NBC News is walking back a story published this week that critics say veered into anti-Semitism by implying charges of dual loyalty on the part of a Biden administration official whose family foundation donated more than a half a million dollars to a pro-Israel lobbying group.
The story, published on Wednesday, reported that between 2012 and 2018 a family foundation of Anne Neuberger, senior director for cyber policy on the National Security Council, donated more than $550,000 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. The group describes itself as a “bipartisan American organization that advocates for a strong U.S. -Israel relationship.”
For the story, reporter Ken Dilanian, NBC’s national security and intelligence correspondent, spoke to “a cross section of current and former intelligence officials and foreign policy experts” who said the donations pose a possible problem because they may create “an appearance of bias in favor of Israel by a top American official,” according to the story.
“While Israel is a close American ally, it operates in its own interest and aggressively spies on the U.S., including using cyber capabilities, current and former officials say,” the story read.
None of the intelligence officials or foreign policy experts were willing to be named in the story.
On Wednesday evening, AIPAC demanded a retraction of the story, which it called “offensive.”
“Charges of dual loyalty are anti-Semitic and insult millions of Americans – Jewish & non-Jewish – who stand by our ally Israel,” AIPAC said in a tweet.
.@NBCNews must retract this offensive story. Charges of dual loyalty are anti-Semitic and insult millions of Americans—Jewish & non-Jewish—who stand by our ally Israel. We will not be deterred from exercising our rights as citizens to advocate for a strong US-Israel relationship. https://t.co/Jof9sIKXX7
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) January 27, 2021
On Wednesday evening, NBC News attached a lengthy editor’s note to the story, which it said “fell short of our reporting standards.”
“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,” the editor’s note read.
When reached for comment on Friday by National Review, an AIPAC spokesman declined to comment further. Dilanian defended the story in an email to the Washington Free Beacon, writing “The story is accurate and was published by NBC News after our normal editing and vetting process, which includes review by our legal and standards departments.”
The story was reported jointly with David Corn, the Washington D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones, a progressive magazine and website.
“Neither my story nor the NBC News story on the same subject raised any question of loyalty. These pieces reported that national security and government ethics experts consider these donations problematic,” Corn tweeted in response to the American Jewish Committee, which said the reporting “reeks of bigotry.”
Neither my story nor the NBC News story on the same subject raised any question of loyalty. These pieces reported that national security and government ethics experts consider these donations problematic.https://t.co/hjEz0b1u8Shttps://t.co/1K71QPALSx https://t.co/OQJ2M9WkbS
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 27, 2021