Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

CNN’s Shameless Move

Posted in United States by Dan on July 9, 2010

CNN refers to itself as “the most trusted name in news,” and if you ask Americans on the street, there’s a good chance that they prefer CNN to the list of other news networks.  I myself have a tendency to pick CNN every single time.  Based on my own amateur opinion, their reporting usually follows a pretty moderate pattern…neither too liberal nor too conservative.  The anchors are well versed most of the time, the beat reporters are some of the most highly respected in the press, and it seems like CNN covers international stories in a much more personalized and in-depth style.  Compare this to Fox News, whose management is quick to invite Republicans on as guests on virtually every show.

Covering news is a hard business, but it’s even harder when so many things are going on at such a fast pace, like today.  CNN has, by and large, done a decent job at keeping pace, and I give most of the credit to the actual journalists who do the reporting and risk their lives on the front lines when the assignment calls for it.

But a small part of me just lost a little bit of respect for CNN as an institution.

A woman named Octavia Nasr- a veteran in the news biz and a senior editor at CNN- lost her job yesterday after she wrote a tweet that many deemed offensive.  The tweet went something like this: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

The Sayyed Fadlallah that she was referring too is widely labeled by the United States as a leading spiritual advisor of the anti-Israel Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, as well as a man who used to endorse terrorist attacks on western targets when U.S. troops were stationed in Lebanon in the early 1980’s.  But he is also labeled by many in the Middle East as a powerful Shia cleric who was actually much more moderate than his enemies made him out to be.  He was particularly pragmatic when it came to gender relations and the rights of women in Islam, which separated him from more rejectionist players like Iran.  In fact, Fadlallah seemed to get wiser with age; in 2005, he criticized Hezbollah for being too aggressive politically and baiting Lebanese civilians for votes.

When following a purely simplistic form of conventional wisdom, Ms. Nasr’s firing would be understandable to the average viewer.  But when taking the broader picture into account and getting at the root of Fadlallah’s unique history as a cleric, CNN’s decision to give Nasr the boot gets more and more shallow and problematic.

The bottom line is that the United States is caught up in a very sensitive and politicized culture. Every statement in front of a video camera or every comment in the newspaper that stretches beyond the mainstream gets bashed by people who are afraid to lose their jobs or afraid that money is going to be cut off from their network if they stay silent. And sadly, the journalists and politicians that makes these remarks are castrated in the press and lose a bulk of their credibility.

The sad part of the Nasr affair is that CNN fired one of their best analysts in the Middle East. Ms. Nasr has been covering stories in the region for twenty years, and she knows the in’s and out’s of Islamic culture and politics pretty well. In the end, CNN may only end up hurting themselves by kicking her out of the door.

It baffles the mind how a 140-character tweet or a 20 second comment on Israel (Helen Thomas) can ruin a person’s career and destroy a person’s reputation. What CNN and Hearst Newspapers (Helen Thomas’ former employer) are basically saying is that an isolated incident of controversy- even if it’s just for a few seconds- can outweigh a person’s entire portfolio.

I’m glad I’m not a communications major.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of Stephen Walt at FP.com**


12 Responses

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  1. LittleMantate said, on July 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    So sad, these days, one might be morally outraged by the behavior of America’s media, but never surprised.

  2. BKaplovitz said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    From The Weekly Standard’s “The Blog”
    July 7, 2010

    CNN Editor Fired for Saying She Has “Respect” for Hezbollah Cleric

    Mediaite reports that CNN has fired senior editor of Middle East affairs Octavia Nasr. As Daniel Halper pointed out the other day, Nasr wrote on Twitter on July 4 that she was “sad” to hear of the death of Hezbollah’s Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah–a man for whom she has “respect.” Fadlallah had justified suicide bombings, is believed to be responsible for the Marine barracks bombing, and had said that “Zionism has inflated the number of victims in this Holocaust beyond imagination.”

    In a followup blog post last night, Nasr wrote that it “was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I’m sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work. That’s not the case at all.”

    She explained that she knew about all the wicked aspects of Fadlallah’s life–saying she even “lost family members” in the barracks bombing–and was simply referring to the fact that she respected Fadlallah for his opposition to “honor” killings and beating women. But saying you respect Fadlallah for opposing murdering and beating (Muslim) women is almost like saying you respect Osama bin Laden for building day care centers.

    CNN doesn’t think Nasr’s apology makes up for what she said. “We believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward,” Nasr’s CNN superior Parisa Khosravi said in a statement.

    –Posted By By John McCormack



    • August West said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      The Weekly Standard was one of the leaders of the disinformation effort to get us to invade Iraq. That alone should destroy its credibility.

  3. Sledgehammer said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    CNN showed a bit of backbone

    There is no excuse for terrorism or praise of terrorists.

  4. Guyver said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    An appointee at the State Department tweeted about a cake eating contest with a Syrian minister but still has his job. Yet CNN fires Octavia Nasr, who’s been with CNN forever, at the drop of a hat over her tweet.

    • CourtneyMe109 said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      Yeah. What a shame

      Losing her gig over sympathy for another rocket rich rejectionist official enemy of GrEaT sAtAn. Hiz’B’Allah were the most proficient tormentors and serial killers of Americans through out Cold War time til 911.

  5. anan said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Agreed. Her firing is a disgrace. This said, she had an obligation to explain herself and she did. Fadlullah was a mixed figure who did many good and bad things. Stating this isn’t grounds to be fired.

  6. LittleMantate said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    You know the guy she praised condemned honor killings

    and was considered a moderate

    • VilksSweden said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm

      He also advocated suicide bombings.

      I guess he didn’t care if girls or boys killed themselves! What an equal opportunity murderer.

  7. Blue13326 said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Journalists should just keep their opinions to themselves, not the least of which is because it reveals that most of them are just not very bright.

  8. LavBo0321 said, on July 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was an atypical bad guy. Period. The fact he was smart and used physiological warfare against us (supporting women’s rights, what a joke) only show’s how diabolical he really was.

    We should have taken him out years ago. The fact that a ‘journalist’ from CNN is sympathetic to a terrorist is not shocking at all.

    Her firing is shocking. I would suspect that if they fired all of the anti-American idiots over there they would go out of business. Not such a bad idea.

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