Skip to content
View Featured Image

Sunday’s Gaza Guests Linked To Military Industry, Pro-Israel Funding

As the Israel/Gaza crisis continues unabated, eliciting massive protests around the world, US media offer a strikingly narrow debate. On the Sunday political news shows, which are both agenda-setting and reflect what corporate media view as the most important perspectives on the most important stories, the guests invited to speak on Gaza skew strongly toward US politicians—especially those with strong financial influence by the military industrial complex and pro-Israel advocates. The resulting conversations leave little room for dissent from a pro-war stance.

FAIR looked at four weeks of Sunday shows covering the current conflagration in Gaza, October 15 through November 5, during which time the topic occupied a significant portion of political talk show coverage.

We identified 57 guest appearances across ABC‘s This Week, CBS‘s Face the Nation, CNN‘s State of the Union, NBC‘s Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday, with 41 unique guests. (Some guests appeared more than once).

Of the 57 appearances, 48 were from the US. While representatives of the Israeli government or military appeared five times—and on every outlet except NBC—only once did a Palestinian guest appear: senior Fatah member Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, on CBS (11/5/23).

Twenty-eight guests had partisan affiliations: 10 Democrats (making 18 appearances), 19 Republicans (making 25 appearances) and one Independent (Sen. Bernie Sanders, appearing once). The abundance of Republicans may have been related to the concurrent drama over the speaker of the House, which several guests were also asked about.

Three guests represented international humanitarian organizations: Philippe Lazzarini, UN Relief and Works Agency commissioner-general (CBS, 10/22/23); Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (CBS, 10/29/23); and Cindy McCain, director of the World Food Program (and widow of former Republican Sen. John McCain—ABC, 10/22/23). NBC, CNN and Fox featured no such organizations during the four weeks studied.

No scholars, activists or international law or human rights experts appeared, nor did any civil society leaders from either Israel or Palestine.

Under The Influence

Eleven of the 34 US guests, accounting for 13 appearances, had significant ties to the military industrial complex. These include five former senior military officials, five current or former board members or advisors to a military industry company, and four members of Congress who count one or more “defense industries” as top-20 contributing industries to their 2024 campaigns, according to the OpenSecrets database. (Some guests had multiple ties; see chart.)

At least 19 more US guests have taken money from military industry political action committees (PACs) during their political careers; of the 23 elected officials for whom data was available, only Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D–Wash.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Rep. Jason Crow (D–Colo.) showed no military industry PAC funding during their political careers. (These three politicians generally reject corporate PAC money.)

Eighteen of the US guests, who were featured 23 times with repeat appearances, had significant direct ties to pro-Israel funding. (“Significant” we defined as “pro-Israel” being a top-20 contributing industry to their 2024 campaigns, according to OpenSecrets; or, for GOP presidential candidates, receiving prominent financial support from pro-Israel donors; see Ha’aretz, 8/16/23.)

The pro-Israel lobby includes influential groups like J Street, Democratic Majority for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition, but has been overwhelmingly dominated by the hard-line American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), particularly since its 2021 decision to launch its own PAC and super PAC. AIPAC’s current stated priority is “building and sustaining congressional support for Israel’s fight to permanently dismantle Hamas.”

Pro-Israel PACs and individuals poured more than $30 million into the 2022 election cycle, roughly two-thirds to Democrats and a third to Republicans.

Those numbers—and the numbers used to calculate top-20 industries—don’t include super PAC money, which is much harder to track. The AIPAC super PAC, called the United Democracy Project, dumped over $26 million into several 2022 Democratic primaries to defeat progressive candidates it deemed “anti-Israel” (Jewish Currents, 11/15/22), making it the highest-spending nonpartisan super PAC that election cycle. AIPAC has long wielded outsize influence in Washington, even prior to making direct campaign donations (see, e.g., Intercept, 2/11/19).

FAIR (10/17/23, 11/6/23) has pointed out that, despite media coverage suggesting otherwise, the Jewish response to the current war is not united in support of the Israeli government’s actions or goals. Even the pro-Israel lobby is not monolithic in its general approach nor in its current response. J Street—which has criticized AIPAC’s support for MAGA insurrectionists, and its attack ads associating progressive Democrats with terrorism—is a notable outlier against the official Israeli stance, as the liberal lobbying group has called for humanitarian pauses that Israel has fiercely resisted. But AIPAC has condemned calls for a ceasefire and pushed for congressional funding for further military assistance to Israel; similarly, the Republican Jewish Coalition sharply criticized Biden for “call[ing] for Israeli restraint” in Gaza.

AIPAC’s super PAC and Democratic Majority for Israel have already launched six-figure ad campaigns against Democratic and Republican lawmakers who voted against a pro-Israel House resolution (Jewish Insider, 11/5/23).

