Sen. Cotton asks if AP reporters let Hamas use them as ‘human shields’

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) blasted the Associated Press Monday for its response to an Israeli airstrike over the weekend that took out a building housing the wire service’s Gaza City bureau as well as Hamas military intelligence facilities.

“Why is the Associated Press sharing a building with Hamas?” Cotton asked on the Senate floor during remarks about the fighting that has raged since May 10.

“Surely these ‘intrepid reporters’ knew who their neighbors were,” Cotton continued before asking: “Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a US-designated terrorist organization? Did AP pull its punches and decline to report for years on Hamas’ misdeeds? I submit that the AP has some uncomfortable questions to answer.”

Cotton went on to criticize the AP and other outlets for what he called their “high dudgeon” about the airstrike, which he called “wholly appropriate.”

“Leave it to whiny reporters to make themselves the story and the victim when terrorists are shooting missiles at innocent civilians,” he concluded.

AP President Gary Pruitt has called for an independent investigation into the Saturday airstrike, which was preceded by a phone call from the Israeli military that gave the building’s occupants one hour to get out.

“As we have said, we have no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of any such possible presence before the airstrike,” Pruitt said in a statement. “This is something we check as best we can. We do not know what the Israeli evidence [of the Hamas presence] shows, and we want to know.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the tower was used by Hamas military intelligence and “was not an innocent building.” Meanwhile, a 2014 article in The Atlantic by former AP reporter and editor Matti Friedman detailing examples of media manipulation and intimidation by Hamas — as well as media acquiescence to the terror group’s narrative — was resurrected and passed around social media over the weekend by supporters of Israel.

Republicans like Cotton have stood four-square behind Israel during the latest round of fighting. Last week, 44 Senate Republicans urged President Biden to end negotiations with Iran and deny the Islamic Republic sanctions relief.

“Iran … is a longtime financial and material supporter of Hamas,” the letter read in part. “The United States engaging in active negotiations with Iran and potentially providing billions of dollars in sanctions relief will no doubt contribute to Iran’s support of Hamas and other terrorist organizations who attack Americans and our allies.”

Congressional Democrats, on the other hand, are divided over the conflict. Last week, far-left members of the House Democratic conference paraded to and from the chamber floor to denounce Israel in a series of speeches. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, said the Jewish state had an “apartheid government”, while Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) denounced Netanyahu as a “far-right ethno-nationalist.”

On Monday, 29 Senate Democrats issued a brief statement calling for “an immediate ceasefire” to “prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict.” One Democrat who did not sign on, however, was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.).

Instead, Schumer endorsed a joint statement issued Sunday by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), which explicitly stated that “Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas’ rocket attacks, in a manner proportionate with the threat its citizens are facing.”

“As a result of Hamas’ rocket attacks and Israel’s response, both sides must recognize that too many lives have been lost and must not escalate the conflict further,” the Murphy-Young statement continued. “We are encouraged by reports that the parties are exploring a ceasefire. We hope that this ceasefire can be reached quickly and that additional steps can be taken to preserve a two-state future.”

“I agree with the statement put out by Sens. Murphy and Young last night in its entirety,” Schumer, a longtime supporter of Israel, told reporters at the Capitol Monday. “I want to see a ceasefire reached quickly and mourn the loss of life.”

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