NEW YORK (Mar. 29)
A CBS radio executive told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that public protests, though “significant,” were not the deciding factor in an editorial broadcast by WCBS radio in New York that disagreed vehemently with the position on the Middle East of CBS White House correspondent Robert Pierpoint. Pierpoint, in a CBS radio network news broadcast from Washington March 7, sharply criticized the White House for following a “double standard” in its responses to acts of violence and terror by both Israelis and Palestinians.
The WCBS editorial, repeated six times on March 16 and twice on March 17, stated, “If we Americans react differently to Arab terrorism than we do to Israeli actions that result in civilian deaths, it is because the two are fundamentally different. It is not, as has been suggested, because there are more well-organized Jews in America than there are Arabs.”
David L. Nelson, vice-president of the CBS Radio Division and general manager of WCBS radio, told the JTA that the editorial was “absolutely not” in response to pressure but represented a concensus of the WCBS management. He said WCBS radio was considering editorializing on the subject, especially after the downing of a Libyan airliner by Israeli fighters over Sinai Feb. 21 and that the views expressed by Pier-point helped crystalize the opposite views expressed in the editorial. Nelson said that before preparing the editorial, the WCBS management had consulted with Richard Cohen, associate executive director of the American Jewish Congress and with a representative of the Middle East Coordinating Committee a pro-Arab group. He said that in keeping with WCBS policy, a spokesman for the latter group was given an opportunity to reply to the editorial on the air.
The WCBS editorial characterized the Libyan airliner incident as a “tragic blunder” on Israel’s part but observed that the Israelis “did not know what was on that airplane. Had they known of its innocent nature, they would not have shot it down….But the Arab terrorists had no doubt what they were facing when they murdered the diplomats in the Sudan or the athletes in Munich or when their agents poured into a Tel Aviv airport with guns blazing.”
Pierpoint had charged in his broadcast that “The Israelis have and utilize a formidable political and propaganda force in this country in the form of six million Jews.” He urged Americans to “apply more study, balance and fair play to the difficult problem of the Middle East.”
(In Washington this week, CBS vice-president William Small defended the use of the network’s facilities for Pierpoint’s broadcast. Responding to a question during a panel discussion at the 40th anniversary conference of the AJ Congress’ Women’s Division, Small said “it was perfectly proper” for Pierpoint “to do what he did” because “reporters have the freedom to interpret the news.” However, Small deplored Pierpoint’s remark which implied that six million American Jews acted as a bloc in support of Israel.)