Channel 10 Apology Morass Deepens

More quit following airing of apology to billionaire Sheldon Adelson over an investigative report on his affairs.

One day after the CEO of Channel 10's news division, Reudor Benziman, resigned in fury over the station's decision to apologize to billionaire Sheldon Adelson over an investigative report on his affairs, the incident has claimed a second victim. Thursday, the editor of the channel's "Hashavua" ("This Week" ) program, Ruti Yovel, resigned.

The program's presenter, Guy Zohar, is considering following suit; sources at the channel said he is likely to go on leave after tonight's broadcast.

"The company has suffered a blow," Channel 10 CEO Yossi Warshavsky told the assembled staff Thursday. "It's impossible to say this was a light slap on the wrist. The resignations of Reudor and then Ruti attest to the magnitude of the break."

In January, the station broadcast a 20-minute profile of Adelson, who owns the freebie newspaper Israel Hayom and is considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Sources at the station said Adelson was furious over two items in the report and, two months ago, he threatened to sue. At that point, the parties' lawyers began negotiating, but Adelson rejected their proposed compromise and demanded an apology he drafted himself.

Two weeks ago, the station agreed - due, according to employees, to brutal pressure from one of its owners, Ron Lauder. The news department claims the apology is excessive, going far beyond what is normal in such cases. But a company source said the station was in danger of folding if it didn't capitulate, because Lauder is the only one of the three owners who is still putting much-needed money into the company.

The approximately 90-second apology was being broadcast at the start of tonight's news. It says the channel "published untruths" because it "didn't check the facts before airing them."

Sources acquainted with the negotiations said the two items Adelson objected to were one interviewee's claim that the casino magnate owed him hundreds of thousands of shekels - which the interviewee retracted a few months later - and another interviewee's discussion of a case in which a regulatory agency rejected Adelson's application to open a casino in Las Vegas.

After Adelson appealed that decision, it was overturned, and the Channel 10 reporter asked the interviewee if this was due to Adelson's political ties. The interviewee responded that Adelson received "greater attention," which Adelson interpreted as implying that he had obtained the license improperly.