Where Rachel Maddow Dares Not Tread

High-profile U.S. journalists often like to boast that they are free to cover whatever they want, but that is often because they choose not to cross certain lines that would otherwise upset powerful people or interests. Marquette professor Daniel C. Maguire points out areas that even MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow avoids.

By Daniel C. Maguire

July 15, 2011

To MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: On your show of July 14, you spoke of your complete freedom to say what you want on your show and Bill Moyers gently demurred, speaking of restricting forces that hover over journalists.

Bill Moyers was correct. I cannot believe you don’t care, but you are not free to address on your show the political influence of the Israeli lobby (which is far broader than AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). 

You are not free to invite John Mearsheimer or Stephen Walt, authors of The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. You are not free to talk of how their first article that preceded this book could not be published by The Atlantic even after the magazine commissioned it. The authors had to go to England to get it published. 

AIPAC’s announced goal is to have “no daylight” between Israel’s needs and U.S. policy. You cannot address their ongoing success.

You are not free to invite Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who was on the Gaza flotilla on “The Audacity of Hope” to hear her side of the Israeli illegal occupation and continuing expansion in Palestine and in Jerusalem. 

You’re not free to invite Ray McGovern, former CIA policy analyst who used to report in person to George H.W. Bush and other senior White House officials. McGovern was also on that ship.

Nor could you invite the captain of “The Audacity of Hope” who was imprisoned by Greece presumably at the command of the U.S. and Israeli governments. You can’t go there.

You’re not free to invite members of the family of Rachel Corrie who was murdered by Israelis driving a Caterpillar bulldozer as it was destroying water wells and homes in Gaza. You are not free to mention the book the Corrie family put out, Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie, or to invite members of the Corrie family to discuss their ongoing search for justice.

You are not free to invite some of the surviving member of the USS Liberty whom I could make available to you to describe the intentional attack on our spy ship which Israeli pilots had identified as American and were ordered to attack anyhow. The date was June 8, 1967. 

Sailors on the deck had waved to Israeli planes flying over them all morning. Then the naval and air force attack struck the Liberty in the afternoon. Israel, which was tripling its land size in six days of war, wanted no witnesses to its takeover of territories such as the Golan Heights until it was a fait accompli. 

You could not invite James Scott author of The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship. His father was on board as 34 American sailors were killed and 171 wounded. 

You could not invite Professor Geoffrey Wawro, author of the recent comprehensive book Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East. Much in that study is unmentionable elsewhere, including on your show.

You cannot invite the Israeli Uri Avnery, former member of the Knesset, who criticized the U.S. Congress for “jumping up and down like yo-yos” as Netanyahu mocked President Barack Obama’s timid efforts in the Middle East and lectured Obama as if he were a schoolboy at what was to be a White House photo-op.

The congressional report on 9/11 cited Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s statement that a principal motive behind the attack was U.S. total support of Israeli expansionism. We pay a great price for our obedience to Israeli demands. You cannot go there.

Bill Moyers was right. There are limiting influences affecting journalism and that also holds true for your otherwise outstanding show, one my wife and I rarely miss.

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians. He can be reached at [email protected]


8 comments for “Where Rachel Maddow Dares Not Tread

  1. Jimbo
    July 21, 2011 at 04:18

    Nor does Rachel cover the anomalies in the official of 9/11 or 7/7 in London. How come?

  2. Jeffrey
    July 19, 2011 at 21:09

    Lies, lies, lies everywhere, enacted in an ongoing conspiracy of fear, ignorance, impotence…to keep people from recognizing and being who they really are.

  3. Gregory L Kruse
    July 19, 2011 at 11:15

    I didn’t see anything in the letter suggesting that Maddow is paid-off to not mention the sins of Israel on her show. She must know that if she started doing segments about that subject, she would hear from some very scary people who are not afraid to torture, humiliate, and murder anyone who stands in their way to the Promised Land. Her bosses would also hear from them and they would stop her, and if she refused, they would fire her. She loves her job! She can do so much good in other ways if she doesn’t go there. I get it. I just don’t understand why she would say that she is totally free editorially on the air, and on her own show.

    • mightbealiberal
      July 20, 2011 at 23:58

      Maddow has said previously in various forums that her contract with MSNBC stipulates that she has complete editorial freedom regarding the content of her eponymous show. That’s probably why she said it in the interview with Moyers.

      I think Moyers’ comment was much more subtly directed at the potential for self-censorship that Maddow may have a hard time recognizing in herself, as we all do in ourselves. Not because of conspiracies or “very scary people” but because of internal judgments one makes. In my experience it usually takes a close friend or astute confidant to point out such dangers. While I applaud Moyers’ moxie in bringing up the subject during the interview, it seems unlikely that Maddow would acknowledge possible self-censorship in such a setting. Later, upon reflection, she will likely realize the truth in his words.

  4. July 18, 2011 at 22:59

    I saw this same interview with Bill Moyers and I had the same reaction to Maddow boasting about her editorial independence from MSNBC. I said, why isn’t Rachel covering my pet issue?

    The suggestion that Maddow is bought off by AIPAC, seems a bit forced to me. Here is a right wing article that blames Maddow for abandoning Israel: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/jack-coleman/2008/12/30/maddow-criticizes-lack-proportionality-israel-hitting-hamas-while-exag

    So which is it? I wrote two or three pieces asking why Maddow was not reporting on the IT expert Mike Connell who witnessed the alleged theft of Ohio 2004, especially after he died mysteriously. But just because she isn’t spending time on it doesn’t mean she is taking a side in the argument either way. Just because she goes where no other media goes, doesn’t mean she has the time or inclination to go everywhere others won’t go.

    It also does not mean her bosses are muzzling her, or that she is taking payoffs from AIPAC. This article is noticeably agenda-driven and reminds me of some of my anti-war friends who only see issues through the lens of Irsael being behind everything from the Iraq war to the replacement of incandescent light bulbs.

    I believe Israel is repressing Palestinians, too aggressive on settlements, and practices an uneven form of self-exceptionalism. But I don’t spend 24 hours a day on this and blame others for not spending all their time on it either. Am I a part of the problem?

    • PeggyforPeace
      July 19, 2011 at 16:43

      “Am I part of the problem?” My answer would be a resounding YES.

    • mightbealiberal
      July 20, 2011 at 23:43

      “But just because she isn’t spending time on it doesn’t mean she is taking a side in the argument either way. Just because she goes where no other media goes, doesn’t mean she has the time or inclination to go everywhere others won’t go.

      It also does not mean her bosses are muzzling her, or that she is taking payoffs from AIPAC.”

      Gus W, you have hit the nail on the head. Maddow does not cover every issue, and for those who feel left out because she does not take on their pet issues, she has “sold out”. Those people are what I like to call, wrong.

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