"That a guest would call Palestinians “heartless savages” and that a host would not challenge this alarming formulation is a clear violation of CBSC codes. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics states that the full, fair, and proper presentation of radio content is the responsibility of each broadcast, and applies to your guests."
October 17, 2023
Alex Pierson, Host, 640 Toronto, Global News
Heather Purdon, Producer – Alex Pierson
Dear Alex Pierson, and Heather Purdon,
I'm writing on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express our concerns about the October 13 Alex Pierson Show on 640 Toronto (CFMJ) radio.
Our first concern regards the 10:15 AM October 13, 2023 segment, “Why this Israeli-Canadian left the comfort of home to fight Hamas.”
The guest had some controversial remarks, but I will focus on one particular statement in this letter.
When asked if the guest is “scared,” regarding his choice to join the IDF and fight in Gaza, he responds:
“You’re not the first one to ask me that question. Let me ask you if you were about to go to battle against people who are beheading others. They’re heartless savages, is what I call them.”
That a guest would call Palestinians “heartless savages” and that a host would not challenge this alarming formulation is a clear violation of CBSC codes. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics states that the full, fair, and proper presentation of radio content is the responsibility of each broadcast, and applies to your guests. The Equitable Portrayal Code makes clear that stereotyping, negative and inaccurate portrayal, and unbalanced portrayal are all journalistic violations. Ms. Pierson’s show has featured numerous guests since October 7 who only added to the negative portrayal of Palestinians. But to call Palestinians “heartless savages” is a clear violation and the host should have challenged this harmful language.
The guest also says the only way to end the conflict is if “every single Hamas member is eliminated from Gaza.” Given that Hamas was elected in fair and open elections in 2006 (which was affirmed by non-partisan international election monitors) and given that it has a wide membership in Gaza, including many aspects of civil society, not just military affairs, this is an alarming statement that only furthers our concerns about this interview. In Gaza, Hamas is far more than a militant group. It provides social services and runs media outlets. Your guest is not talking about “eliminating” Hamas fighters, but members. Hamas members include a wide variety of ordinary people — innocent civilians — in Gaza who have no ties to military activity whatsoever. Such a call on your show is dangerous, as it essentially amounts to advocating for war crimes.
We, therefore, ask for an on-air correction and apology.
Our second concern regards the segment “Does Canada have a Palestinian extremism problem.” Ms. Pierson struggles with technical difficulties and jokes about how “maybe it is the Jihadi who had taken our line out, let’s just blame it on the bad guys.” As a member of Canada’s Muslim-Arab community, I find this rhetoric deeply offensive. Given the ongoing wave of Islamophobia currently sweeping North America, such comments add fuel to the fire.
Ms. Pierson again makes odd claims that make pro-Palestine protesters out to be worse than Nazi flag holders in Canada: “Jews don’t get worried about the one Nazi flag. What they get worried about is the chants in the street that no one seems to recognize. The chants that sound like a song, but they are really a call for the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews.” That this is concerning on many levels hardly needs explanation.
The guest also makes the questionable remark that “Islamist terrorism is responsible for 99% of the attacks around the world.” Again, I’m not sure such a number could ever be proven. It is simply more fuel for Islamophobia in the media, where in which Muslims are portrayed as a threat.
The guest also repeats the uncorroborated claim that “babies” were “beheaded.” There is currently no evidence for this claim. I have attached a 1-pager that explains in more detail where this narrative started and how there is no proof, despite its incessant repetition.
We again ask for an on-air correction and apology.
You can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information or additional comment.
Media Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East