Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) doubled down on his criticism of the Associated Press Tuesday for allegedly operating its Gaza press bureau in a building shared by Hamas intelligence forces.
Journalists have rebuked Cotton after he defended an Israeli Defense Forces airstrike that destroyed the building housing the AP and other media outlets like Al Jazeera in a speech on the Senate floor Monday.
Israel said it obtained intelligence that Hamas forces were operating there and had alerted journalists and residents that the strike was imminent, allowing for the building to be evacuated before it was destroyed.
Cotton, in his speech, expressed skepticism of the AP's claims of having no knowledge of Hamas' presence in the building despite operating its bureau there for 15 years.
"Why is the Associated Press sharing a building with Hamas?" Cotton asked Monday. "Surely these intrepid reporters knew who their neighbors were."
"Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a U.S.-designated terrorist organization? Did the AP pull its punches and decline to report for years on Hamas' misdeeds?"
But the fiercely pro-Israel senator from Arkansas fired back at his critics in a follow-up speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
"One would think that these are simple and reasonable questions, but I directed them to a media organization, so the usual suspects circled the wagon expressing more outrage at my audacity to question the AP's leadership than they do at Hamas for trying to kill Jews by the thousands," Cotton said, listing some of the disparaging remarks he's received from journalists on social media.
"The constant refrain of their criticism was that I was attacking the brave reporters of the Associated Press Gaza bureau. My claims were 'baseless', 'reckless', 'without evidence', they claimed. But in fact there's plenty of evidence that some media outlets stationed in Gaza allowed themselves to be used as pawns by Hamas."
Cotton cited a 2014 article written by a former AP journalist and published in The Atlantic that revealed AP journalists knew about Hamas occupying their Gaza building and had witnessed rockets being fired into Israel from just outside their office. The article's author, Matti Friedman, wrote that Hamas fighters had once burst into the AP's office and threatened the staff, but the AP never reported the incident.
"The AP instead turned a blind eye to terrorism and embraced a culture of silence on behalf of murderers who actively endangered its own reporters and staff," Cotton charged. "What's equally scandalous is the AP continued to locate their offices in a building they knew was dangerous."
"I'm not sure what's worse, that the AP knew they shared the building with Hamas or that they didn't know," he added, before going on to slam the Associated Press.
"Instead of uncovering the truth the AP concealed it. Then, when the IDF carried out its fully justified and wholly appropriate air strike, the AP condemned Israel in one final parting gift to their neighbors, Hamas," Cotton said.
"Would the AP allow its reporters to share a building with Al Qaeda? What about ISIS? Because there's little differences between these U.S.-designated terrorist organizations and Hamas."