As we all know by now, a few days ago, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer ripped apart Erin Burnett in his appearance on CNN, calling into question CNN’s reporting of a strike on a UNRWA school in Gaza. Dermer pointed a finger at CNN for failing to connect the Gaza casualties to Hamas’s human shield tactics.
Burnett was, apparently, sufficiently embarrassed that she felt the need to respond on air the next day. Burnett’s argument that Dermer’s claims were unjustified because CNN had, in fact, reported on Hamas’s storing of rockets in schools, falls short.
Dermer’s criticism of CNN went far beyond simply reporting that rockets were found in UNRWA schools. Dermer questioned why CNN had not read on air the statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in which even he condemned Hamas’s practice of using UNRWA schools as weapons depots, and stated that doing so turns the schools into military targets and endangers the lives of the students in the schools. Dermer also asked why CNN failed to connect the civilian casualties to that issue. Burnett not only failed to address these points at all, she even omitted that segment of Dermer’s interview from the clip she showed in her response.
Burnett did respond to Dermer’s accusation that CNN had not reported at all that rockets were stored in UNRWA schools. Burnett and her staff, apparently, reviewed forty-eight hours’ worth of CNN coverage. Forty-eight hours during which CNN has focused intensely on the Gaza conflict. From that 48 hour period, she was able to come up with exactly three sentences in which CNN stated that rockets had been found in UNRWA schools. Burnett then cut to her guest, CNN reporter Karl Penhaul, who said that “each side has its own version of the truth,” as though a statement from the UN Secretary General is somehow Israel’s version of the truth.
Perhaps the most telling point in the two pieces, however, is Burnett’s reaction when Dermer first brings up the issue. At about 49 seconds into the first video, Burnett’s reaction indicates that even she was unaware of the UN’s discovery of rockets in its schools. If Burnett, a supposed journalist, whose job it is to at least be aware of what is being reported on her own network, by her own colleagues, was unaware that the UN had found rockets stored in two different UNRWA schools that week, how could she possibly expect that the information was conveyed in such a way that casual viewers would absorb it? Clearly, the information was glossed over, and insufficient attention was paid to this story. Burnett’s own ignorance of the facts belies her assertions that the story was given the coverage that it deserved.