Neil MacDonald Strikes Again (April 16, 2011)

April 16, 2011



Neil MacDonald Strikes Again

By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director                                                                              April 16, 2011

  View this Article Online and Discuss on Headlines and Deadlines


Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber,

He did it yet again.

This time reporting from Ajdabiya, Libya, CBC correspondent Neil MacDonald filed a report about Libyan rebels rejecting ceasefire proposals presented by the African Union. In the April 11 CBC National report, MacDonald interviewed a Libyan civilian whose uncle had allegedly been gunned down by pro-Gaddafi soldiers. Holding up a bloody robe, the man speaks in Arabic, and MacDonald translates, “Does this look like a military uniform?”

As the man continues speaking in Arabic, MacDonald says in a voiceover:

“‘Gaddafi is like the Israelis,’ says (the Libyan civilian), summoning the worst insult he can manage. ‘He kills whomever he likes.'”

Please watch this report online by clicking here or on the image below.

And there you have it. In a report about “The Battle for Libya,” MacDonald gratuitously introduced Israel into a story that it had nothing to do with. Adding insult to injury, he exposed viewers to the malicious implication that like Gaddafi, ‘Israel kills whomever it likes” – in other words, like Gaddafi, it commits war crimes by targeting innocent civilians at will.

At this point viewers may ask why, of the thousands of people MacDonald could have interviewed and the many quotes he could have used in his report, he chose a source and a quote that tarred Israel as a nation that kills indiscriminately and commits war crimes. Viewers may also wonder why our public broadcaster inappropriately broadcast this wanton and one-sided anti-Israel sentiment.

CBC will likely argue that MacDonald adroitly “dismissed” the analogy to Israel by calling it an “insult.” Yet MacDonald never negated the comparison to Israel, nor did he deny the veracity of the claim that like Gaddafi, Israel “kills whomever” it likes.

Viewers familiar with MacDonald’s preoccupation with Israel will recognize a well-established pattern in his reporting. MacDonald’s modus operandihas been to time and again drag Israel into stories where it doesn’t belong, by selectively interviewing sources who offer controversial one-sided perspectives and gratuitously attack Israel. This is nothing short of journalistic malpractice.

A History of Biased Reporting

MacDonald has a history of biased reporting. On The National’s February 14, 2011 broadcast, MacDonald filed a report questioning whether the protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa were sustainable. MacDonald described how the governments or militaries of Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, the West Bank, Algeria, and Egypt were trying to thwart the protests by putting forward various measures, be it “pro-government thugs” who use violent tactics, bribery in the form of government payoffs, riot dispersal methods such as tear gas and rubber bullets, along with dissolving the cabinets of “repressive” governments.

MacDonald then reported that:

“Repressive emergency laws are used extensively throughout the Middle East. President Barak Obama repeatedly denounced Egypt’s during the protests. The trouble is that most Arabs know that Israel has an emergency law too which it uses for such things as detention without trial, and confiscation, or demolition of Palestinian property. For that matter, the United States itself has been under a legal state of national emergency since the 911 attacks; that law was renewed again last year.”

What was the rationale for MacDonald’s drive-by reference to democratic Israel (and the U.S., for that matter) in a story about the movement to dislodge repressive Arab regimes? While only MacDonald can say for sure, it is one more episode in a long-standing pattern of drawing Israel into reports where it doesn’t belong.

During his stint as CBC’s Mideast correspondent, Macdonald never made a secret of his opinion about Israel. In 2000, he referred to “the ferocious appetite of Jewish settlers for Arab land.” And in 2002, he asked rhetorically whether the terror group Hezbollah is “a national liberation movement or, as Israel and its supporters maintain, a murderous global menace?”

In May of 2004, when MacDonald was posted to the CBC’s Washington bureau, he filed a report about the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison facility. The report featured a quote by a pro-Palestinian propagandist, Eugene Bird (click here or on the image to  the right to watch), who falsely and maliciously suggested, without any evidence, that Israeli agents might have played a role in the torture scandal. This incident elicited a remarkable two on-air clarifications (watch here) from the CBC, and its ombudsman acknowledged that this report exposed CBC to “the appearance of bias.” The CBC’s editor-in-chief at the time promised that the situation would never be repeated again.

But just seven months later, in a December 2004 report on a deadly al-Qaeda terror attack on the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, MacDonald aired a source who blamed the U.S. relationship with Israel for the attack. The only person interviewed in MacDonald’s report was Alan Keiswetter (click here or on the image to thee right to watch) of the Saudi-financed Middle East Institute, who stated that America was “in the pockets of (former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon.”

Also in December of 2004 – in the midst of a Palestinian terror war that saw Israeli families blown up in buses and restaurants – MacDonald wrote an analysis on CBC’s website stating that, “if Palestinians have committed terror, the Israelis have certainly committed war crimes.” Macdonald then raised the question of whether Jewish settlers, “thousands of whom are well armed and overtly bellicose, constitute civilians or combatants.” Macdonald appeared to have been suggesting that the murder of Israeli settlers may not in fact be “terrorism.” The sentence was later amended online after complaints to the CBC.

And in 2005, MacDonald did a feature one-on-one interview (click here or on the image to the right to watch) with former CIA Chief Michael Sheuer who claimed that American support for Israel was costing American lives abroad in the Middle East and endangering the safety of U.S. citizens domestically.

Time For MacDonald to Go

It is clear and well-established by now that, wherever MacDonald is postedbe it Jerusalem, Washington, or Libyahe will continue to denigrate Israel using sources and handpicked “experts” who gratuitously involve Israel in stories it has nothing to do with. Macdonald is guilty not only of the appearance of bias, but of bias itself. As we have argued in the past, “If CBC news executives are interested in maintaining the national broadcaster’s credibility, they will recognize that Macdonald’s reporting is no longer consistent with their mandate of pursuing accuracy and fairness. It is time for him to go.”

What You Can Do To Make A Difference

Tell the CBC that Neil Macdonald’s reporting is biased against Israel and no longer deserves to be included in the newscasts of our public broadcaster. Cite MacDonald’s April 11 report which implied that Israel commits war crimes by intentionally targeting innocent civilians and his history of biased reporting.

Please file your complaint on the CBC’s online feedback form (





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