Had your fill of Ifill? PBS anchor’s anti-Bibi tweet flops

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler calls Gwen Ifill’s public anti-Israel, anti-Netanyahu tweet a “real self-inflicted wound” and “inexcusable for an experienced journalist.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu conversing with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, 2009. Relations between the two countries have steadily gone downhill since then. (Public domain)

WASHINGTON, September 4, 2015 – It’s long been known that the well-paid taxpayer- and donor-supported media fifth columnists employed by PBS in the nation’s capital make a better than average living openly supporting the talking points of Democrats while defining what they do as objective reporting.

But that blissful situation vanished this past Tuesday, at least for a few precious moments, due to a brief, crudely partisan tweet by PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill that flashed virally through the Twitterverse.

Ifill’s tweet celebrated the news that President Obama had clinched the 34th and final Senate vote necessary to sustain a presidential veto should a largely hostile Congress attempt to thwart his ill-conceived, one-sided treaty with Iran.

“Take that, Bibi,” reads Ifill’s tweet − a cringeworthy, anti-Israeli slap at that country’s current, duly elected prime minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu – the bête noire of President Obama and his fellow post-Colonialists.

Ifill’s anti-Bibi chortling instantly went viral, prompting an unexpected smackdown by PBS’ resident ombudsman Michael Getler. In an online PBS statement dated September 2, 2015, Getler characterized this as a “real self-inflicted wound” by

“…PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill on Wednesday—after it became known that President Obama had secured the necessary number of Democratic backers in the Senate to ensure that the nuclear agreement with Iran could not be blocked by opponents—that said: ‘Take that, Bibi.’ That was a reference, of course, to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has strongly opposed the agreement and came to Washington at the invitation of Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner to argue against it in front of Congress.”

Getler was no doubt prompted to respond quickly and publicly to this incident since Ifill’s tweet

“…instantly went viral, picked up by bloggers, websites and a large number of Twitter followers and it quickly produced a lot of angry emails in the ombudsman’s inbox.”

One example:

Ifill’s defense: her lame claim that her tweet was really a retweet of another’s tweet. That response was technically correct, as Getler acknowledged, while observing

“Ifill added the comment when she retweeted an illustration from an Obama administration Twitter account that is designed to support the case for an agreement…. She explained, in an email to me and in a tweet to many others, that she was ‘RT’ing a @TheIranDeal tweet,’ and added that she “should have been clearer that it was their argument, not mine.”

Too bad, Gwen. “Take that, Bibi,” was your comment, as is clearly illustrated by the tweet in question that’s posted above. This was duly noted, albeit a bit more diplomatically, by Getler, who reasoned

“One would have to lean way over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was simply shedding light on the administration’s view of portions of Netanyahu’s arguments. But to personalize it by saying, ‘Take that, Bibi’ is, in my book, inexcusable for an experienced journalist who is the co-anchor of a nightly news program watched by millions of people over the course of any week.”

Worse, Getler notes that this incident

“…is not the first time that I have written about Ifill and tweets. Three years ago a tweet supporting a former colleague, who made an inflammatory remark apparently unaware that his microphone had not been turned off, also brought about lots of criticism.”

After a sentence or two of obligatory praise for Ifill’s alleged broadcast excellence, Getler concludes his comments, stating

“…PBS and the NewsHour are bigger than any individual and tweeting does not appear to be a tool, in these cases, that is appropriate for maintaining credibility, which is the bedrock for news organizations.”

This is strong stuff indeed from Getler, a former Washington Post ombudsman and a liberal like nearly everyone else in contemporary media circus. But what he said was the right thing to say.

Unfortunately, it’s all likely to fall on deaf ears. Ifill will skate on this one as she has on other controversies, insulated from responsibility and consequences by a PBS news staff that doubtless shares her biased view.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17