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NYT’s Cooper: Our Hospital Headline Wasn’t Perfect, But It’s Like Other Headlines that Quoted U.S. Officials

On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House,” New York Times Pentagon Correspondent Helene Cooper stated that the early Times headline, “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say” wasn’t perfect, but the headline wasn’t any different from other headlines that quote the statements of American officials.

After Cooper noted that American officials feel confident the blast was caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket, NBC National Security Analyst and former Chief of Staff to the heads of the Pentagon and CIA Jeremy Bash stated that the uproar in the Arab world was caused by headlines blaming Israel for the blast that weren’t backed up by facts and relied on taking the word of Hamas at face value.

Host Nicolle Wallace then turned to the Times’ coverage, Cooper stated, “I know how careful The New York Times is about this sort of thing. I am pretty sure, without even going back and doing the check that there’s no New York Times headline that would immediately say, Israeli rocket hits a hospital in Gaza, because that’s not how we — we’ve been covering the war in Ukraine. We’ve been in Afghanistan. We’ve been down this road so many times, and it’s — attributing provenance to something like that is crazy. However, I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to think that there wouldn’t be protests outside of embassies if there’s an explosion at a Palestinian hospital at the same time that there is — there [are] Israeli strikes in Gaza. I think that’s maybe asking a little bit too much. I think we have to be careful, though.”

Bash responded that while he doesn’t think the headline is Cooper’s fault and she’s a solid reporter, “When you say, ‘Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital,’ that is B.S. That is wrong.”

Cooper cut in to object that the headline noted that they were reporting claims from the Palestinians. Bash countered, “It wasn’t Palestinians. It was Hamas that said it, Hamas that said it. We wouldn’t credit al-Qaeda. … Hamas just committed an atrocity. Why would any clear-thinking journalist say, well, Hamas said that the Israelis or the Jews or whoever did something, why we would put that in the newspaper? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Wallace said that the actual New York Times reporting was more nuanced than the headline was. She then discussed the skepticism that images of Hamas atrocities in Israel received and stated that there does seem to be “an asymmetry of skepticism.”

Cooper responded that things can be attributed to the Palestinians and “It was not only Hamas who said it. There were other Palestinians who said it as well. We had reporters who were there who spoke with Palestinians, spoke with Hamas, and spoke with other groups. I don’t think this was a perfect headline by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think it merits the sort of response that it’s getting from Jeremy. Because I think we often — that’s the whole point of journalism, is you tell people where you’re getting the information from. When the United States, for instance, bombed Kabul with that errant strike after the Abbey Gate bombing and then said that they were bombing a truckload of terrorists, and it turns out that the United States had bombed, had killed children, the stories we first wrote about it…we also said, in our initial headlines on that, Biden administration says they bombed [a] truckload of terrorists. We attributed that to U.S. officials. And that’s what you have to do. … I do think that the headline could have been better.”

Bash countered by pointing out that officials in Gaza are Hamas and that “other Palestinians who might have been in the West Bank, they were in no better position to judge the situation than Israelis were. In fact, maybe even a worse position.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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