On June 21, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition once again used biased pro-Palestinian terminology while reporting a Palestinian terrorist attack. Forty-year-old Rachel Shabo of Itamar and three of her sons were slain when a heavily armed terrorist burst into their home and opened fire. An NPR report described the bloody attack with these words:
Israeli officials say Palestinian commandos stormed a house in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank last night killing five people.
Israeli officials said no such thing. Perhaps at NPR such murderers are viewed as commandos, but to most people (and according to dictionaries), commandos are elite troops whose mission is characteristically to save lives and even to rescue hostages from terrorists – not to slaughter defenseless civilians in their homes. As they routinely do in such cases, Israeli officials accurately termed the attackers “terrorists.” If NPR cannot produce actual “Israeli officials” who used the word “commando” to describe the attackers, the network should retract its misleading language and desist from any further use of it.
This “commando” broadcast by NPR raises another serious question as well. The network has long been criticized for biased and inaccurate Mideast coverage, which it has lately tried to deflect by posting on its website transcripts of its reporting from the region. But despite a seemingly extensive archive, this particular broadcast is omitted – it is nowhere to be found. Posting an incomplete archive, and leaving out such a broadcast, suggests that NPR can’t be trusted to honestly defend itself any more than it can be trusted to honestly report the news.
The Random House Dictionary definition of “commando” is: “1. (In World War II) a. any of the specially trained Allied military units used for surprise, hit-and-run raids against Axis forces. ...2. any military unit organized for operations similar to those of the commandos of World War II. 3. A member of a military assault unit or team trained to operate quickly and aggressively in especially urgent, threatening situations, as against terrorists holding hostages.”
UPDATE (July 2, 2002): NPR Correction on Website
The above alert originally included action items and contact information. Initially, NPR responded to concerns about the broadcast by claiming editors could “not find [in their archives] any reference to Palestinian ‘commandos.’” A straightforward correction was eventually posted, however, on NPR's website. The correction reads:
From NPR News reports, heard on Morning Edition, June 21, 2002: In 7:30 a.m. news headlines during the Morning Edition broadcast on June 21, the newscaster misspoke. She quoted Israeli officials as saying Palestinian commandos stormed a house in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank, killing five people. Israeli officials did not identify the Palestinian gunmen as commandos. The news spot was never broadcast again. NPR regrets the error.
To view this correction and others go to http://www.npr.org/corrections/index.html.
Although thirty of the thirty-three corrections currently posted on the NPR site were also broadcast on-air, alerting listeners to the problem, the “commandos” correction was not aired. Given NPR's other on-air corrections, the choice not to broadcast the correction is notable.
More on NPR's corrections.