Iqbal: “The New York Times newspaper has announced it will no longer publish daily political cartoons in its international editions. The decision was made after the publication of a cartoon earlier this year depicting the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Trump – a cartoon described and criticised by many as antisemitic.”
Listeners were not given a proper description of the cartoon and no effort was made to explain why it was antisemitic before part of a statement “defending the decision to do away with the daily cartoon” from a NYT editor was read out. Iqbal then introduced one of the paper’s cartoonists – Patrick Chappatte.
Iqbal: “Well let’s look at that controversy. This goes back to just April this year, Describe the cartoon for us.”
Having explained that the cartoon was syndicated, Chappatte gave the following description:
Chappatte: “So someone picked a cartoon from a colleague that was depicting Netanyahu on a leash with a blind Trump following. Netanyahu was depicted as a dog with a Star of David around the neck.”
The New York Times itself described the image as having:
“…included anti-Semitic tropes, depicting the Prime Minister of Israel as a guide dog with a Star of David collar leading the President of the United States, shown wearing a skullcap. The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgement to publish it.”
Once again BBC World Service listeners were not given any insight into why the image was offensive and exactly which antisemitic tropes it used. Chappatte continued:
Chappatte: “And to me that cartoon was problematic in many ways and I don’t think it should have been published in the New York Times but it looks like they did not realise that because someone picked it up and printed it. And that caused an instant outrage and controversy and a lot of furore, especially on social media but there was a lot of that on the Right-wing media: Fox News, Breitbart. Trump’s son retweeted the cartoon, Netanyahu’s son did as well. It was widely depicted as an antisemitic cartoon reminding of the worst things in history. I don’t think the cartoonist had an antisemitic intent but I think this was a poor cartoon that should not have been published.”
Obviously listeners were given the impression that objections to the cartoon came from the Right of the political map, but is that actually the case? As documented by CAMERA at the time (see ‘related articles’ below), one of the first Tweets on the topic came from a Left-wing site called The Jewish Worker. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens published an article on the story and criticism also came from Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz, among many others.
Later in the interview listeners heard Chappatte opine that “media should stop being afraid of angry mobs” and:
Chappatte: “We need to learn to deal with social media. Twitter is a place for furore – not for debate – and very often the first, angriest voices, the most angry people, define the conversation…”
So to sum up, although BBC audiences around the world were not fully informed what the NYT cartoon depicted or why it was antisemitic, they were led to believe that objections to it came from predominantly Right-wing “angry mobs” of the kind that “define the conversation”.
Clearly the portrayal of this story heard by BBC World Service listeners was far from accurate, impartial or informative.