Uh-Oh. I think Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman just got caught in a bit of a lie, in answer to a question put to him Eleanor Clift on this week’s McLaughlin Group. The segment focused on Zuckerman’s visit this week to Israel, where he had accompanied New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on a whirlwind tour of embattled Israel as part of something called the New York State-Israel “Unity Mission.” Mort had just described the tour he and Cuomo had been given of a rather extensive tunnel that Hamas had built into Israeli territory, which he said reminded of something you might see in the New York City subway system. Clift then asked: “Did you tour any of the devastation in Gaza?’
If Zuckerman kept to Cuomo’s itinerary, he would not have seen such devastation, since Cuomo spent his entire 29.5 hours on the ground in Israel proper. Although Palestinian officials had extended an invitation for Cuomo to visit Palestinian territory in the West Bank, he declined to do so, and so far there has been no news that Zuckerman made his way into Gaza on his own. This would have required a lot of “fixing” on the ground and would have been something Zuckerman himself would have written about by now, or would have had the Daily News reporter who travelled with him write up.
The exchange between Clift and Zuckerman picks up at the 9 minute mark of this video.
Clift to Zuckerman: Did you tour any of the devastation in Gaza?”
Zuckerman to Clift: Yeah, I did.
It’s not entirely clear on the audio, but Clift seems to have then asked Zuckerman “When?” This would have been a reference to the much-noted pace of the Zuckerman-Cuomo “Unity Tour” and the reluctance to visit Palestinian territory, I guess, with the assumption that Zuckerman was talking about having personally witnessing this devastation–and not through a telescope or a satellite or a drone camera. But Zuckerman was moving on—fast, as fumferers tend to do— and launched very quickly into a spiel on how the “devastation” Clift was pressing him about was entirely the work of Hamas and its cynical use of civilian pawns.
Bad enough for Zuckerman to have been Cuomo’s enabler in pandering to pro Israel money and votes and grooming his national profile by staging a dog and pony show in support of a country that is credibly accused of war crimes—lots of them–in its recent Gaza operations. But to lie that you’ve actually witnessed the physical aftermath of Israel’s onslaught when in fact you have not is kinda low—and an insult to the very brave men and women who risked their lives in Gaza to report the news during the month-long Israeli attacks there.
Foreign correspondents of Zuckerman’s vintage (post-Scoop, pre-internet) used to play fast and loose with datelines all the time, claiming they were in some difficult-to-get-to place and had seen something important when all that they had actually personally witnessed was the battle for position at the hotel bar. Maybe it’s just a function of generational lag—a macho “senior moment.” Then too, it could be jet lag; it’s hard to be clearheaded after seeing so much so fast, even if you haven’t really seen everything you say you’ve seen. Maybe Mort just misheard what Clift had asked.
But I suspect it’s just one more manifestation of the dishonesty that has long haunted the American discourse on Israel, the casual lying both by commission and omission that is as maddening as it is chronic.
This post first appeared on William McGowan’s site, Coloring the News, where he is currently focused on the US-Israel “special relationship” and the political and journalistic corruption of the Israel lobby.