PBS Ombudsman on Gwen Ifill’s Iran Tweet: ‘Inexcusable’

By Mark Joyella 

PBS ombudsman Michael Getler has called a tweet by PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill as “inexcusable” and a “self-inflicted wound.”

After news broke that Sen. Barbara Mikulski would vote to support the president’s nuclear deal with Iran, Ifill re-tweeted a White House-backed account supporting the deal, adding her own comment, “take that Bibi,” an apparent reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch opponent of the deal.

Getler writes that he asked Ifill for an explanation, and–as she did in a series of tweets Wednesday–said that she intended to share the White House’s argument, not make a political statement of her own. That didn’t exactly fly with Getler:

One would have to lean way over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was simply shedding light on the administration’s view of portions of Netanyahu’s arguments. But to personalize it by saying, “Take that, Bibi” is, in my book, inexcusable for an experienced journalist who is the co-anchor of a nightly news program watched by millions of people over the course of any week.

Getler has previously written about Ifill and her use of Twitter. He says social media threatens the credibility of NewsHour when used poorly. “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.”