Newsman Guy Zohar resigned on air Friday evening as presenter of Channel 10's weekend news show "Hashavua." His resignation followed that of the program editor, Ruthie Yovel, and the head of Channel 10's news division, Reudor Benziman. All three left in protest over the apology the station broadcast to American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Israeli daily Israel Hayom and is considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The apology, which was said to have been demanded by one of the station's owners, followed a 20-minute profile of Adelson broadcast by the station in January which Adelson contended was inaccurate. The resignations are expected to be followed today by the departure of "Hashavua" reporters Avner Hofstein, Paz Schwartz and David Deri.
The apology was featured at the beginning of Friday's broadcast and also closed a news bulletin that evening. It was read by emotionless announcer Asaf Charnilas, and featured a text reportedly demanded by Adelson that referred to the January profile. It stated that the earlier broadcast had made reference to an interview with an individual who said Adelson owed a former employee $400,000 and another interview in which it was stated that Adelson got a Las Vegas gambling license due to alleged political ties and preferential treatment. "Those allegations," the apology statement continued, "found expression not only in the words of the interviewees but also in the questions of our reporter Avner Hofstein."
"After the broadcast, we checked and from our investigation it transpired that the allegations were entirely false. Mr. Adelson got the gambling license after a meticulous [background] check that revealed a flawless business record. Mr. Adelson didn't benefit from any kind of preferential treatment and received the license according to the law and without resort to any kind of improper political connections or any other inappropriate means. With regard to the alleged debt,... this story, too, has no basis in reality," the apology said.
"In summary," the statement concluded, "there was no flaw whatsoever in Mr. Adelson's conduct. We are very sorry that we hadn't checked these allegations before we broadcast them and seek to apologize to Mr. Adelson and his family over the report."
In his on-air resignation statement, Zohar said Friday's was the 40th weekly broadcast of the program "and also the last I am presenting." He cited an unacceptable "breach of professional and ethical values." The text crawl in the program, which ordinarily featured credits with the names of the program's staff, was broadcast Friday without names, followed by a control room scene of staff applauding Zohar. Zohar later said he would continue working on other programs at the station.
The apology was said to have been the result in part of pressure exerted by Channel 10 shareholder Ron Lauder, the U.S. businessman and Jewish community leader who is also close to Netanyahu. A source at the station said the apology came against the backdrop of what could be called "real danger" to the station's continued operations.