On March 4, HonestReporting Canada contacted CBC News to voice our concerns about how their Mideast bureau chief, Derek Stoffel, had written an “analysis” report that day which claimed outright that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress – where he opposed the Iranian nuclear deal – was fundamentally a “campaign strategy” to secure domestic votes in Israel.
Here is the headline, sub-headline, and the lead paragraph from Stoffel’s CBC.ca report which was published on March 4:
Mr. Stoffel had staked out the subjective position that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on the emerging nuclear deal with Iran was fundamentally a ploy to get him re-elected and that the real target of the speech was potential voters in Israel.
Could electioneering have been a motive for Netanyahu? It’s fair to conclude that it was likely a component of the speech, but to argue that it was the all intents and purpose, that was quite a stretch and it was not based on facts. This is an argument we’d expect to see from pundits and editorial boards, not a supposedly objective and neutral reporter for the CBC.
To wit, who is to say that Netanyahu’s primary interest in his speech was just to simply thwart the nuclear deal with Iran because he viewed it as fatally flawed in so many ways? Who is to say that he didn’t primarily want to put increased pressure on the American Congress to put more sanctions on the Iranian regime and to try to scuttle the deal? The reality is that the whole motive doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
While this report was labelled “analysis,” we told CBC News that this does not give Mr. Stoffel free rein to opine on this matter in the way that he has. An analysis must be grounded by the facts and to say that the speech to Congress was fundamentally a campaign strategy to electioneer, went beyond the limits of what an analysis is supposed to provide. Mr. Stoffel, in making these statements, took the role of a pundit and CBC standards prohibit him from doing so.
After asking CBC News to take corrective action, we are pleased to report that the headline, sub-headline, and lead paragraph of this article have all been corrected and an editor’s note was published to this article:
Old Headline: “Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was campaign strategy”
New Headline: “The politics of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress”
Old Sub-Headline: “Less than two weeks before Israeli election, the real audience for PM’s address was in Israel”.
New Sub-Headline: “Less than two weeks before Israel election, who was the real audience?”
Old Lead Paragraph: “Benjamin Netanyahu may have stood before American lawmakers on Tuesday, but it’s clear the real audience for his controversial address to Congress was here in Israel, where a close election campaign has entered its final two weeks.”
New Lead Paragraph: “Benjamin Netanyahu stood before American lawmakers on Tuesday, but the real audience for his controversial address to Congress may have been here in Israel, where a close election campaign has entered its final two weeks.”
While we appreciate that CBC made the following corrections to this article, but the net result is still that their reporter’s bias bled through. Instead of having declarative statements in the article making the aforementioned argument, the CBC simply edited the piece and used rhetorical questions and hypotheticals to frame Netanyahu’s motive to align with their reporter’s overarching thesis into claiming that Netanyahu’s speech intentions were designed primarily to court Israeli voters.
CBC contends its Journalistic Policy Guide “makes it clear that we’re guided by the principle of impartiality, and that CBC journalists don’t express their own personal opinion because it affects the perception of impartiality and could affect an open and honest exploration of an issue.”
Regrettably, these standards were not observed and were fundamentally breached in this article.