CNN’s White House correspondent has record of anti-Arab bigotry

Journalist Kaitlan Collins speaks into a microphone

CNN’s chief White House correspondent has a history of anti-Arab bigotry.

Ron Sachs CNP

A journalist with an anti-Arab and Islamophobic history is working as the chief White House correspondent for CNN. She covered President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, though apparently did not cover the president’s visit to Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

I began emailing that journalist, Kaitlan Collins, on Wednesday of last week with my concerns about CNN’s coverage and whitewashing of the apartheid reality faced by Palestinians. She did not respond.

Then, Thursday afternoon following yet another email to Collins, I learned that she previously worked for The Daily Caller, a far-right publication where she wrote anti-Arab and Islamophobic click bait.

Collins has previously apologized for homophobic tweets she made while she was in college at the University of Alabama. But I have found no apology for her anti-Arab and Islamophobic views from her time at The Daily Caller.

Making fun of torture

In 2014, she wrote an article for The Daily Caller’s entertainment section titled “Ice bucket challenge hipsters: These Guantánamo detainees did it first.”

There she made light of the agony Arab and Muslim Guantánamo Bay detainees were subjected to when waterboarded.

Finding humor in American torture of detainees, Collins wrote that “there are the hipsters who did” the ice bucket challenge – pouring ice water on one’s own head – before everyone else. “These Guantánamo Bay detainees were certainly first to do the ice bucket challenge, and it’s high time they got their due.”

Topping her list was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

“In 2008, CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden publicly boasted that waterboarding had been used on KSM, making him one of the first hipsters to partake in the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge.’ He tops the list because KSM took the challenge a record 183 times.”

Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was second and then third was Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah.

Collins wrote that Abu Zubaydah “is another prisoner who Hayden confirmed had been waterboarded during his stay at the Cuban camp. Zubaydah took the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ an impressive 83 times.”

Abu Faraj al-Libi was fourth and Collins finished the list with Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

She concluded by stating, “Unfortunately since the bucket challenge went mainstream, they likely shun the idea of the water coming anywhere near them now. They also did their challenge hardcore, old-school style.”

A video showing “their original tactics” is no longer accessible.

For her readers, Collins also made light of the suffering of Syrian refugees in a mash-up of misogyny and anti-Arab racism. Writing for The Daily Caller in 2015, she suggested that US governors might be more inclined to admit these refugees if they saw these “Syria-sly hot” photos of Syrian women.

It’s extraordinary that Collins has managed to jump-start her career from promoting anti-Arab and Islamophobic sentiments for The Daily Caller to covering an anti-Palestinian president for CNN.

On his trip to the Middle East, Biden sidestepped publicly discussing Israel’s two-tier legal structure in the occupied West Bank. Nor did he grapple sufficiently with life in the Gaza bantustan or discriminatory laws faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Considering her background, it is not surprising that Collins did not challenge Biden for either his actions or omissions.

Effects on coverage?

Her anti-Arab history should be carefully considered as she promoted Biden’s pushback against progressive members of the US Congress who disagree with him about Israel.

On Jake Tapper’s program last Wednesday, she noted that “during the president’s interview with Channel 12 here in Israel, he was asked about that gap of what he views Israel as and what some of the more progressive members of the Democratic Party do.”

According to the CNN transcript, Collins then added that Biden “said there are a few people who think that.”

And, she added, that Biden said, “I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake.” She then detailed that Biden “called Israel a democracy and an ally of the United States and he said he makes no apologies for his position on that front.”

I wouldn’t have thought much of this typical avoidance of Israel’s undemocratic practices except I had been encouraging Collins to note that credible human rights groups regard Israel as practicing apartheid. Instead of mentioning such important views, Collins failed to note that the Israeli interviewer had specifically asked Biden about those Democrats who view “Israel as an apartheid state” and are “calling for an end of unconditional aid.”

In other words, Collins ignored the substance offered by progressive Democrats and simply referred to a “gap” between Biden and progressives. This betrays a profound bias.

She doubled down with the same whitewash on her Twitter feed:

The anti-Arab and Islamophobic history and recent whitewashed reporting by CNN’s chief White House correspondent indicate viewers are faced with a journalist who can’t be trusted to report honestly on what Palestinians – both Muslims and Christians – face.

Indeed, CNN has much to answer for with failing to convey adequately the apartheid reality or news that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid has moved into a stolen Palestinian home even as the US goes about planning its new embassy on stolen Palestinian property.

The US is complicit with Israeli apartheid as well as the current ethnic cleansing of Masafer Yatta. Those are realities that CNN is not properly conveying.

Collins apparently did not cover Biden’s visit to occupied East Jerusalem or Bethlehem, though journalist Alex Ward tweeted that “we all would’ve loved to go,” but that this was how it was planned by the White House.

Whatever the case, it reinforces the view that Biden and many journalists are not keen to highlight the apartheid reality. Were it a priority, journalists could have made the early departure a top story.

CNN’s coverage of Biden’s visit has normalized Israeli apartheid by not having the network’s correspondents raise it. Collins failed viewers here and on Israel’s use of torture and imprisonment against children.

With her anti-Arab background at The Daily Caller, such omissions are sadly to be expected even at the supposedly liberal CNN.

Collins has much to learn from Arab-American, Muslim-American and Palestine solidarity organizations along with considerable repair work to do if she intends to address her bigotry.

The Electronic Intifada sent questions to Collins about the anti-Arab bigotry she expressed in her articles for The Daily Caller and other matters related to her trip, but did not hear back prior to the provided deadline.


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.