President Biden selected the spouse of a top CNN executive as his nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel on Tuesday, raising ethical concerns as experts feel the selection poses a “potential conflict of interest” for the liberal network.
Thomas Nides, a Morgan Stanley executive and former senior State Department official, has been nominated for the post. His wife, CNN senior vice president of newsgathering Virginia Moseley, “oversees all of CNN’s breaking news coverage and domestic newsgathering,” according to CNN’s website. Moseley is also responsible for “all coverage plans for the network’s White House, Congressional, Justice Department, Defense, National Security reporting teams and more.”
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DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall feels the situation “does present a conflict of interest” for the network.
“Israel is often the subject of breaking news and it is hard to imagine that CNN can make measured news decisions in this context,” McCall told Fox News. “CNN should step forward and transparently clarify how it plans to separate Moseley from any news decision-making regarding Israel, the Middle East, and when it comes right down to it, international diplomacy generally.”
CNN did not immediately respond to a series of questions, including if the network will notify viewers of the relationship and whether Moseley will be involved with news-making decisions pertaining to Israel. Nides and Moseley married in 1992 when she was a producer for CBS News.
McCall noted it’s an era “in which a spouse’s career trajectory shouldn’t be diminished by the career of the other spouse,” but “when it comes to international relations and the reporting of such, all parties need to be transparent and careful of optics” and potential conflicts.
“To the average American news consumer, this sort of appointment just confirms the suspicions that the government bureaucracy is linked with establishment media, damaging the credibility of both entities in the process,” McCall said.
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Lois Boynton, who teaches ethics and public relations at University of North Carolina and is a fellow in the University’s Parr Center for Ethics, agreed the appointment was alarming for CNN.
“The situation does raise concerns about conflict of interest, which is something any network must address, regardless of their trust in their personnel to be fair in determining what they cover and how they cover it,” Boynton told Fox News.
Boynton noted the Radio Television Digital News Association’s code of ethics says, “Independence from influences that conflict with public interest remains an essential ideal of journalism,” and recommended that news outlets be open and clear about their decisions.
“Still, there’s no guarantee that all viewers and critics will trust good-faith efforts to disclose how a news outlet decided what is most newsworthy and what is not,” Boynton said.
The White House declined comment when asked if a potential conflict has been considered.
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Nides, who was one of Biden’s biggest campaign bundlers during his presidential run, is not the first person close to the administration with ties to CNN. Press secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are both former CNN pundits who joined Biden’s administration.
“CNN needs to ensure that the Moseley-Nides relationship does not impact news coverage of the Biden administration’s Israel policies. There should not be a repeat of the clear conflict in having Chris Cuomo covering and interviewing his brother Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News.
All of Biden’s picks are subject to a confirmation vote in the Senate.
If confirmed, Nides would become the chief U.S. diplomat to Israel at a tumultuous time for the Jewish state. Israel formed a new government this month, ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s policies toward Iran.
Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi contributed to this report.