PBS anchor’s trash-talking tweet draws network ire

Backlash to Gwen Ifill proves just how sensitive Obama's Iran Deal is.

Feb 29, 2020, 8:21 pm*

Tech

Joey Keeton 

Joey Keeton

PBS NewsHour/YouTube

This bomb graphic tweeted from the White House-controlled Twitter account, @TheIranDeal, was a snarky one. In fact, when the graphic was originally tweeted by @WhiteHouse in early August, Bloomberg‘s resulting headline was “White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.”

For comparison, here are the two graphics side-by-side:

La Times/@WhiteHouse

The White House took Netanyahu’s threatening image, and used it to present its side of the Iran Deal debate. Is it snarky? Yes. But is it also backed up by facts that build a clear and concise counter-argument? Yes.

The commentary from Gwen Ifill, when she retweeted @TheIranDeal, didn’t have that second part:

Take that, Bibi. https://t.co/V9Gn9vP6xN

— gwen ifill (@gwenifill) September 2, 2015

“Take that, Bibi,” is not turnabout—it’s trash talk. Trash talk isn’t a shocking thing to see in American politics, but the resulting tsunami that’s washing over Ifill’s reputation proves how sensitive the Iran Deal is. This isn’t just American politics.

The Iran Deal combines aspects of religion, politics, and national safety. That is a trifecta that is not to be taken lightly, and especially by professional journalists with an image of objectivity. It’s not a matter in which somebody on a PBS show called NewsHour can use Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname after the words “Take that.”

Ifill’s tweet has inspired many people to make some trash-talking tweets of their own:

https://twitter.com/SethAMandel/status/639112098098872324

Ifill claimed she was simply pointing out the White House’s argument for the Iran Deal, but this justification of her tweet was not enough for PBS Ombudsman, Michael Getler, to provide an umbrella for her. He was not happy about the tweet at all, and released the following statement on the Ombudsman page of PBS’s website this week:

One would have to lean way over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was simply shedding light on the administration’s view of portions of Netanyahu’s arguments. But to personalize it by saying, “Take that, Bibi” is, in my book, inexcusable for an experienced journalist who is the co-anchor of a nightly news program watched by millions of people over the course of any week.

The lesson: If you’re a TV personality whose job is to objectively report the news, do not put trash talk into the Twittersphere in regards to very sensitive subjects. Phrases like “Take that, Bibi” are, for objective reporters, best left said behind closed doors.

Screengrab via PBS NewsHour/YouTube

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*First Published: Sep 3, 2015, 10:48 pm