Who was asleep at NBC News when it published the accusatory story about Anne Neuberger? She is President Biden’s new deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology on the National Security Council, who has served for the past two years as director of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency. She is also a member of a prominent Jewish family in Baltimore, and a significant donor to AIPAC.
In what can only be characterized as a hatchet job, NBC News correspondent Ken Dilanian attacked Neuberger in a Jan. 27 online article with unsubstantiated accusations and innuendo, designed to impugn her credibility and question her patriotism with an undisguised accusation of “dual loyalty.” According to the article, “some current and former national security officials said that Neuberger, whose family foundation gave $500,000 to the pro-Israel lobby, created the possible appearance of bias in favor of Israel.”
And just so readers wouldn’t miss the point, the attack piece first quoted unnamed sources “who know Neuberger [who] say she is a person of high integrity,” and then followed with the assertion that: “Nonetheless, installing a top cyber official in the White House who has strong ties to an organization that represents the interests of the Israeli government could cause some people to question the impartiality of the policy process, they said.”
Criticism came quickly. NBC News investigated the complaints and acknowledged that the reporting in the story was shoddy, the approach used reflected bias and the conclusions reached were unsupported. The mea culpa that now appears at the top of the article on the website is clear: “NBC News conducted a review and has determined that [the story] fell short of our reporting standards,” the network wrote on the page where the story had appeared. “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. And it did not give Neuberger adequate time to respond to our reporting.”
With such a forceful confession of journalistic malpractice, one would expect that the story would be taken down. It wasn’t. Instead, NBC News left the story online in its archives, which the network asserts is necessary “in the interest of transparency with our readers.”
NBC News acted improperly. Those responsible should be held accountable. NBC News admits that it should never have published the unprofessional article in the first place, but now says it needs to leave it online “in the interest of transparency.” What does that even mean? NBC’s callous behavior feeds the narrative of biased journalists running amok, and of irresponsible reporting that ignores facts, is designed to create conflict and does harm to the reputations of good people.
NBC News should remove its admittedly subpar article, apologize to Neuberger and its readers and take steps to raise the quality of its work. As of now, the peacock’s colorful feathers are a mess.