New York Times Faults Jeopardy Host Mayim Bialik for Pro-Israel Stance
Mayim Bialik is too pro-Israel to be the host of the television game show “Jeopardy.”
That’s the weird, underlying premise of a recent front-of-the-arts section New York Times news article.
The headline is framed as a question: “Mayim Bialik Wants the ‘Jeopardy!’ Job. Is She ‘Neutral’ Enough?” But the viewpoint is clear enough. Had Bialik expressed any number of conventionally acceptable or New York Times-readership endorsed political opinions — Black Lives Matter, democracy is in danger, Ben & Jerry as exemplars of ethical businessmen, you name it — there’d be no section-front rumination questioning her suitability for the position. The job, is, after all, that of a television game show host, not Middle East peace envoy, moderator of a presidential debate, or anchor on the CBS evening news.
Yet here is the Times: “Bialik — a popular sitcom actor who blogged when blogging was popular, vlogged when vlogging was popular, and now has her own podcast — has long drawn attention, and controversy, with copious public statements of her own… She blogged about donating money to buy bulletproof vests for the Israel Defense Forces.” The Times doesn’t quote a single individual suggesting that that blog post should disqualify Bialik from the “Jeopardy” job. Yet a Times photo cutline identifies her as “Bialik, who has courted controversy by weighing in on hot-button issues online.”
Is it a “hot button” “controversy” to be of the opinion that soldiers of the Jewish state — like those of other national armed forces, like New York City police officers, like even New York Times reporters in war zones — should be protected by body armor? Would Times arts editors or readers prefer instead that the Israel Defense Force soldiers go into battle unprotected from enemy bullets, so that they be slain more easily? Is the opposite view — that Israeli soldiers should be deprived of body armor — the only opinion acceptable for a suitable Times-approved “Jeopardy” host?
The Times contends of Bialik, “her willingness to share her opinions publicly on everything from parenting to the conflict in the Middle East represents a striking departure from the studied neutrality of Trebek.” Also, “Two topics Bialik has often weighed in on publicly are her devotion to Judaism and societal pressure on women’s appearances.”
It’s hard to read this as anything other than singling out a publicly pro-Israel, proudly Jewish woman for Times pressure and scrutiny. The Times reporter whose byline is on the article, Julia Jacobs, is a 2018 graduate of Northwestern University with what a school press release describes as “an ambition to one day report on US-China relations.” Times archives show she has written or contributed to no fewer than nine articles for the paper about “Jeopardy” since August 11. The temptation must be to fit them, or at least this particular one, into game-show-style categories: “I’ll take anti-Israel press bias for $800 — or whatever fee readers are paying these days for a New York Times subscription.”
Ira Stoll was managing editor of the Forward and North American editor of the Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.