Skip to content

CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill after UN remarks about Israel

Major media outlet CNN has fired perhaps one of its most well-known Black commentators, Marc Lamont Hill.  On its website, an unidentified CNN spokesperson states “Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN.”

Hill was speaking at the United Nations for as part of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. During an impassioned speech, The New York Times reported that Hill made remarks that included a charge that the government of Israel was “normalizing settler colonialism” and called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Those comments were interpreted by some Jewish supporters as a call for the eradication of Israel. This is because the group Hamas has used the latter statement as a slogan in its fight against what is seen as Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

The backlash from pro-Israel groups over Hill’s comments was almost immediate. Fox News reported that Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and president of Human Rights Voices, called Hill’s sentiments an “especially obscene U.N. moment that reveals the true nature of the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish animus of the modern United Nations.”

“Hill’s call at the United Nations for the destruction of the Jewish state was not some accident.  He didn’t misspeak,” Bayefsky said. “He was an invited guest. He was the only person invited to speak as ‘the’ representative of ‘civil society.’ When he ended his extraordinary tirade with ‘give us a free Palestine from the river to the sea,’ his words were met by a round of applause. The only applause for any speaker.”

Soon CNN announced that Hill — described on his CNN profile as one of the “leading intellectual voices in the country” — was fired by the news network. In response to the outrage over his comments, Hill said the phrase he used “precedes Hamas by more than 50 years” and “has a variety of meanings.” He dismissed the assertion that he was calling for the eradication of Israel as “absurd.”

In a series of Twitter posts Hill addressed the controversy as follows:

“In my speech, I talked about the need to return to the pre-1967 borders, to give full rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to allow the right of return. No part of this is a call to destroy Israel. It’s absurd on its face. I believe in full rights for all citizens. I believe in safety for all citizens. I believe in self-determination for all citizens. This is not an anti-Semitic position…Unfortunately, we are in a moment where any critique of the Israeli government is called anti-Semitic. Any call for Palestinian freedom is seen as an attempt to diminish Israel freedom. This does not have to be, nor should it be, the case. (sic)”

There were calls by critics to have Hill fired from his teaching position at Temple University. A spokesperson for the university said in a  statement that 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.”