Media comment: Trump-phobia

The upshot of all of this is that in Israel, at least, one should beware of and distrust the media when it comes to reports and analysis of the US election campaign.

EMPLOYEES OF a foreign exchange trading company watch the first US presidential debate. (photo credit: REUTERS)
EMPLOYEES OF a foreign exchange trading company watch the first US presidential debate.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Asaf Lieberman has been for the past two years the anchor of army radio station Galatz’s morning news program.
A few weeks ago, he was sent to the United States by the station to cover the presidential elections.
Last Friday, he wrote an op-ed for Makor Rishon describing candidate Trump: “Let’s be explicit, Donald Trump does not have a program for fighting terror and he has no idea how to approach the issue.
That is OK, why should he have such a program? He is a business man who understands real estate, TV and show business, there is no reason why he should understand anything on this topic.”
In his various appearances on Galatz news shows he consistently denigrates Trump. This would be fine if he did the same to Hillary Clinton, but he doesn’t. An objective bystander could be forgiven for assuming Lieberman is actually on the Clinton campaign payroll.
Haaretz, which published its English edition with The International New York Times, is, of course, rooting for Clinton, following the lead of The New York Times. In a classic example of manipulation, Haaretz on September 18 ran an almost full-page article titled “How Netanyahu is using YouTube to take over the world” with two pictures, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and one of Trump.
Both are shown in an angry posture and the equation is clear: one is bad, the other is worse. In the same eight-page issue there are two more articles depicting Trump negatively.
One is entitled “For many blacks, including Republicans, Trump birther flip is too little, too late.” The second, on the first page, is “Trump adjusts call for Clinton bodyguards to disarm.”
On September 26, Barak Ravid’s article in Haaretz on the Netanyahu- Trump meeting was headlined with: “For Trump, Israel’s security is all business.” Is it? Could it possibly be also shared political, security and ideological interests? And even if it is only business, given Israel’s selling of itself, and let’s recall that Netanyahu’s central theme in his UN General Assembly speech last week was just that – that Israel can provide the world with goods and services – is that so terrible? Ravid further suggests that Netanyahu should not bask in Trump’s declarations on an undivided Jerusalem.
Why? Because “in any case [they] will disappear if he’s elected president.” Whether or not that happens – and a correspondent should not always be so confident of his prognostications – should not Ravid have tempered his words and reminded his readers of Clinton’s infamous browbeating of Netanyahu over construction in Jerusalem’s post-’67 neighborhoods back in March 2010? Then, as President Barack Obama’s “designated yeller” (her own description) she yelled at Prime Minister Netanyahu for 45 minutes after Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.
But none of this appeared in the papers the day after the Clinton-Netanyahu meeting. The report by Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury was headlined: “Clinton tells Netanyahu she’s against UN imposing solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Does Ravid really believe that Clinton would hesitate to impose a UN solution if she thought that this would serve her best interests and those of the United States? Is there any difference between the campaign statements of Clinton and Trump? In this context we note that in contrast to Clinton, Trump extensively posted and pushed the details of his meeting with Netanyahu in New York. He even mentioned it in the debate the next day.
One might presume that the fact that Trump clearly doesn’t worry about his anti-Israel alt-right supporters while Clinton seems to know that praising Netanyahu would damage her with her extreme left-wing base would be newsworthy in Israel, but it isn’t.
The Trump-phobia goes much deeper than just Haaretz. Ynet, Israel’s most popular Internet site, ran this headline Monday, just before the Clinton-Trump debate: “...The candidates’ point of departure: The most experienced politician against the star of the gossip sections, the woman who weighs her every word carefully against the billionaire who shoots with hesitation.”
Not only is the headline silly, it is not factual. Clinton is not “the most experienced politician” nor does she weigh every word, for if so, why did she have to backtrack on her very public accusation that half of Trump’ s supporters are “deplorables”? If, indeed, our media were fair and unbiased, that remark of Clinton’s would have been cause to pillory her no less than was Netanyahu’s about “Arabs coming out in droves” to the voting booths last year.
Moreover, Haaretz journalists are the preferred “experts,” so right after the debate who is allowed to give an opinion piece on Galatz? Haaretz economics correspondent Nehemia Straessler, who was full of praise for Clinton and her “victory” in the debate. Both Galatz and Reshet Bet radio of the Israel Broadcasting Authority gave prominent space to the poll CNN publicized an hour after the debate. Reshet Bet had it as a major news item.
The CNN poll was devastating for Trump. According to the poll Clinton won by 62 percent to 27%. Yet anyone who spent a few minutes on this “poll” realized it was meaningless.
As CNN freely admitted the sample was skewed; 41% of the respondents were Democrats, 26% identified themselves as Republicans and the remaining 33% were unidentified. Add to this that CNN is pro-Clinton and you have Israel’s media falling for a US media station using its influence to support Clinton.
Why did Israeli media not give that headline a second look? A day after the debate, the impression one receives from reading the various media reports, from both sides of the political spectrum in the United States, is that Clinton made headway in the debate. It put her back on course in the presidential race, making up quite a bit for her previous errors, including false reporting about her health status.
It is valid to criticize any one of the candidates in the aftermath and we, for example, would consider Trump to be something of a crybaby in view of his accusations about a faulty microphone. Even if true, where were his people to check up on this prior to the debate? But such considerations are irrelevant when it comes to reporting the news. There is no space for personal views in such reports. They should be factual, leaving the listener or the viewer to reach their own conclusions.
The upshot of all of this is that in Israel, at least, one should beware of and distrust the media when it comes to reports and analysis of the US election campaign.
In addition to wishing our readers a good New Year, we also extend our condolences to the Peres family on the passing of a major figure in Israel’s history.

The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (