Gwen Ifill scolded by PBS ombudsman for ‘inexcusable’ tweet
NEW YORK — Gwen Ifill, the the co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” has received a public slap on the wrist for a tweet that drew condemnation from conservatives.
PBS ombudsman Michael Getler said the offending tweet was “inexcusable” and a “real self-inflicted wound.”
Ifill had posted a link on Wednesday to the Obama administration’s Twitter account that showed a graphic designed to promote the Iran nuclear deal.
Her retweet came with the comment, “Take that, Bibi.” Bibi is the nickname of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has campaigned against the deal with Iran.
Many on the right believed that she was taunting Netanyahu.
“Ifill is a highly experienced journalist, very quick, alert, knowledgeable, and with an engaging on-air personality,” Getler wrote. “She also has a talented eye for the ironies and political turnabouts in the daily flow of news that contributes to her presence. But PBS and the NewsHour are bigger than any individual and tweeting does not appear to be a tool, in these cases, that is appropriate for maintaining credibility, which is the bedrock for news organizations.”
After President Obama secured enough congressional support to ensure the nuclear deal’s advancement, the administration-run account tweeted out a drawing intended to illustrate that “Iran’s program is significantly less dangerous.”
The drawing was identical to the cartoon bomb that Netanyahu displayed during a memorable 2012 speech at the United Nations, where he warned that Iran was close to obtaining a nuclear weapon. Ifill’s response to that tweet was widely criticized by conservatives.
“Gwen Ifill should be ashamed of herself,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday.
Ifill told Getler that she “should have been clearer” that she was echoing the administration’s position, not her own.
Getler noted that he’s addressed Ifill’s Twitter activity before. In 2012, the anchor took some heat when she defended another journalist who had been caught on a hot mic making disparaging remarks about Republicans.
But Ifill has had some defenders this week. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, a frequent media critic, wondered if the PBS ombudsman would have been bothered if Ifill had “lightly mocked” Russian President Vladimir Putin, Cuban President Raul Castro or the leaders of the Iranian regime.