Half the News That’s Fit to Print
When Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents accused him of excessive personal spending earlier this year, it was headline news in The New York Times. Guess how much space the Times allotted to the recent news that the Israeli prime minister’s spending has reached a five-year low.
When Netanyahu was under fire for supposedly lavish spending by the staff of the prime minister’s official residence, the NYT‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, could barely contain her delight at the opportunity to tarnish Netanyahu’s image.
The fact that the “story” broke at the height of Israel’s election campaign probably filled Rudoren with hope that she might be able to contribute to the downfall of a prime minister whose policies she obviously despises, despite her claim to be an objective journalist.
Rudoren’s extensive February 17 dispatch on the subject was nearly 1,000 words long, ranging over 16 paragraphs. She detailed such outrages as the suspicion that the Netanyahus had spent too much money on ice cream. Rudoren even sarcastically noted the favorite ice cream flavors of the prime minister and his wife.
To maintain the pretense of journalistic balance, Rudoren gave Netanyahu’s Likud Party a chance to have a say — with a grand total of two and a half sentences to respond to the litany of accusations.
Rudoren then proceeded to present anti-Netanyahu quotes from a professor, a newspaper columnist, the leaders of three different left-wing political parties and a political consultant (whose views merited two entire paragraphs).
For some reason, the editors at the Times saw nothing unbalanced about Rudoren’s selection of people to quote. When it comes to Netanyahu, five against and one in favor apparently strikes the Times as a perfectly reasonable ratio. It is, after all, the news organization that hired Jodi Rudoren in the first place.
An Israeli group called the “Movement for Freedom of Information” recently petitioned the Prime Minister’s Office to release its expenditure reports. No doubt the petitioners thought — recalling the February accusations — that the new information would make Netanyahu look bad. (Otherwise, why would they bother to demand it?)
The prime minister complied with the petitioners’ request. The expense reports consisted mostly of such urgent information as how much his staff spent last year on silverware and plumbing repairs. Not exactly earth-shaking stuff.
Surprisingly, however, the expense reports did contain something significant, after all. It turns out that the amount spent in 2014 was 19 percent less than that of the previous year. Not only that, but the total for 2014 was the lowest amount spent for the prime minister’s residence in the last five years.
What? The prime minister whom Jodi Rudoren and The New York Times depicted as a spendthrift with a lavish lifestyle is, in fact, nothing of the sort? The image that Netanyahu’s enemies have promoted in the hope of damaging him has been shattered by the facts?
How have Rudoren and her colleagues treated the news that reveals her previous depiction of Netanyahu was a fraud? Let’s put it this way: When it comes to certain stories, only half the news is fit to print at The New York Times. That is, the half that smears a political leader whom the Times dislikes. The other half — the news that exonerates a victim of the Times‘s wrath — is nowhere to be found.
Mr. Korn, chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists, is former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Miami Jewish Tribune.