Israeli TV Host Suspended Over On-air Remarks About Netanyahu's Voters

Itay Stern
Itay Stern
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Channel 12 News' Rina Matsliah
Channel 12 News' Rina MatsliahCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

Rina Matsliah, a journalist for Channel 12 News, was suspended for one week Sunday over remarks she made as host of Israel’s “Meet the Press” Saturday disparaging Likud voters. Matsliah said supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said during interviews that “even if he raped their daughter they would continue to vote for him.”

The channel was quick to disavow the remark after the broadcast, and Matsliah herself retracted it during the program. In a conversation Sunday with the news company’s CEO, Avi Weiss, it was decided she would be kept off the air for a week; as a result she will not appear on the political panel of “Friday Studio” nor host this week’s “Meet the Press” program Saturday.

Weiss rarely suspends hosts or reporters, even when they express controversial opinions on the air. For example, when Amnon Abramovich, the channel's senior political correspondent, said last year that former Mossad head Meir Dagan had told him there were two prime ministers who cared more about themselves than about the country, Abramovich only mentioned Netanyahu and did not reveal that Dagan was also talking about Ehud Barak. That came out later, but Abramovich’s remarks were never criticized.

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In her blunt remarks, Matsliah was probably referring to a 2016 interview in Globes with Etgar Keret, in which the popular author said he’d been talking to a taxi driver about why he votes Likud, and the driver said, "Listen, let’s make this short. If Bibi were to break into my house through the window in the middle of the night and rape my daughter, I would still vote for Bibi."

The right rushed to express its dismay with the veteran journalist. “Rina Matsliah, you should be ashamed!” Netanyahu tweeted. “Your sick hatred for me and for Likud voters has reached new lows. First you called us a blind herd and now you’ve reached a low that from which you can never recover. And you presume to be a ‘journalist.’ For shame!” Netanyahu’s son Yair had earlier tweeted, “WTF? Have you heard what Rina Matsliah said about right-wing voters on Channel Al Jazeera 12?”

Ehud Barak took the side of Matsliah, tweeting that she’s “courageous, a beacon of truth and defiance against the wave of media obsequiousness.” Many people posted a screen shot of a 2016 tweet from a woman named Dikla Cohen, who wrote, “Even if Bibi would rape me in a dark alley, I would vote for him.”

Former Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon, who recently walked out of an interview on “Kalman and Segal” after co-host Kalman Liebskind compared Jews to rape victims, wrote on Twitter, “Matsliah understood the gravity of her remarks and thus immediately apologized. I didn’t see Kalman Liebskind apologizing for his comparison. ... For you, rape is just another political tool.”

Matsliah has made several controversial remarks recently. When the coronavirus outbreak began she accused most of the ultra-Orthodox community with spreading the virus, a comment that drew heavy criticism from across the political spectrum, and also from Channel 12 officials. Before that she had been criticized by the left when she accused MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) of supporting terrorists, saying that he had never been violently assaulted by a group of Jews, as he had claimed.

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