Brian Reis — Mashable July 10, 2014
ABC’s Diane Sawyer committed an egregious error Wednesday night during her introduction of an ABC World News segment on the latest from Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Sawyer, in her waning months as host as the flagship evening news program, misidentified a Palestinian family as Israeli — a massive mistake in a conflict where divisions run deep.
“We take you overseas now to the rockets raining down on Israel today as Israel tried to shoot them out of the sky,” Sawyer says in her introduction as producers show video footage of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
The screen then transitions to a stark, smoking gray landscape that shows two young men carrying their belongings on a mattress in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike.
Sawyer says the image shows “an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can.”
The network was heavily criticized for the report.
“Sawyer’s bald misreporting reflects either a deliberate lie by ABC News or willful ignorance so severe that Palestinian death and misery is invisible even when it’s staring ABC producers right in the face,” writes Rania Khalek, a reporter with Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian news website.
“I’d be hard pressed to remember a media fail as large as this,” adds Adam Horowitz on Mondoweiss.
A petition was quickly launched demanding ABC World News apologize “for lying about devastation in Gaza,” gaining 3,345 signatures as of Thursday morning.
Twitter users were equally unforgiving.
Have you ever seen a Palestinian victim treated with such sympathy and dignity on corp news as when @dianesawyer thought she was Israeli?
— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) July 10, 2014
— Roqayah Chamseddine (@roqchams) July 10, 2014
On its website where the full video was previously airing, ABC now says, “ABC News has misidentified a photo and has therefore removed the introduction to this story.”
In a statement posted on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer’s Facebook page, ABC News said it regretted the error and would correct it:
On Tuesday night ‘World News’ aired a report on the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, including attacks from both sides. In the introduction to the story, we mistakenly identified a family depicted in a still photo. They are Palestinian, not Israeli. We regret the error and will correct it.