Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to be interviewed for a new show on Fox News in the United States hosted by Harvey Levin, the founder of the TMZ celebrity news website. The new show, called “OBJECTified,” features visits to the homes of celebrities and politicians and a discussion of objects that are important to them.
Over the past eight months, Netanyahu has not granted any interviews to Hebrew-language media outlets in Israel, although he has held several news conferences and briefings where he answered questions from reporters from the Hebrew-language media.
The last round of Hebrew-language interviews that the prime minister granted was in September 2016 on the sidelines of the meetings of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York in which he spoke to a number of Israeli television and radio stations. On Independence Day earlier this month, he gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 9, which broadcasts in Russian.
In those same eight months, Netanyahu has been interviewed by a number of overseas media organizations including Fox and CBS in the United States and Bild, the most widely circulated newspaper in Germany. The TV interviews were for news and current affairs programs, but the interview with Levin’s show is an entertainment program in the format of reality television.
Levin’s TMZ website, which he founded in 2005, covers Hollywood and the American entertainment scene. The website has become one of the most popular in the United States and Levin himself has become a celebrity. In 2007, Levin expanded TMZ’s scope, creating a television version of the website broadcast mainly on Fox.
In September of last year, Levin interviewed Donald Trump, who was then the Republican candidate for president. The interview served as a pilot for “OBJECTified” and featured a visit to Trump’s apartment at Trump Tower in New York and a conversation with the candidate about objects in the apartment that he had kept over the course of his life.
The Trump interview, which attracted very high ratings, was broadcast on Fox in the middle of November, about a week after Trump was elected president. Fox then decided to sign a production contract with Levin for an entire season of episodes. In recent months, Levin interviewed former NBA basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and asked President Trump to appear on the program again. Levin also approached Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who turned him down.
"More than 4 million people saw the episode with President Trump," a senior Israeli official said. "It's not a reality show. The first episode got the highest rating on Fox on Friday in a year. More viewers than CNN and MSNBC together."
The American women’s magazine Entity reported over the weekend that Levin received the assistance of none other than Trump in obtaining Netanyahu’s consent to appear on the show. Levin met with the president at the White House on March 1 and asked for his help in obtaining interviews with politicians in the United States and abroad, Entity Magazine reported, and one of the names that Levin mentioned was the Israeli prime minister. According to Entity, in the course of Levin’s White House visit, Trump picked up the telephone to Netanyahu, asked him to appear on the show, and Netanyahu agreed.
The Prime Minister’s Office strongly denied the Entity report. Senior officials at the Israeli embassy in Washington also denied the report and said that Trump had no role in organizing Levin’s interview with Netanyahu. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said in recent weeks that Levin had approached the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, as well as Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesman, David Keyes, seeking an interview with the prime minister for the program. Netanyahu and his advisers considered the request and decided to consent, the officials said.
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