‘Bounce The Rubble’

The guests on the Sunday shows leaned heavily towards full support of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. On Fox News Sunday (10/15/23), for instance, Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) announced:

As far as I’m concerned, Israel can bounce the rubble in Gaza. Anything that happens in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas. Hamas killed women and children in Israel last weekend. If women and children die in Gaza, it will be because Hamas is using them as human shields, because they’re not currently allowing them to evacuate as Israel has asked them to do so. Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas.

Fox anchor Shannon Bream made no attempt to challenge Cotton’s shocking argument, which is not supported by international law. Cotton was the top beneficiary of a major shift in pro-Israel campaign contributions from Democratic to Republican candidates in 2014, launching his Senate career as one of the chamber’s staunchest Israel hawks (Mondoweiss, 3/12/15; New York Times, 4/4/15).

Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R–Wyo.), who appeared on both CNN (10/22/23) and CBS (10/22/23), long received steadfast support from pro-Israel funders, and gave that support right back (CNN, 10/22/23):

I think that, No. 1, people need to recognize that what’s happening in terms of the conditions in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas…. Israel must take whatever action they need to take to defend themselves. And the United States should not be in the business of telling them to stop, to slow down. They have got to defend themselves. And that means they have got to defeat Hamas.

At that point, more than 4,650 people had been killed in Gaza, including over 1,870 children.

Democrats were generally more restrained, but unwavering in their support for Israel and a military solution. Rep. Adam Smith (D–Wash.), with strong financial backing from both the military industry and pro-Israel funding, told Fox (10/22/23):

Israel has to win the broader fight against Hamas. It is a military campaign, anyone who says there’s no military solution to this, I think the military is a huge part of it.

Sen. Jack Reed (D–R.I.), who finds all three “defense industries” among his top 10 contributors, argued (Fox, 11/5/23) that “what Israel is doing, appropriately so, is targeting Hamas to degrade it and then destroy it.” He also urged that

what they have to do, not only for the complying with the rule of law, but also winning the battle of minds and hearts, is to do it in such a way as that they minimize the harm to civilians.

By November 5, the Gaza death toll was nearly 10,000, including at least 4,000 children, rendering absurd the claim that Israel was merely targeting Hamas. By comparison, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is not known for its regard for civilian life, killed at least 500 children in 18 months of war (RFE/RL, 8/13/23).

Few Calls For Military Restraint

These voices give a very narrow perspective on the conflict in Gaza, one that is not at all representative of the US public or international opinion. A Data for Progress poll (10/20/23) found that 66% of likely US voters agree that “the US should call for a ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza.” International leaders and hundreds of human rights groups around the world have called for a ceasefire, yet US media give the idea little space for discussion (, 10/24/23).

Out of the 57 appearances, only two were with guests who both had publicly called for a ceasefire and voiced that in their interview (once prompted by an anchor question, once unprompted). Representative Jayapal was asked specifically about her call for a ceasefire, which she reaffirmed (NBC, 10/29/23). Palestinian ambassador Zomlot (CBS, 11/5/23) made an even more forceful call for a ceasefire, arguing that

this whole talk about humanitarian pauses is simply irresponsible. Pauses of crimes against humanity. So, you are going to pause for six hours killing our children, and then resume killing the children? I mean, this doesn’t stand even international law.

CBS host Margaret Brennan repeatedly pressed Zomlot to condemn the Hamas attacks; no outlet asked any of their Israeli guests to condemn the Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians.

Moreover, only five of the 57 guest appearances involved a question about a ceasefire (CBS, 10/22/23; NBC, 10/29/23; ABC, 11/5/23; CBS, 11/5/23; CNN, 11/5/23). Aside from Jayapal, none of the others asked supported a ceasefire. In his appearance, Bernie Sanders (CNN, 11/5/23) argued that “we have got to stop the bombing now,” and that in considering an emergency military assistance package for Israel, “it’s terribly important…to say to Israel, you want this money, you got to change your military strategy.” But when pressed about a ceasefire, he responded:

I don’t know how you can have a ceasefire, permanent ceasefire, with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the state of Israel.

The three representatives of international organizations provided perspective on the civilian suffering in Gaza and the desperate need for humanitarian aid, and Lazzarini and Mardini appealed for the protection of civilian infrastructure like hospitals, though none mentioned a ceasefire.

None of the many human rights groups or other experts on international law who might have offered a perspective contrary to guests’ repeated assertions that Israel was not responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza were invited to speak.

The Sunday shows aim to set agendas, both across media and in Washington. By boosting politicians with serious conflicts of interest on both Israel and war, those networks stack the deck in favor of endless war.

Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.