The US media’s biased coverage of the crisis in Lebanon should come as no surprise. While the White House and Congress claim a “special relationship” with Israel, our news outlets are not supposed to have a “special relationship” with anyone. Their job is to fairly reports on matters; anything less is a disservice to those watching their news programs and reading their newspapers.
Shockingly, Larry King Live has been “fair” in its coverage of the conflict consuming Lebanon in contrast to Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country and yes, CNN’s darling Anderson Cooper 360. There is, however, much criticism to be doled out to CNN’s “longest-running interview program.” One need look no further than Larry King Live’s first two guests, Republican Senator George Allen and Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. It was nice to see–”in this nine minute segment–”two senators putting their congressional partisan politics aside to stand together in solidarity with the state of Israel. When Larry King asked Senator Allen if the US should be a true broker in the region, Allen replied, “We support Israel, you’re right Larry. Israel is a wellspring in the wilderness in the Middle East and we do support them and their right to protect themselves.”
The next guest on the show was positioned as the “Lebanese side.” Larry King Live passed off the nearly four minute interview with Chibli Mallat–”one of the leaders of the Cedar Revolution, deep critic of Hezbollah and candidate for President–”as the voice of the Lebanese people. When Larry King asked Mallat about Nassrallah’s remark that the conflict is an Israeli/American plot to control the Middle East, Mallat responded, “I’m afraid that I do agree with the senators. He [Nassrallah] initiated the conflict, and all this talk about a great plot between Israel and America is out of place. The conflict was initiated…by [Hezbollah’s] reckless action through the Blue Line that separates Lebanon from Israel. That was a grave violation of international law and I think also a grave violation of Lebanese law.” Like a true patriot, Mallat later urged “restraint” from Israel, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weeks earlier.
Now that the “Lebanese people” were heard, it was necessary to bring on the Israeli side, Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch, to counter any “Lebanese” propaganda. For nearly four minutes, Danoch defended Israel and extensively illustrated its commitment to root out “terrorism.” As icing on the cake, Danoch took softball emails from viewers and general questions from Larry King such as, “Why do you oppose a cease-fire now?” and “Are you optimistic?”
One would think that after Larry King Live came back from break, the show would cut to the carnage in Lebanon, the destruction of its infrastructure, or an analyst discussing the humanitarian implications the siege on Lebanon presents. Not exactly. When the program returned from the break, Larry King cut to Anderson Cooper in Northern Israel, who–”given the amount of reporting he’s doing in the North–”may as well be looking for a second home. Larry King then cut to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Haifa. While Gupta spoke of the horror Katyusha rockets exact (thousands have been fired, inflicting very little damage relative to Israel’s 500 pound bombs and artillery shells), pictures crossed the screen of injured Israeli women and children. The producers, however, were still unsatisfied. Before going to commercial, Anderson Cooper needed another six minutes explaining that the “terrorist group,” Hezbollah, is hiding within the civilian population. Cooper makes no mention of the fact that Hezbollah formed as a resistance group to fight off an Israeli military that slaughtered nearly twenty thousand innocent Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in 1982. To justify the mass murder of the Lebanese population today, Cooper makes clear to the viewer that while Israel is trying to be as accurate as possible, even “the most moral military in the world” can only be so precise. It’s ironic that Cooper always has the exact number of Katushya rockets fired on Israel, but the exact number of cluster bombs, artillery shells, and missiles used against the civilian population of Lebanon seems to evade his statistical charts.
A simple cut to commercial would not suffice; the producers of program realized that any decent show must have a good outro. Larry King Live eased into commercial with a “balanced” set of pictures: first, a young Muslim girl holding a picture of Hassan Nassrallah, followed by what is assumed to be a group of Lebanese burning American and Israeli flags, followed by a man carrying a blanket-covered lifeless body, succeeded by two young covered Muslim girls (one of them is in tears), and the sequence ended with three injured Lebanese boys (one of the boys is in tears). Apparently, when showing pictures of injured Israelis (they’d show dead ones, but it doesn’t happen often) and “heroic” Israelis, the producers of Larry King Live misplaced the Associated Press pictures of little Israeli girls writing messages on missiles that were about to be fired on the civilian population of Lebanon. Ironically, the only person killed the day of this particular episode was a Palestinian-Israeli girl.
Estimates of dead Lebanese civilians surpassed 900, while the Israeli civilian death toll is at 27. Although thirty three Lebanese civilians die for every one Israeli, the US media deems it necessary to give the Israeli agenda ten minutes of airtime for every minute allotted to the Lebanese voice. The war crimes being carried out against the Lebanese and the Palestinian people by Israel should be newsworthy enough to receive proper coverage. As the conflict drags on, thanks to the US administration’s “green light,” the coverage is becoming ever more skewed, compounded with additional justifications for Israel’s actions, the further villainizing of Hezbollah and now that the Lebanese-American community has been evacuated, the silence of the Lebanese voice. One civilian is one death too many; yet it looks as though thousands more will perish at the hands of Israeli forces, and once again, the US media will be out to lunch.