Despite all the progress the Palestinian cause has made in terms of American sympathy, criticism of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians remains the main taboo of American political discourse. Look what happened to Katie Halper this week.
The Intercept reported today that Halper, a popular leftist podcaster and co-host of Useful idiots with Matt Taibbi, was released earlier this week from Risingthe Hill, for which Halper had done a weekly weekend show for the past three years. After recording a monologue, this time covering the recent controversy over Rashida Tlaib’s comments on Israeli apartheid, Halper first told her that “Radar,” as the monologues are known on the show, was being delayed while he was under examination.
Before long, Halper was informed that he would not work at all by Hill editor Bob Cusack, who told him it was “not in our cover sweet spot”. When Halper asked him explicitly if the segment was canceled because it was about Israel, he confirmed that was the “justification” and that the Hill the focus is largely on domestic, not foreign, policy. Soon an executive told her in an email that they wouldn’t need her to tape a show the next day. “We wish you all the best,” was the signature.
It is unclear what Cusack was referring to when he said the Hill does not cover foreign policy. Just last week, RisingThe other co-hosts aired segments on the Brazilian elections, Italy’s new neo-fascist prime minister, the South Korean president’s hot mic scandal, and several segments on the war in Ukraine. And while Halper’s monologue was largely devoted to presenting evidence of Tlaib’s labeling of Israel as an apartheid state, it also had a national element, given how much of a point it has become. A major flashpoint in American politics and the factional war between Democrats, with establishment, pro-Israel officials beating down socialist Tlaib in concert.
This seems to be a new editorial line for the program. According to Ryan Grim, who revealed Halper’s story and who logged more than 150 radar himself as a co-host of Rising, “There is no approval process.” Hosts simply upload their script to a teleprompter and record it. Krystal Ball, who co-hosted the show for years, says that although she and co-host Saagar Enjeti faced occasional pushbacks on certain topics, they were “never blocked by guests. or subjects”.
It is difficult to know what motivates this. But one thing that has changed since Ball and Enjeti’s time on the show is the change in ownership of the Hill, which was sold to media conglomerate Nexstar Media Group, Inc., for $130 million last August. This month, Psagot Value Holdings Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based investment firm, bought 6,100 shares of Nexstar for more than $1 million.
But there were signs of a possible tilt in the Hilleditorial line on Israel even before that. In late August, Nexstar served as deputy editor of NewsNation, its cable channel, along with Jake Novak, a journalist who had spent the previous year and a half as media director for the Israeli Consulate General in New York. . Novak recently achieved infamy for being involved in the Matt Gaetz underage sex controversy, where he appeared to admit Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, of all people, that he was involved in the extortion attempt against Gaetz’s wealthy father to funnel millions of dollars to a ‘commando squad leader’ to free an American hostage in Iran.
Novak wrote endorsing Donald Trump’s abandonment of US support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he pleaded for Israel to build more illegal settlements on the land that would constitute a hypothetical Palestinian state, the saying “would bring more peace, prosperity and freedom to Israelis and Arabs”. Six days before his hiring announcement, Novak led a presentation at Bar-Ilan University titled “Defending Israel Against Media Bias – How to Combat News Media and Social Media Bias Against Israel: The Best defense is a good attack”. It was an update to a lecture he gave in 2016 on defending Israel’s reputation, which the host described as “an absolute master class in public relations diplomacy.” .
There is certainly a political slant to Nexstar’s political donations. During the 2016 election cycle, the company’s PAC gave 80% of its money to GOP-affiliated PACs, a number that rose to 100% during the 2018 cycle. Its CEO gave six times as much to senior Republican members of Congress than to Democrats over the past ten years, regardless of the party in power. His donations are more balanced now, but Nexstar Democrats are making some rather centrist, established, pro-Israel donations, like Jerry Nadler, Jamie Raskin, Kathy Castor and Hakeem Jeffries.
If Nexstar is driven by a pro-Israel bias that it applies in its programming, that is a serious concern. After buying Tribune Media in 2019, Nexstar became the largest local TV owner in the country, overtaking the explicitly right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group. According to an August 2022 filing with the SEC, the company now reaches nearly 40% of all U.S. television households, and it owns, operates, and provides services to 199 television stations and one AM radio station in Washington. , DC, and thirty-nine states. In the filing, the company notes the Supreme Court’s April 2021 overturning of FCC limits on local media ownership.
Halper is far from the first left-wing commentator to be fired for his pro-Palestinian rhetoric. Marc Lamont Hill lost his job at CNN for a speech calling for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea”, while Ongoing cases editor Nathan Robinson lost the regular column he wrote for the Guardian for four years after he sarcastically tweeted that Congress “is actually not allowed to authorize new spending unless a portion of it is spent on arms purchases for Israel.” This month, a report that Facebook itself commissioned determined that the company’s censorship policies “have had a negative human rights impact” on Palestinians, thanks to the company’s double standard. company on the “moderation” of Palestinian messages in relation to Israeli messages.