Guardian headline tidies up inconvenient quote by nominee for Defense Secretary

While reasonable people can, of course, disagree over the merits of Chuck Hagel’s nomination for US Defense Secretary, a Guardian headline used for Chris McGreal’s latest story (Jan. 7) on the row blatantly distorts a relevant quote by the Nebraska Senator in a manner which has the effect of misleading readers.

Here’s the quote  by Hagel which some opponents of his nomination have cited as cause for concern.

“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Washington, DC].”

Interestingly, given his own history of using language which evokes Judeophobic stereotypes, McGreal contextualizes the quote quite fairly – and even acknowledges the danger of employing antisemitic rhetoric which warns of the danger posed by Jewish power.

McGreal writes:

“Hagel later apologised for the use of the term “Jewish lobby” [when he spoke of the influence of the lobby on Congress] saying he should have said “pro-Israel lobby”, an issue of particular sensitivity because it touches on antisemitic tropes about Jewish control, but also because it is inaccurate, given the wider support for Israel among Americans, notably Christian evangelicals.”

In addition, the actual quote by Hagel is accurately cited in McGreal’s report.  

Fair enough.

However, here’s the Guardian headline for McGreal’s report:


No, it’s clearly not antisemitic to merely acknowledge that the pro-Israel lobby has a powerful voice.

However, that’s not what Hagel said.

A Guardian editor used inverted quotes in order to paraphrase the senator’s words in a manner which make them more palatable and less offensive.

What the editor did, in effect, was to run interference for a politician the paper has framed as the protagonist in a battle against pro-Israel advocates who wish to “stifle debate” about Israel.

This is not journalism but, rather, advocacy: another example of a paper which continually distorts information to suit a particular ideological agenda.

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