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September 4, 2015 12:09 pm

Ombudsman Says PBS Journalist Gwen Ifill’s ‘Take That, Bibi’ Tweet Was ‘Inexcusable’

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PBS anchor Gwen Ifill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

PBS anchor Gwen Ifill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The PBS ombudsman took NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill to task on Wednesday over a White House Iran deal announcing retweet she vamped up with a seemingly personal note: “Take that, Bibi.”

The White House Twitter account created specifically to spread information about the pending agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran to rein in the country’s wily nuclear program sent out a tweet that said, “With the #IranDeal, Iran’s [nuclear] program is significantly less dangerous. This is what the famous drawing looks like now,” along with an image mimicking the cartoon bomb drawing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu famously displayed before the U.N. general assembly indicating how close Iran’s enrichment program had brought the country to making nuclear weapons.

Ifill, who has 123,000 Facebook followers, included another message in her retweet, “Take that, Bibi [a widely recognized, benign nickname for the Israeli prime minister],” sparking an outrage that apparently flooded ombudsman Michael Getler’s inbox with a slew of angry messages.

As Netanyahu is an outspoken opponent of the Iran agreement — the prime minister, never shy of American politics, flew to Washington at republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s invitation to declaim his qualms with the Iran deal — Ifill’s note was taken by web browsers as her own personal statement, rather than a reiteration of the White House’s, which she later said was her actual intention.

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“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,” wrote Getler.

Because of her influence and wide following, Getler warned that such statements would do little for “maintaining the credibility” of her news organization. He noted this was not the first time Ifill had created a stir through Twitter — three years ago she tweeted in support of a colleague after he made inflammatory remarks, also drawing listener backlash.

Ifill has been with PBS since 1999, and notably moderated the 2004 and 2008 presidential debates. Despite the Ombudsman’s admonishment that “PBS and the NewsHour are bigger than any individual,” Ifill kept the tweet on her feed.

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