Utter nonsense from CNN’s Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper grins during an event at Madison Square Garden in New York City

CNN anchor Jake Tapper tried to blame student protesters for his own decision not to cover what is happening in Gaza.

Dennis Van Tine ZUMA Press

Just when it seemed CNN couldn’t get any more biased in its coverage of Gaza – often ignoring or underreporting the carnage inflicted by the Israeli military in Gaza – anchor Jake Tapper reached a new low on 29 April.

“We’re covering these [student] protests and we’re covering free speech versus security on campus, we’re covering anti-Semitic behavior and language, this is taking room from my show that I would normally be spending covering what is going on in Gaza or what is going on with the International Criminal Court talking about maybe bringing charges. We were talking about the ceasefire deal.”

He added, “So I don’t know that the protesters from a media perspective are accomplishing what they want to accomplish because I’m actually covering the issue and the pain of the Palestinians and the pain of the Israelis – not that they’re actually protesting for that – less because of this.”

This is utter nonsense.

It’s misdirection. Tapper’s virtual crocodile tears about not being able to cover Gaza because he has to cover student demonstrators should fool no one. It’s his propaganda program; he can cover what he wants. Furthermore, students have been adamant about keeping the attention on the Israeli war crimes in Gaza and talking up the reasons for university divestment.

CNN and Tapper have been worse than negligent in much of their coverage of the Israeli and American-assisted war crimes in Gaza for months, and before 7 October for years. Selective coverage of student demonstrations is intended to paint students as anti-Semites rather than activists against Israeli apartheid and the ongoing genocide funded by the US as well as supporters of an immediate ceasefire.

Dana Bash, a CNN anchor whose own anti-Palestinian views have previously been covered by The Electronic Intifada, chipped in on 1 May with her own misrepresentation of student demonstrators.

Bash said on Twitter/X that “destruction, violence and hate overtake college campuses across the country with Jewish students feeling unsafe at their own schools.” She made a similar comment on her program.

No friend to Palestinian rights and liberation, The New York Times nevertheless came to a very different conclusion about violence instigated by a dangerous mob against students at UCLA. So, too, did The Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times, however, did misrepresent the genocidal “Harbu Darbu” song played by the vigilantes – “counterprotesters” in their words – as “an Israeli song about the Israel Defense Forces’ campaign in Gaza.”

In another article, the newspaper also outrageously sought to vilify students and others opposed to any form of racism by claiming that the anti-war movement is “one infected by dark strains of anti-Semitism.” Meanwhile, widespread anti-Palestinian racism and rampant atrocity crimes against Palestinians are not adequately addressed by the newspaper of record.

For Bash, this “war began” on 7 October. There’s no need to recall the anti-Palestinian horrors that preceded that date.

She would benefit from hearing from UCLA professor Saree Makdisi who has said what mainstream American media too often ignore: “History didn’t start on October 7.”

Makdisi can make that point in print, but Palestinian guests have become exceedingly rare on the weekday fare Americans receive on CNN as well as other US-based networks.

American audiences get a very skewed impression of what Palestinians have faced for decades. It’s as bad, and quite possibly worse, than it’s ever been.

Bash’s summation Wednesday ignored that the biggest outburst of on-campus violence came just hours earlier against student protesters at UCLA by older anti-Palestinian vigilantes as campus security and police looked on for hours.

In fact, the student encampments supporting Palestinian rights on campuses across the country have been widely peaceful – until attacked by pro-Israel thugs, or heavily armed police.

UCLA graduate student Benjamin Kersten, a member of UCLA’s Jewish Voice for Peace chapter, spoke to CNN’s Alex Marquardt and Brianna Keilar a short time after Bash’s program.

He said that “what can only be described as a Zionist militia descended upon the encampment throwing fireworks and other projectiles, using bear spray canisters.”

Perhaps there is some disagreement internally at CNN among its anchors about the need to present a modicum of news over spin. That said, Keilar pursued more vigorous questioning of Kersten than is seen of guests defending Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.

