PBS Ombudsman: NewsHour is ‘Bigger than’ Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill (Chip Somodevilla / Getty)
Chip Somodevilla / Getty

The PBS Ombudsman has called Gwen Ifill’s ‘Take that, Bibi’ tweet on the Iran deal “inexcusable,” and suggests that employees avoid Twitter.

Ifill sparked controversy when she re-tweeted a graphic from “The Iran Deal,” a Twitter account used by the White House to advocate for the Iran nuclear agreement. She later claimed that she was merely drawing attention to the administration’s argument and that she had “inadvertently” failed to make that clear.

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler disagreed Wednesday:

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 added: “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. Ifill has been at the center of political controversy before. In 2008, it was discovered that she had signed a contract to write about Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, even as she had been named to moderate the vice presidential debate between Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden. In 2010, Ifill tweaked Palin directly by mocking her on Twitter for stating that the Boston Tea Party happened in 1773.

Palin was correct, however, and Ifill was wrong.

In 2011, a proposal to strip taxpayer funding from public broadcasting, fueled by concern over bias at National Public Radio, foundered for lack of support among the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives.