then pulled the vehicle closer in order to fire at close range and make sure the women were dead.
“There was a shooting incident where a car received a bullet shot, or gunshots, with the family in it,” Pleitgen said. “It was a mother and her two daughters, and the two daughters were killed in that crash.”
Pleitgen’s evasive, circuitous wording stood in stark contrast to his description in the same broadcast of the shooting death of a Palestinian. He plainly and directly stated, “The Israeli military shot and killed a 15-year-old boy.” Despite a message from the correspondent to complainants that said he was aware of the resulting criticism, communication ended as soon as the topic of a public correction was raised.
For decades, CAMERA has been communicating with CNN when concerns arise. Not infrequently, CNN has done what hundreds of other media outlets do as part of normal professional practice and issued corrections. Other times, the network has declined to do so. But very rarely have network executives ignored repeated complaints backed by documentary evidence.
The fact that CNN is allowing an antisemitic cartoon to remain on its platform at a time of rising antisemitism is particularly notable in light of CNN’s Aug. 2022 special “Antisemitism in America.” During the broadcast, the U.S. special envoy on antisemitism advised that “words are easy, but it’s to act on it” that matters most. Jeff Cohen, a survivor of the Colleyville synagogue attack, similarly pleaded, “Letting [antisemitic] things go is a problem.”
CNN has been letting things go a lot lately, chiefly its adherence to professional journalism.
David M. Litman is a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, the 65,000-member Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.