Palestinian, Jewish and other students working together as equals against Israeli apartheid and genocide is not a story line – including at Bash’s alma mater – of interest to her. She is intent on suggesting this is 1930s Germany. This, even as police representatives of the state from the US to Germany target anti-genocide students and professors, as well as participating Jewish professors and students, a fact noted online by CNN.

At the University of Mississippi a revolting racist attack on a Black student demonstrating in support of Palestinian rights occurred without initial concern from CNN. The imagery mirrored that of white students decades ago harassing Black students, only this time they waved American rather than Confederate flags. Other appalling and even violent incidents have simply been brushed aside.
CNN did belatedly report Sunday afternoon on the racism at the University of Mississippi, nearly 24 hours after an inquiry on the subject by The Electronic Intifada to four journalists there, three of whom – Fredricka Whitfield, Rafael Romo and Jessica Dean – took up the matter.

Earlier questions from The Electronic Intifada to CNN on 29 April about the lack of coverage of a pro-Israel provocateur saying “kill the Jews” being used as the pretext for mass arrests at Northeastern University, and a pro-Israel promoter of sexual violence at UCLA asserting she hoped a student or students would be raped went unanswered.

Also on 29 April, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University where he was outspoken in his anti-Palestinian views, and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Summers talked up arrests and “order.”

Greenblatt – sounding like a southern segregationist politician and most unlike a supposed civil rights leader – encouraged “law and order,” striking words in the context of student demonstrators demanding an end to Israel’s genocide and regime of apartheid against Palestinians.

“Law and order” was often the pretext for brutal state violence against civil rights protesters challenging both the American and South African systems of apartheid. Greenblatt says he doesn’t want “excessive force”; apparently “force” will suffice.

It is now “law and order” to suppress young people who see Democratic elected officials ignoring constituents’ support for a ceasefire and demands for an end to President Joe Biden’s funding of this genocide.

Biden answered “no” on Thursday when a journalist asked him “have the protests forced you to reconsider any of the policies with regard to the region?” He couldn’t signal more clearly he’s not listening to outraged citizens – many of them people who voted for him in 2020 or would have if old enough – appalled by the horror that Israel has unleashed on more than 2.3 million mostly refugees in Gaza with his support.

Presidential historian Jeffrey Engel did note on Wednesday afternoon to the CNN audience that “in the 1980s, during the apartheid protests, it was really very unusual to find anyone on campus who would actually actively argue a pro-apartheid line.”

He added that “there were really very few people that would stand up during that period and say, ‘yes, I think systematic oppression of Black people is a good idea.’ They may have thought it, but they wouldn’t say it, but that’s different from what we’re seeing today where we see two different groups on campus really coming together and clashing over completely different visions of what the Middle East should look like, of what Palestine and Israel should look like.”

Marquardt and Keilar could have explored this line of thought more thoroughly – pro-Israel groups and individuals defending apartheid – but instead wrapped up the interview.

Tapper’s anti-Palestinian bias

The bias and pushing of a climate supportive of Israeli war crimes from some anchors at CNN isn’t new. The Electronic Intifada has documented it in recent months and going back years to Jake Tapper freezing out a prominent East Coast Palestinian commentator.

On 24 April, Tapper interviewed Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro. Tapper commented: “I saw one [sign] at University of Texas earlier today that said something about Palestine and it’s a map of all of Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza, as if that is all Palestine. Does that cross a line? Some Israelis might say, ‘you’re saying that Israel shouldn’t exist anymore.’”

Tapper didn’t respond to a question from The Electronic Intifada about whether he covered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s map at the United Nations in September showing an apartheid Israel extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. I could find no evidence he did cover the matter.

The Electronic Intifada, unlike much of the mainstream media, did report on that map.

Those questions from The Electronic Intifada to Tapper and CNN are now being sent almost entirely from my Electronic Intifada email account. Emails from one of my personal accounts are now being blocked, though I am certain that not all CNN journalists want that to occur. Inquiries to CNN about the block have gone unanswered.

This raises the question of whether CNN is blocking potential interlocutors with direct experience and contacts in the Gaza Strip and without the permission of individual CNN journalists in the midst of a genocide.

Update, 6 May

The personal email account appears to be working again.


Add new comment

Michael F. Brown

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