WashPost: Christiane Amanpour can’t be “objective”

TV critic Tom Shales suggests her Iranian background raises questions about bias

Topics: Media Criticism, Washington, D.C.,

WashPost: Christiane Amanpour can't be "objective"CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour moderates discussion at the Women's Conference 2008 in Long Beach, California.

(updated below – Update II)

To its credit, ABC News recently announced that Christiane Amanpour would replace George Stephanopoulos as host of its Sunday morning This Week program.  Today in The Washington Post, TV critic Tom Shales condemns this decision on several grounds, including the fact that she is viewed by Far Right media groups as suffering from a “liberal bias.”  But as Eric Boehlert notes, the Right thinks that everyone who is not Rush Limbaugh is a biased shill for “the Liberal Media,” and if that’s the standard, then only Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck would be an acceptable choice for Shales.

But I want to focus on a far more pernicious and truly slimy aspect of Shales’ attack on Amanpour.  In arguing why she’s a “bad choice,” Shales writes that “[s]upporters of Israel have more than once charged Amanpour with bias against that country and its policies,” and adds:  ”A Web site devoted to criticism of Amanpour is titled, with less than a modicum of subtlety, ‘Christiane Amanpour’s Outright Bias Against Israel Must Stop,’ available via Facebook.”  Are these “charges” valid?  Is this “Web site” credible?  Does she, in fact, exhibit anti-Israel bias?  Who knows?  Shales doesn’t bother to say.  In fact, he doesn’t even bother to cite a single specific accusation against her; apparently, the mere existence of these complaints, valid or not, should count against her.  

Worse still is that, immediately after noting these charges of”anti-Israel” bias, Shales writes this:

Amanpour grew up in Great Britain and Iran. Her family fled Tehran in 1979 at the start of the Islamic revolution, when she was college age. She has steadfastly rejected claims about her objectivity, telling Leslie Stahl last year relative to her coverage of Iran: “I am not part of the current crop of opinion journalists or commentary journalists or feelings journalists. I strongly believe that I have to remain in the realm of fact.”



Without having the courage to do so explicitly, Shales links (and even bolsters) charges of her “anti-Israel” bias to the fact that her father is Iranian and she grew up in Iran.  He sandwiches that biographical information about Iran in between describing accusations against her of bias against Israel and her defensive insistence that she’s capable of objectivity when reporting on the region.  

So here we finally have a prominent journalist with a half-Persian background — in an extremely homogenized media culture which steadfastly excludes from Middle Eastern coverage voices from that region — and her national origin is immediately cited as a means of questioning her journalistic objectivity and even opposing her as a choice to host This Week (can someone from Iran with an Iranian father possibly be objective???).  Could the double standard here be any more obvious or unpleasant?

Wolf Blitzer is Jewish, a former AIPAC official, and — to use Shales’ smear-campaign formulation — has frequently “been accused” of pro-Israel bias; should CNN bar him from covering those issues?  David Gregory is Jewish, “studies Jewish texts with a top Jewish educator in Washington,” and has conducted extremely sycophantic interviews with Israel officials. Should his background be cited as evidence of his pro-Israel bias?  The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg is routinely cited as one of America’s most authoritative sources on the Middle East, notwithstanding numerous accusations of pro-Israel bias and, even more so, his choice to go enlist in the IDF and work in an Israeli prison where Palestinians are encaged; do those actions (far beyond his mere ethnicity) call into question his objectivity as a journalist such that The Atlantic should bar him from writing about that region?  Jake Tapper — who Shales suggests as an alternative to Amanpour and who I also previously praised as a choice — is Jewish; does that raise questions about his objectivity where Israel is concerned?

Nobody in The Washington Post would ever dare suggest that journalists with that background lack objectivity and should be barred from a prominent role in journalism as a result.  In fact, I’d bet one would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the Post ever accusing an American journalist of excess “pro-Israel bias.”  That phrase — “pro-Israel bias” — is a virtual oxymoron in such circles, because the ”pro-Israel” position is the default position that is deemed “objective.”  By contrast, the mere accusation against Amanpour of “anti-Israel bias” from some obscure right-wing venues — flavored with the apparently incriminating fact that she has an Iranian father and grew up in Iran — leads Shales to condemn ABC for making “a bad choice” in hiring her.  And one can bet that, as night follows day, this ugly attack on her from The Washington Post will now be cited by those who want to keep our network television hosts as homogenized, and our political debates as stifled, as they have long been.

 

UPDATE:  During his Washington Post chat today about his column, Shales called Amanpour “one of the most over-rated and hyped personalities of our day” and then added:  ”neither you nor I has stooped to mentioning that hair of hers — yipe. What’s the deal with that, as David Letterman might say.”  He also wondered whether ABC will “try to turn Amanpour into Little ms Politics.”  There are so many obvious things wrong with those remarks that I’m not going to spend the energy commenting.  Paul Krugman has more on how media figures are upset that Amanpour is “someone who’s knowledgeable about the world rather than the DC party circuit” — as though that’s a bad thing that makes her unsuitable for this job.

 

UPDATE II:  In 2008, Shales did something quite similar to Helen Thomas when criticizing a documentary about her career:  ”What’s disappointing about Thomas, and troubling about the film, is her stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies,” Shales wrote.  As ”evidence,” he cited then-Press Secretary Tony Snow’s response to a question asked by Thomas challenging Bush administration policy — “Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view” — and Shales then wrote:  ”Not for nothing was Thomas recently hailed as ‘the epitome of journalistic integrity for over 57 years’ — by the Arab American News.”  Apparently, being praised by an Arab-American newspaper is evidence of anti-Israel bias.  Is being praised by a Jewish newspaper or group evidence of anti-Arab bias?  Then, just as he did with Amanpour, Shales bizarrely linked Thomas’ national origin to these biases:  ”Other than a passing reference to Thomas’s parents as having been Syrian immigrants, the film never hints at Thomas’s anti-Israeli rhetoric.”  Thomas is a life-long American citizen born in Kentucky; how is her having parents who are Syrian immigrants a “reference” to her supposedly “anti-Israel rhetoric”?

All of this does demonstrate that someone has a very severe, “troubling” bias when it comes to Israel, the Middle East and people of particular backgrounds.  And it’s not Amanpour or Thomas who have the problem.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>