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February 20, 2002
NPR's Gradstein Takes Cash from Pro-Israeli Groups

By Ali Abunimah and Nigel Parry



NPR's Linda Gradstein Takes Cash Payments from Pro-Israeli Groups

By Ali Abunimah and Nigel Parry
The Electronic Intifada -- electronicIntifada.net

February 19, 2002

ST. PAUL, MN & CHICAGO, IL--National Public Radio's Israel correspondent Linda Gradstein has received cash honoraria from pro-Israeli organizations in what appears to be a clear violation of NPR policy, an Electronic Intifada investigation has revealed. Gradstein has not only accepted such honoraria in the past, but continues to do so in spite of being instructed not to by NPR management.

Indeed, this evening, February 19, Gradstein is scheduled to give a lecture hosted by several pro-Israel organizations at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for which she is receiving yet another cash honorarium.

Gradstein has long been criticized for her consistent injection of pro-Israeli bias into NPR's reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (see electronicIntifada.net and www.abunimah.org and search "gradstein" for numerous examples)

Following the revelation that some journalists had received payments in the form of "speakers fees" from bankrupt energy giant Enron, NPR correspondent Juan Williams informed listeners of the network's Morning Edition program on February 8, that "At NPR, reporters are not allowed to give speeches to groups they report on to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest."

Yet Gradstein has long been a favorite on the pro-Israeli lecture circuit, especially with Hillel, a nationwide organization which in close cooperation with AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the Israeli government, works to promote a strongly pro-Israeli agenda on college campuses. In fact, at least in one case, Hillel openly acknowledges that it sees Linda Gradstein as a propagandist for Israel. A page at the Hillel website, providing a summary and evaluation of an April 2001 lecture Gradstein gave at George Washington University, states that inviting her to the campus was specifically for the purpose of "educating a broad cross-section of the campus about Israel from a Jewish perspective" and that this would be "a strong tool in the fight against the Palestinian propaganda" on the campus.

(see www.hillel.org/hillel/exchange.nsf/4631b84b253300e4852568da00675ff6/0E9CA655A57DC30B85256A320009399B?OpenDocument)

Gradstein was paid $2,500 for this appearance, according to the Hillel evaluation, $2,000 of which was raised from Hamagshimim, a group that describes itself as "a dynamic pro-Israel/Zionist movement for young adults." (see www.youngjudaea.org/html/university.html)

Our investigations also revealed that Gradstein received a $1,000 honorarium from the Amy Adina Schulman Fund, a foundation whose stated funding criteria include promoting "Zionist youth movement" activities, for a lecture she gave in Princeton in April 2001. These are only two examples of the dozens of appearances Gradstein has made since 1993 for many of which she has received cash honoraria and in-kind benefits from pro-Israeli lobby groups.

On February 8, The Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah sent an email to NPR Vice President for News and Information, Bruce Drake and NPR Ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin asking whether these past instances and the lecture Gradstein is scheduled to give tonight, February 19, at the University of Minnesota, sponsored by Hillel and Friends of Israel, constitute violations of NPR's conflict of interest policy.

Drake replied in a February 12 email that "I have advised Ms. Gradstein of the policy stated on our air the other day, and going forward, told her that I expected her to honor it." We interpreted this statement as not only an acknowledgment that Gradstein had been violating NPR's policy, but an assurance that she would no longer be permitted to do so.

In an attempt to clarify matters further, Abunimah wrote to Drake again on February 14 to ask specifically whether Gradstein's appearance at the University of Minnesota would violate the policy, given that the event was scheduled to occur after NPR's on-air restatement of its general policy, and Drake's specific assurance that Gradstein would stop accepting money from pro-Israeli groups.

On February 18, Drake replied: "Ms. Gradstein has been told clearly what NPR's policies are on this matter and that, in the future, she is to adhere strictly to it."

Yet, investigations by the Electronic Intifada determined that Gradstein plans to go ahead with tonight's lecture and that the University of Minnesota Hillel chapter will pay Gradstein a cash honorarium and cover part of her travel expenses. We also learned that Gradstein is currently on a multi-city tour of the Midwestern United States in which she is scheduled to speak to other pro-Israeli lobby groups from which she will also receive payments.

The startling picture that emerges is that Gradstein has been violating NPR's conflict of interest policy for years, and continues to do so even after she has been advised in clear terms not to, and we have been assured that she would not.

We affirm that Gradstein has a First Amendment right to speak to any groups she chooses. But for a reporter who is assigned to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to accept thousands of dollars in cash and expenses from groups whose primary or sole objective is to promote a pro-Israeli political agenda is a gross violation of basic journalistic ethics as well as NPR's own policy.

We can conclude that for some reason or other, Gradstein is effectively exempt from NPR's own regulations. These revelations only broaden existing concerns about the integrity of NPR's Middle East reporting and the honesty of Linda Gradstein.

NPR needs to understand that Gradstein's flouting of its policy, combined with her usually biased, misleading reporting, seriously and consistently undermine NPR's credibility. There are minimal standards for competent reporting and journalistic ethics, but the sad truth is that Linda Gradstein rarely meets either standard.


Anyone who wishes to contact NPR and express their views on this matter should immediately write to:

Jeffrey Dvorkin
National Public Radio Email: ombudsman@npr.org

A permanent version of this article appears at electronicIntifada.net

To contact us, write to press@electronicintifada.net