NBC, other media criticized for coverage of China during Beijing Olympics: ‘Words Matter’

Since before the opening ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, NBC has been scrutinized for its coverage of China’s many human rights atrocities.

Lawmakers sent a letter to NBC in January encouraging “honest and transparent” coverage of protests taking place, as well as the country’s human rights violations and genocide against the Uyghurs. Despite this, the network has come under fire for the lack of coverage of China’s actions.

Sen. Marco Rubio said in a Fox News Opinion article that NBC should be renamed the “National Beijing Corporation,” since it “has dutifully recited Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking points at every turn.” 

NBC was not the only outlet that came under fire for coverage of China during the Olympics. 

An ESPN guest questioned “who are we to criticize China’s human rights record” given “attacks by the agents of the state against unarmed citizens” and “assaults on the voting rights of our people of color in various states in this country.”

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Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Nury Turkel said the media has been “clumsy” with its coverage of China and the Olympics. 

Turkel said words like “human rights abuses,” “mass detention,” “mistreatment,” and “alleged genocide” undermine what is actually happening to the Uyghur people in China. 

On his last day on the job, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released determinations that China committed crimes against humanity and “genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs,” and within hours, his successor, Antony Blinken, was asked if he agreed. 

“That would be my judgment as well,” Blinken said. 

Despite this, China’s actions taken against the Uyghur population is often referred to as human rights abuses or alleged genocide. Turkel said calling China’s actions against the Uyghurs genocide should not be controversial or political, given both the Trump and the Biden administration agreed with the designation. 

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“Words matter,” Turkel said. “These people in the media, in academia, in think tanks, need to watch … their language.” 

Turkel said failure to call China’s atrocities genocide could amount to genocide denial. 

“Genocide denial does not have to be straight-out saying that I’m denying this genocide,” he continued. “Genocide denial can be carried out in different forms.”

Many human rights organizations, lawmakers and pundits called for a boycott of the Olympics, but some in the media disagreed with this take. 

Washington Post columnist James Hohmann sought to explain “Why I’m watching the Winter Games,” admitting that China “has no business” hosting the games, but drawing comparisons to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, questioning whether he would have “regretted not seeing Jesse Owens, a Black American, win four gold medals in track and field.” 

Turkel said the comparison to the 1936 Olympics is not entirely accurate. China’s actions against the Uyghurs is a “new type of genocide that China has come up with.” 

“Everyone seems to be in the pocket of the CCP, whether it be policymakers, whether it be business leaders, the athletes, the Hollywood stars, for lack of a better word, intellectual snobs. They all seem to be either afraid of the Chinese regime or doing the bidding for the Chinese,” Turkel said.

Turkel said despite the imperfect analogy, there were striking similarities. 

“The concentration camp, the collective punishment, going after children, going after women” are similar tactics used by Hitler’s regime and the CCP, he added.

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The plight of the Uyghurs has been a frequent topic among academic circles and Washington, D.C., think tanks, but Turkel said that is not enough. 

“This is not an academic discussion,” he said. “The Uyghur lives are not a subject for endless academic debates, or law review articles. There will be plenty of time for those people who can write, debating, criticizing conveniently our government, our country, while doing the bidding of the CCP.” 

Fox News’ Elvan Katmer contributed to this report.

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