NBC's Deceptive Editing Makes Rabbi Appear to be Covering up Sex Abuse

NBC's Deceptive Editing Makes Rabbi Appear to be Covering up Sex Abuse

In a June 24 report for NBC’s Rock Center, video for a story was deceptively edited and misleading voice overs added to quotes from an Hasidic Rabbi that made it seem as if the Rabbi was insisting that allegations of sex abuse should only be handled internally, within the community, and should not be taken to police. But in fact, Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz did not say that at all.

After a series of emails from Rabbi Berkowitz complaining of the deceptive edits, the web entry of the Rock Center story has been updated and the video has been pulled. Yet even that update does not really address the extremely unfair treatment that Berkowitz received at the hands of NBC’s editors.

The story was ostensibly to have been an “inside look” at the Hasidic community in New York. In a segment near the end of the report the piece turned to recent sex abuse charges leveled at Nechamya Weberman, a once respected member of the community who acted as a “therapist” for his other members of the community.

In January of 2013, Weberman was sentenced to 103 years for child sexual abuse in a trial that rocked the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg.

During a discussion of this crime, Rabbi Berkowitz was presented by Rock Center as if saying that his own community should handle allegations of sexual abuse and that Hasidic Jews should deal with the allegations without involving the police or other outsiders.


Above is the original NBC segment with Rabbi Berkowitz.

The report is narrated by NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman, and in the segment in question Snyderman brings up the sex abuse trial of Nechamya Weberman. After she introduces the subject, the frame cuts to Rabbi Berkowitz, who is seen saying, “The community leaders within are dealing with this.” 

Snyderman continues with her voice over narration saying, “Avraham Berkowitz is a local rabbi in the community and he says people are now acknowledging that sexual abuse is happening and insists that they can handle the problem themselves.”

Next, the Rabbi is seen saying, “Whatever these types of crimes are, they have to be eradicated, and in order to eradicate them. We have to do it within the way the community knows how to solve its problems. Because sometimes when you come banging with drums from the outside, the community becomes more insular.”

This certainly makes it seem as if the Rabbi insisted that allegations of sex abuse should only be handled within the Hasidic community.

But Rabbi Berkowitz also recorded the interview he gave to NBC’s Snyderman. And he points out that NBC was very deceptive in its editing and voice-over narration. Berkowitz proves that he was clearly talking about educational initiatives to help members within the community understand how to deal with sex abuse. He notes that he was absolutely not saying that Hasidic Jews should refuse to bring such cases to the police.

In fact, in one segment of the transcript of the full interview, Berkowitz points out that “the Rabbis work together hand in hand with the authorities.” It is clear here that he was not saying that the community should shun police.

After communication with Berkowitz, NBC eventually removed the video of the report and posted a disclaimer on the Rock Center website.

The NBC disclaimer says that NBC “regrets any misunderstanding” and then notes that “Berkowitz says that when he referred to the community knowing how to solve its problems, he was referring to efforts to prevent sexual abuse–not whether to report sexual abuse to police.”

Of this cursory disclaimer, Eliyahu Federman writes at Huffington Post that it wasn’t enough to alert Rock Center viewers as to the extent of NBC’s deception.

“Of course this clarification is not enough and conveniently leaves out the misleading voice-over narration,” Federman wrote. “NBC damaged this rabbi’s reputation without taking full responsibility for creating a misperception about his views on reporting sexual abuse to the police.”

This isn’t the only time that NBC has been caught deceptively editing the news. Breitbart’s John Notle pointed out not long ago that NBC has recently been caught at least seven other times with deceptive edits of video. Add this newest incident to that tally.

The most well known recent deceptively edited video, of course, was when NBC deceptively edited the George Zimmerman tape to make it sound as if he was an obvious racist.

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