News Flash: Jews Are 'Apes And Pigs.' So Why Is Egypt's Morsi The Elephant In America's Newsrooms?
Last Friday, the sitting president of Egypt – the world’s 15th most populous nation — was exposed for calling Jews “apes and pigs.” And he did it in a TV interview (in Arabic) in 2010, less than two years before he took office.
Needless to say, this was HUGE NEWS for American mass media! Only it wasn’t. (Knock, knock, New York Times? Anybody home?) In fact, to be fair to the paper of record, not a single major outlet has covered it. Not AP or Reuters. Not CBS News or CNN. Not Time magazine or U.S. News & World Report. Not the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Etcetera. And therein lies a story, which this column can only begin to skin open here.
Mohamed Morsi’s bizarre Apes-and-Pigs rant hit the Jerusalem Post’shomepage that same day (again, last Friday), as its lead story. Specifically, a prestigious U.S. organization named the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — chaired by Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former deputy head of the FBI in charge of counter-terrorism – released it widely to the global media and posted it on YouTube.
Undoubtedly, the Cairo and Jerusalem bureaus of the big U.S. media outlets saw the story. But the news only found its way to certain American readers and viewers by getting picked up in Jewish and/or conservative forums over the following days.
Commentary magazine, American Thinker and Breitbart thoughtfully weighed in on the subject. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Jewish Talk Radio, and the Christian Broadcasting Network also saw value in covering it. So did – of all things — a prominent national stock-picking and finance newspaper, Investor’s Business Daily. Fox News entertainer Sean Hannity has been pouncing on it — no surprise there. (Do I really have to tune in to that unpleasant loudmouth if I want to be sure not to miss such newsworthy information?) UPI gave it some pickup, but that news service is only a shadow of its former great self. Once nearly equaling the size and reach of AP in the 1960s, it shrunk to a virtual carcass by 2000 — when it was sold to a company founded by Reverend Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah.
The Times of Israel ran a story about it, and added the fact that Morsi was captured three months ago by MEMRI on a different video. In that tape, he can be seen in fervent prayer at a mosque in western Egypt in October, mouthing the word “Amen” after the preacher urged Allah to “destroy the Jews and their supporters.” (Virtually every big media outlet in America ignored that, too.)
I studied the Pigs-and-Apes story’s journey and trajectory through America over the past week with Sue Radlauer, the Director of Research Services here atForbes. We gave it seven days to see if any of the so-called “mainstream media” — a pejorative phrase that too-often obscures more than it reveals — bestowed the hate speech even a few sentences of back-page ink. Nothing.
Of course, the demonization of Jews is commonplace and de rigueur in the Arab media (although most Americans wouldn’t know that because they are not being made aware of it). But what makes this omission in Big Media especially egregious is that Morsi–sometimes spelled Morsy or Mursi– went even further than genetically pairing Jews with lower beasts. As you can see and hear for yourself in the Morsi Tapes, he called for an end to any and all negotiations for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians – droning on that all the land belongs to the latter. He called for a boycott of American goods because of its support for Israel. (Of course, he didn’t bother mentioning that American taxpayers have provided nearly $70 billion of aid to Egypt, since it made peace with Israel in 1979, and the spigot continues for now.) He even went so far as to label the Palestinian Authority an entity “created by the Zionist and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people and its interests.”
Apes and pigs aside, Morsi also warned his TV listeners that Jews have never been nice people. “They have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout history,” he oozed. “They are hostile by nature.” (One can almost see comedian Jon Stewart’s frozen eyes right about now, before he says something like, “A holiday in Luxor, anyone?”)
If that’s not enough to make the Morsi Tapes even a little newsworthy, consider that Egypt’s economy is on the brink of collapse, with its government desperate for a $4.8 billion IMF loan. Meanwhile, plans have long been underway for the first official visit by the Egyptian president to Washington this March, where he’ll dine with President Obama. So far, the U.S. State Department hasn’t issued a peep of dismay about the tapes. And yet this is arguably the time to do so — before (not after) the huge checks are cut.
So what’s going on here? On Monday, I raised the topic of Morsi’s 2010 language with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. “Well, they [Muslim Brotherhood] certainly don’t have a monopoly over anti-Semitic comments in the Middle East,” said Oren, who was born and raised in America, and who has written best-selling books on Middle Eastern history. “These comments were alarming, intolerant, and cause for serious concern. Still, we want to distinguish between what they say and what they do. We expect people to act in a responsible and accountable way. That Morsi and his government today played a constructive role in reaching a ceasefire [with Hamas in November], that’s more important – because it actually saved lives.”
