Everyone knows CNN fired contributor Marc Lamont Hill on Thursday after controversial remarks he made about Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations, but the network isn't commenting on what exactly about Hill's comments led to his dismissal.
A spokeswoman didn't return several calls and emails requesting elaboration on what led to the dropping of Hill, who was defiant in the face of criticism this week when he defended Palestinian violence against Israelis and used a popular Palestinian nationalist phrase about the destruction of the Jewish state. Hill also had drawn criticism because of his relationship with radical Nation of Islam leader and outspoken anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.
"Tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom," Hill said Wednesday at the U.N.'s annual "International Day of Solidarity" with Palestinians. "If we are in true solidarity, we must allow them the same range of opportunity and political possibility. We must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend themselves. We must prioritize peace, but we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing."
"To commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires, and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea," Hill concluded, leading to applause from those gathered.
The Anti-Defamation League's senior vice president, Sharon Nazarian, said that Hill's invocation of the Palestinian nationalist phrase "from the river to the sea" was "calling for an end to the State of Israel." Hill denied this, saying he desired a single, secular, free state for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Mediaite reported first on Thursday that Hill had been dismissed, quoting a CNN spokesman with a one-sentence statement: "Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN." That same statement went out to multiple other outlets, although it was unclear at first when he had been dropped—an IQ Media search showed he hadn't been on the network since September. The Washington Free Beacon confirmed with a separate source that Hill had been terminated that day.
The spokeswoman handling the matter, Barbara Levin, did not return multiple calls and emails on Thursday and Friday asking for elaboration. CNN also did not outright condemn his comments in any statement. The Free Beacon will update the story if it gets responses.
Some labor disputes end with both sides agreeing to remain silent, although it's unclear if that's the situation regarding Hill and CNN.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a nonprofit that works to combat global anti-Semitism, praised CNN for its reporting on anti-Semitism in Europe and for terminating Hill, but he said it would be "appropriate and helpful" for CNN to be explicit about what merited the firing.
"The Simon Wiesenthal Center is appreciative that CNN, through its poll and reportage on anti-Semitism, has generated a global focus on history’s oldest hate that will hopefully help to break down the apathy and lack of understanding of the scope that it poses to Jews here in the Americas and Europe," Cooper told the Free Beacon in a statement.
"We are also grateful that CNN took decisive action in firing Marc Lamont Hill as a commentator after his horrible speech at the United nations," Cooper continued. "This is one of the few times in recent memory where there has been a price to pay for this kind of behavior. It would be appropriate and important for CNN to add in a sentence or two, linking their decision to Lamont Hill’s extreme anti-Israel/anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist views and rhetoric. It would be appropriate and helpful if CNN would state for the record, if they haven’t already, that he was let go for those reasons."
CNN also did not respond to a request for comment about an online petition circulating to reinstate him. He has at least one famous booster: outspoken liberal actor Mark Ruffalo.
Criticizing the actions of Israel is not anti-semitism. Since when is advocating for human rights a fireable offense? Join us in standing in solidarity with Dr. @MarcLamontHill: https://t.co/5Sd3b1qdBK
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) November 30, 2018
Hill did not respond to Free Beacon questions about his statements about a free Palestine "from the river to the sea" mirroring those of Hamas, the terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip. However, he wrote on Twitter he never mentioned the group in his speech and had a "huge problem" with Hamas.
My reference to "river to the sea" was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza. The speech very clearly and specifically said those things. No amount of debate will change what I actually said or what I meant.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
I have a huge problem with Hamas. I’ve been consistent on that.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018
Hill's relationship with Farrakahn has also come under scrutiny in recent weeks. Hill has written admiringly of Farrakhan and in the past wrote he wanted to meet with him, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and convicted cop killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal.
— MINISTER FARRAKHAN (@LouisFarrakhan) August 11, 2016
Hill is still employed at Temple University, where he is a professor of media studies and urban education, which said in a statement that he did not represent the school but had a right to his own opinions.
"Marc Lamont Hill has been quoted extensively over the last 24 hours. Marc Lamont Hill does not represent Temple University and his views are his own. However, we acknowledge that he has a constitutionally protected right to express his opinion as a private citizen," a Temple spokesperson told Fox News.