The host of Channel 10 News flagship program resigned live on air after the channel was forced to broadcast an apology to Netanyahu’s American patron Sheldon Adelson for an unflattering report. The program’s editor and the CEO of the news company resigned earlier this week.
In an extraordinary move, the host of one of Israel’s main news programs resigned live on air, citing a “breach of ethical and professional values.” The resignation of newscaster Guy Zohar came at the end of a program which saw a junior colleague read out a text of an apology to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s patron Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is a Las Vegas casino tycoon and the proprietor of fiercely pro-Netanyahu freesheet Yisrael Hayom, the most widely read newspaper in Israel. As Zohar announced his resignation the production credits at the bottom of the screen rolled blank, without any names. The camera then panned to the program’s control room, which erupted with applause.
The spat between Adelson and Channel 10, the more liberal competitor of the state-run Channel 1 and commercial heavyweight Channel 2, began in January, when channel ran an in-depth profile of the billionaire. Adelson alleged that the profile piece contained two defamatory segments: One, an interviewee claiming Adelson owed him substantial sums of money, a claim the interviewee reportedly recanted a few months later; and another interviewee seemingly insinuating Adelson got special treatment when appealing for a casino operation license. The report was removed this week from the channel’s website.
While Adelson attempted to pursue legal action against the news company, the apology was eventually aired thanks to a direct intervention by one of the financially strapped channel’s three shareholders, Ron Lauder, of the Estee Lauder business dynasty. According to a source involved in the preparation of the original Adelson report, who spoke to the Walla news site, the channel negotiating an agreed phrasing to the apology when Lauder intervened to stress the news company must aired the apology as dictated to them by Adelson’s attorney. The apology broadcast tonight included references not only to the disputed quotes but to the phrasing of the questions asked by the channel’s reporter and to the channel “not checking the accusations” prior to broadcast.
The CEO of Channel 10 News, Raudor Benziman, and the editor of the news program, Ruthie Yovel, resigned already on Wednesday, once the decision to air the apology was made. “We were made to understand that unless we do this, the channel will shut down,” a source in the news company told Walla. Another source in the company said: “This is proof positive that in present-day Israel you can’t do an investigative report on Sheldon Adelson. At least not on Channel 10. It seems a financially weak channel can’t stand up to the pressure.”
The strong bonds between Adelson and Netanyahu are well known, and as Noam pointed out in a post earlier this year, many of Netanyahu’s closest staffers have previously worked for companies owned by the tycoon. Adelson’s freesheet Yisrael Hayom is seen as so pro-Netanyahu it’s been nicknamed Bibiton (“Bibisheet”).
Noam Sheizaf contributed to this report