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August 29, 2012

NPR’s Discussion “October Surprise?” Unsurprisingly Indulged Anti-Israel Polemicist


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National Public Radio's widely syndicated program, On Point, hosted by Tom Ashbrook, continues its tradition of tolerating egregious anti-Israel distortions in Middle East segments. (examples –– here, here, here, here, here and here).

The Aug. 20, 2012 discussion, “October Surprise?,” was balanced and free of anti-Israel propaganda until about midway through the discussion, when Ashbrook accepted, with unwarranted respect, a caller’s anti-Israel rant. The three guest panelists, who should have known better, ignored the remarks as if they heard nothing untoward. The panel consisted of David Rothkopf (CEO of an international advisory firm, author of a recent Foreign Policy magazine article, “The Drums of August: Israel is not bluffing.”); R. Nicholas Burns (former under secretary of state for political affairs and ambassador to NATO); Roger Cohen (New York Times columnist whose most recent commentary prior to the program was headlined: “Israel’s Iran Itch.”).

The wording of Ashbrook’s introduction, “Talk again of an Israeli strike against Iran, the U.S. pulled in quick and a big October surprise in campaign season. We’ll ask what’s bluster and what’s real,” obviously was intended to arouse the interest and concern of listeners as to the impact upon America of Israel’s potential actions to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons program. While reiterating this theme throughout the discussion, Ashbrook occasionally conceded that a nuclear-armed Iran might pose an existential threat to Israel.

The inflammatory, irrational charge of the day, only mildly questioned by Ashbrook, occurred at about 22 Minutes (per the audio player – see below), and was made by “Richard from Groton, Connecticut”:

“The mere fact that you could be having a serious conversation about Israel taking an action knowing that it would have an affect on our presidential election is just remarkable. It just goes to show how much Israel does or at least leaves the impression that they can control American foreign policy. I think it’s time for us to stand up and say, ‘No. We are a country, we are sovereign, they can’t control us.’ If they do something like this and create that situation where they are effectively holding the American election hostage – that we are going to say, ‘forget it – you are no friend to us.’”

ASHBROOK: “Well, that may be too big a characterization of what’s going on. But do you think there is that kind of leverage here, Richard, or not – or is that an exaggerated notion.”

Ashbrook’s gentle questioning encouraged the caller to expand his polemical message.

Caller: “I don’t think it’s an exaggerated notion at all. The gentleman, who not too long ago resigned from the Israeli lobby, has written some pieces on the amount of influence they have over our Congress. It made me very concerned. So, no, I believe that – look at our foreign policy over the past 30 or 40 years. We have sided with Israel every time when it was not always in our best interest. Some times it was; very often it was against our national interest.”

ASHBROOK: “Richard, we’ll pick it up and I appreciate your call.”

What “control [of] American foreign policy”? Ashbrook failed to ask the panel to comment on the caller’s distortions. Why not point out that over the past 40 years U.S. administrations have differed with Israel governments on many major issues, including Saudi arms sales, the Osirak reactor bombing, the Reagan plan, the failure of Palestinian leaders to uphold Oslo-related agreements, the legality of Jewish communities in the disputed territories and the status of Jerusalem as Israel's capital? Failure to do so lets the caller's false accusation stand.

Likewise, Ashbrook does not scrutinize the caller’s claim, “The gentleman, who not too long ago resigned from the Israeli lobby, has written some pieces on the amount of influence they have over our Congress.” The host neglects to ask whom the caller refers to, let alone request that "Richard of Groton" detail the alleged Israeli influence "over our Congress." Again, listeners are left with mere innuendo.

Given Ashbrook’s loaded wording contained in both his discussion title and introduction – and his theme throughout the broadcast – implying that Israel might be cynically planning to manipulate the American election – it may be a plus that only one anti-Israel caller was aired. Click here to listen to the entire Aug. 20, 2012 broadcast.

Comments (which should be respectful and concise) can be submitted to Ashbrook and On Point via: e-mail to onpoint@wbur.org, Twitter or Facebook or phone 617-353-0909; mail: On Point Radio, 890 Commonwealth Avenue, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02215. Contact NPR President/CEO Gary E. Knell at gknell@npr.org or call him at 202-513-2000. Contact NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos by e-mail form or call him at 202-513-3246. NPR Listener Care can be reached at 202-513-3232. Contact the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (provides tax dollars to NPR) by e-mail form or call the Comments Line at 800-272-2190. Contact CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan by e-mail form.

Posted by MK at August 29, 2012 04:08 PM

Comments

NPR is a station that held a dirge when Helen Thomas fell from grace for her anti-semitic statements. Shortly afterwards NPR executives were outed for expressing similar sentiments. It would be absurd to believe that anything has changed by removing a few people. How do we get ahead of this? How do we get back or to the point where we are not simply responding to expected practices of malice? Especially when a sitting President seems to enjoy the same view towards "Zionism". A code word for Jews iin general and the advocation of new harsh Shariah Law governments which are held by this Oval Office as the historically correct alternative to genuine democratic institutions. NPR is infected with the false positives of Islamic propganda from top to bottom as are many media outlets intimidated by Jihadi expansionists. in their minds Netanyahu is little or no better than Assad.

Posted by: jeb Stuart at September 2, 2012 09:12 AM

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