Early yesterday, I made this prediction over at Twitter: Based on past performance, none of MSNBC’s five prime-time, liberal, hosts last night or their guests would utter a single word critical of Israel in the current conflict with Gaza. This came on a day when the missiles and drone strikes and rockets kept firing, and the death toll climbed to over 110 in Gaza, most of them women and children and most, no doubt, killed by US weapons or weapons purchased with funds from America. Just in case an “American angle” was needed.
Sadly, my prediction proved all too prescient, as the night rolled on from Chris to Al to Ed to Rachel to Alex Wagner (sitting in for Lawrence).
Now, of course, they have a right to say whatever they want, or remain silent, for that matter, but the full measure of MSNBC’s disgrace can be felt in this stat: in the five hours of programming (or seven, if you count the re-runs), a little less than fifteen minutes was devoted to the air war in Gaza and Israel—which not only has American fingerprints all over it but also will immeasurably influence, and likely not in a good way, our interests and actions and threats against us abroad. (See updates today.)
Five programs and exactly two brief segments on this crisis, even as a building in Gaza housing MSNBC’s fellow journalists is struck twice with Israeli’s missiles, and as President Obama suddenly dispatches Secretary of State Clinton to the region.
Over on CNN, we at least had Anderson Cooper reporting from Gaza. Piers Morgan led off his interview show with Shimon Peres but later had a balanced panel—that balance needed, because one of the three guests, the ever-repugnant Alan Dershowitz, would claim that Palestinians actually wanted their kids killed to gain media attention, calling it the well-known “baby strategy.”
Now, what were those two MSNBC segments?
On Hardball, Chris Matthews—who early in the show briefly hailed Susan Rice for halting any move for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations—archly defended Israel’s actions and also portrayed them as being a valuable testing period for a possible coming war with Iran (see video below). Surprisingly, the often sharp chief NBC correspondent Richard Engel joined him in this, noting the current conflict offered Israel a chance to test its Iron Dome missile defense system, destroy longer-range rockets that might have been launched from Gaza in support of Iran, and judge responses from Egypt and Hezbollah and the United States, and more.
This may all be true, but Engel offered no other commentary—such as the notion of killing dozens of civilians in such a “test.” He also whitewashed those civilian casualties—besides the 114 deaths so far, there have been perhaps 1000 injuries in Gaza—by swallowing whole Israeli claims that they phone the neighbors of houses or builidings about to get bombed to warn them to scramble. Even if true, well, I guess that woudn’t have helped that family that lost eleven members in a direct Israeli missile hit on Sunday.