Monday, March 8, 2021

NBC News Retracts Story Questioning Biden Appointee’s AIPAC Donations

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Aaron Bandler is a staff writer for the Jewish Journal, mainly covering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

Aaron Bandler
Aaron Bandler is a staff writer for the Jewish Journal, mainly covering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

On the evening of January 27, NBC News retracted a story that questioned a Biden administration appointee’s donations to AIPAC.

The story, which was first reported by Mother Jones, centers on Anne Neuberger, who President Biden appointed to the Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology position earlier in the month. Neuberger’s family foundation — the Anne and Yehuda Neuberger Foundation — donated $559,000 to AIPAC from 2012–18. The report quotes several anonymous officials and experts, as well as a Washington University law professor, arguing that the donations raise questions about Neuberger’s “impartiality” when it comes to matters involving Israel.

NBC News ran a similar story, featuring a quote from the National Security Council stating that “Neuberger will abide by the Executive Order on Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Personnel.”

Jewish groups denounced the story.

“This article and its baseless claims against Anne Neuberger are incendiary,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “They have no bearing on her field of expertise or her new responsibilities. The donations of her family foundation to AIPAC don’t preclude her from public service.”

He alleged in a subsequent tweet that the story promulgated the dual loyalty “that Jewish-Americans are more faithful to a foreign power. It’s a tired antisemitic trope that should have been retired long ago, not recycled on a day when we mourn [6 million Jews].”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) similarly tweeted, “[email protected] is an American organization that supports an alliance critical to American [national] security—as do a majority of Americans. Questioning the loyalty of a public servant for supporting it is not just offensive, it reeks of bigotry. @MotherJones owes Anne Neuberger an apology.”


The Conference of Presidents also tweeted, “We call on @MotherJones to withdraw its attack on Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger for her family’s support for @AIPAC. She has served the American people with distinction. This attack on her character smacks of age-old antisemitic canards.”


AIPAC itself called out NBC News, tweeting that the news outlet should “retract this offensive story. Charges of dual loyalty are anti-Semitic and insult millions of Americans—Jewish & non-Jewish—who stand by our ally Israel. We will not be deterred from exercising our rights as citizens to advocate for a strong US-Israel relationship.”


Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council (NSC), also tweeted that they “are appalled by recent spurious accusations against our staff. We welcome oversight and scrutiny, but there is no justification for false and ad hominem attacks based on ethnic, racial, or religious identity.”

She added: “The women and men of the NSC are patriotic, dedicated, and serve their country with distinction. Being forced to endure public smear campaigns should not be part of working on behalf of the American people.”

In an editor’s note on the article, NBC wrote that after various readers raised concerns about it, they decided to retract it because “it fell short of our reporting standards. In order to warrant publication, it needed on-the-record quotes from critics, rather than anonymous ones. The article should have also included more views from those who believe that donations to AIPAC do not represent a conflict.” NBC has kept the story in their archives for the sake of transparency.

Mother Jones, on the other hand, is continuing to stand by their reporting. An editor’s note at the bottom of the story states that they gave Neuberger two days to respond and that their story “cited both named and unnamed sources.”

David Corn, the author of the Mother Jones story, denied that the piece invokes the dual loyalty trope, tweeting in response to the AJC that his article and the NBC News article simply “reported that national security and government ethics experts consider these donations problematic.”

In other tweets, Corn cited a passage from former President Barack Obama’s 2020 book “A Promised Land” stating that “AIPAC is aligned with the Israeli right and on policy disputes has sided with Israel when it ‘took actions that were contrary to US policy.’” Another tweet of his stated, “We’re not judging her based on the AIPAC contributions. The piece notes she is highly regarded. But it also quotes top intel officials saying it’s problematic for a sr. intel official to give big $$$ to a lobby closely ties to a for. govt.”


Noah Pollak, who heads the foreign policy advocacy organization Democratic Alliance Initiative, countered: “You or I can find ‘experts’ to say anything we want, so pegging a piece like this to some mythical consensus of ‘experts’ is both stupid and dishonest. As is your overall lame attempt to link donating money to AIPAC to cyberespionage on the US.”

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