Fair enough. But major, seasoned reporters still need to hold Morsi’s feet to fire over such comments – if not by asking him directly about them, then at least by reporting that he uttered them. Surely, if the president of virtually any other country in the world had defamed an entire people in such a way — only a couple years before they got the top job, to boot — it would have at least gotten a few column-inches. Yet Morsi gets a free pass.
“In my view, it’s important to know just how extreme this important man really is, especially because [Leon] Panetta and [Hillary] Clinton after visits there made statements suggesting otherwise,” says MEMRI board director Elliott Abrams, who served in top policy positions under Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush. “You’re right that if such a tape by Putin or [Turkey's] Erdogan or [Argentina's] Kirchner, etc., etc., was discovered, it would be bignews. If it isn’t, is the MSM saying, ‘Well, hell, we know all Muslims have a fanatical hatred of Jews, so no big deal?’”
On Sunday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spent an hour with Morsi in Cairo in what the network billed as an exclusive interview. It was a fine conversation, and he’s doing an hour-long special this weekend about his hour-long interview and visit to Egypt. Blitzer is one of my favorite TV anchors today. (He plays it straight, if sometimes dull, and doesn’t condescend to viewers. I never feel like he’s trying to drag me with a rope through my television set.)
But Wolf could have tossed a few Ape-and-Pig hardballs in Morsi’s direction — given that his reporting staff surely must have been aware of the tapes from the Jerusalem Postpiece, if from nowhere else. Why not ask the anthropologist-in-chief: “Do you still believe that Jews are pigs? Invoking Koranic scripture, you claimed that Zionists descend from pigs, but since Zionists weren’t around at the time of your prophet, does this mean allJews come from pigs, or just certain ones? Do you still believe that America should be boycotted? And does that include American cash? Or should your whole diatribe be disregarded as merely the kooky, carefree views from one’s youth – uhhh…TWO YEARS AGO?”
For several days, I attempted to speak with Blitzer about the good, the bad and the ugly of media coverage of the Middle East. But his publicist says he’s too busy – even to consider responding to a single email question prior to my publishing.
The New York Times rarely touches this stuff. In fact, a harshly critical mega-report about the newspaper’s Middle East coverage was recently released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). The Times can’t be too happy about it. “The failure of the New York Times to cover the hate indoctrination leads the pack, in a way,” CAMERA’s head Andrea Levin told me yesterday. “The fact that they deem it to be so unimportant helps to lay down that news decision for others as well. And, to us, it’s one of the greatest derelictions in current news coverage of the conflict.”
Most would agree that, even in the internet age, the Times is still the leading agenda-setter for major media. It is, after all, the best paper around, a true wonder-of-the-world. But it does seem to avoid covering Islamist incitement against Jews (and Christians) like the plagues. For a snapshot of the drumbeat of noxious hate speech that outlets like the Times are almost entirely ignoring in its news pages, this piece of mine in Forbes in November provides a sampling of the dangerous poisons being served up in the so-called “more moderate” Palestinian Authority’s official media and textbooks. Mohamed Morsi-Babble, over in Egypt, helps fuel it.
Is my own Jewishness clouding my own news judgment here? For a reality check, I turned to Gene Foreman, one of the most respected editors in the newspaper business over the past half-century. (He also happens to be a Methodist, not that such things should matter in judging whether anything is newsworthy.) Foreman is the author of The Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Pursuit of News – a 2009 book described as “a GPS for sound decision-making.” And his wisdom is invaluable for any fledgling reporters out there: Gene’s accomplishments include 25 years managing the newsroom of the Philadelphia Inquirer — during the time the paper won 18 Pulitzer Prizes.
“I think you are onto something here,” Foreman reassures me after reviewing the Jerusalem Post’s front-page story about the Morsi Tapes. “On the face of it, this is newsworthy. These were interviews that Morsi made a couple of years ago, but they reveal his thinking — the attitude of a key player in the Middle East. It’s legitimate to ask the reporters who are covering the Middle East beat whether they knew about this story in the Post — and if they did know about it, why have they not pursued it on their own?”
I’ve been trying. So far nobody wants to talk with me about it on the record. And the off-record things they tell me just don’t add up. At least not yet.
For MEMRI’S president, Yigal Carmon, it’s been an uphill battle since he founded the group 15 years ago to get western media to pay more attention to this kind of genocidal hatred and incitement. “This is déjà vu,” he says about the lack of major press coverage of his Morsi material. “Well-meaning journalists have told me that exposing this kind of stuff is serving the enemies of peace. I think quite the contrary. You don’t serve peace by cover-ups. Only by exposure.”