CNN & Saeb Erekat: “Why TV news loves a liar”

May 05, 2002

I attach a piece on CNN's favorite Palestinian spokesperson Saeb Erekat, written by New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, who is a subscriber to this email list.

Podhoretz writes: "In pursuit of his goals, Erekat will say anything, tell any lie, spin any tale and defame a nation and a people in doing so. American TV should not be their unwitting co-conspirator."

-- Tom Gross


"Why TV news loves a liar"
By John Podhoretz
New York Post
May 3, 2002

On April 17, when Israel completed its military action in Jenin, the Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We have 1,600 missing men in this refugee camp. Mostly women and children, husbands and wives… How many people were massacred[?] We say the number will not be less than 500."

Erekat just loves the number 500. A week earlier, he said on CNN: "I'm afraid to say that the number of Palestinian dead in the Israeli attacks have reached more than 500 now."

This week a Palestinian review committee reported a death toll of 56 in Jenin, of whom 34 were combatants. There are no missing women and children, because the Palestinians would be saying so. And they have not disputed Israeli claims that in the entire month-long series of incursions into the West Bank, the overall Palestinian death toll is around 100.

But let's focus on Jenin. The Palestinians themselves say that, in 13 days of vicious urban warfare, some 22 civilians were killed. So here's a question for you: Why are U.S. television networks booking Saeb Erekat to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he has repeatedly used their air waves to spread lies and deception?

When sources lie, don't you cut them off? When sources lie, don't you refuse to give them any more of your precious air time?

For example, why did CNN's Blitzer put Erekat on the air Wednesday night to talk about the fire in Bethlehem? Here's a little bit of their exchange:

Erekat: "Wolf, I have been hearing you telling me about the heavy exchange of fire. Actually there was an Israeli attempt to storm the church . . ."

Blitzer: "Mr. Erekat, I want to ask you from where you are now, I assume you're in Jericho in your home. How do you know that the Israelis attempted to storm the Church of the Nativity tonight?"

Erekat: "Good question, Wolf."

Yes, it was a good question, Wolf. Erekat answered the question by lying again: "I was in touch with the people inside the church just five minutes ago," he said.

Oh, please. He was on hold with CNN at the time.

And in any case, the evidence yesterday proved yet again that there's no reason to believe a word Erekat says. The pattern in which the glass around the windows near the fire was shattered proves the gunfire came from inside the room, not from the outside. That means Palestinians fired first, as the Israelis said.

Why do CNN and the others book Saeb Erekat? Because he speaks good English. Because producers and reporters there have known him for years. They know he's a strong and confident spokesman and looks good on TV.

That's also why they love to book Hanan Ashrawi to talk about the need for peace. She speaks wonderful English as well.

But Ashrawi is also one of a very few Palestinian "legislators" who actually voted against changing the Palestine National Charter to remove language about the destruction of Israel back in 1993. In other words, what she means by peace is a Palestinian state in place of Israel.

That's what Erekat means by peace as well. In pursuit of his goals, he will say anything, tell any lie, spin any tale and defame a nation and a people in doing so. American TV should not be their unwitting co-conspirator.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.