CNN breathes false life into “Gaza famine” lie

Humanitarian aid going to Gaza via the temporary Trident Pier, June 11, 2024. Staff Sgt. Mikayla Fritz/U.S. Army Photo.

by David Litman

(CAMERA) — Is there an imminent famine in Gaza? How CNN has covered this story over the last four months is illuminating, but not in the sense of discovering the facts. Rather, CNN’s coverage illustrates how the network is leaving its audience both uninformed and misinformed.

Consider the case of a series of four reports produced by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification network, a collection of various governmental and non-governmental organizations, on the state of food security in the Gaza Strip. Then consider how CNN covered each report.

The first report came in March, in which the IPC Famine Review Committee claimed “[f]amine is now projected and imminent in the North Gaza and Gaza Governates and is expected to become manifest during the projection period from mid-March 2024 to May 2024.”

The second report, dated May 31, came from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a USAID creation and IPC partner, which purported to conduct an “IPC-compatible analysis.” This report claimed that “it is possible, if not likely, that all three IPC thresholds for Famine (food consumption, acute malnutrition, and mortality) were met or surpassed in northern Gaza in April.”

The third report, published June 4, contradicted this. Authored by the Famine Review Committee, this report was a review of the FEWS NET claim that famine was already happening. According to the FRC, the FEWS NET analysis was deeply flawed, using questionable methodology and incomplete data. In short, the analysis did not include an enormous amount of food flowing into Gaza Strip via commercial deliveries and even via the World Food Programme. As the FRC wrote:

While FEWS NET estimated the caloric availability in the area as covering only 59-63 percent of the needs (based uniquely on Humanitarian Food Assistance) in April, the review done by the FRC estimates that this range would be 75 percent to 109 percent if commercial and/or privately contracted food deliveries were included (157 percent if a higher estimate was used).

As brilliantly summed up by Seth Mandel at Commentary: “The methodology behind measuring Palestinian suffering, then, is: If you only count some of the food Gazans are eating, Gazans are not eating enough food.”

The final relevant report, dated June 25, is another FRC report of a similar nature to the one from March. It begins with the sentence: “Following the publication of the second FRC report on 18 March 2024, which projected that a Famine would occur in the most likely scenario, a number of important developments occurred.” In short, the FRC backtracked. The “imminent” famine never happened, and they don’t claim one is “imminent” now.

So how did CNN cover each of these developments?

In March, with the first report, the network treated it as a bombshell development that a “famine” was “imminent” in Gaza, with headlines screaming: “Famine in northern Gaza is imminent as more than 1 million people face ‘catastrophic’ levels of hunger, new report warns” (Helen Regan, Niamh Kennedy, and Louis Mian, 19 Mar. 2024).

CNN also reported on the May 31 FEWS NET report, writing in its headline, “Famine ‘possible, if not likely’ to be underway in northern Gaza, expert group warns” (Duarte Mendonca and Alex Stambaugh, 5 Jun. 2024).

Notably, this article was published after the FRC published its review of the serious flaws in the FEWS NET report, and yet the article does not mention it. Indeed, as far as the author can find, at no point in any article did CNN ever mention the FRC review casting serious doubt on the credibility of the FEWS NET claim that famine was “likely to be underway.”

After skipping mention of the June 5 FRC review, the network deemed the FRC’s analysis worth mention again with the publication of the June 25 report, which a CNN article flatly lies about.

Rather than inform the audience that the FRC has backtracked and no longer believes famine is “imminent,” a total of eight CNN reporters make the false claim that the June 25 report said “almost all of Gaza will face famine within the next three months.” (“Children are dying of starvation in their parents’ arms as famine spreads through Gaza,” by Abdel Qadder Sabbah, Mohammad Al Sawalhi, Tareq El Helou, Kareem Khadder, Sana Noor Haq, Paula Hancocks, Jo Shelley, and Byron Blunt, 26 Jun. 2024) (emphasis added).

The report, of course, said no such thing. It said there is a risk of famine, but not that famine will happen.

Those who get their news from CNN are thus left with both an incomplete and an erroneous understanding of what is happening. On the one hand, they’re left uninformed that the analyses claiming famine was already likely happening have been discredited. On the other hand, they’re being blatantly lied to about what the IPC wrote in its June 25 report. Both work to leave the audience with the false impression that there is a famine in Gaza.

What these CNN journalists are choosing to tell the audience and what to keep to themselves on this subject is revealing, further evidencing the anti-Israel bias that is degrading the network’s credibility.

Published by CAMERA: The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting.