Rami Sadan, who was appointed as chairperson of the Channel 10 directorate on Monday, responded on Tuesday to quotes attributed to him by Haaretz and cited by numerous politicians calling for his immediate resignation.
Sadan, who is to manage the cash-strapped Channel 10, insisted that he never made the controversial quotes. The TV channel is supervised by the Second Israeli Broadcasting Authority.
Haaretz claimed that Sadan told directorate members that "I, like you in the elite, hate the Shas movement and the thief Aryeh Deri."
"But we, as an elite, need to break through the barriers of the channel, to approach the Shas audience, 'Masuda from Sderot,'" he allegedly said, in a proverbial reference to Mizrahi Jews living in the periphery as opposed to Ashkenazi Jews in Tel Aviv.
According to Sadan, the statements "were never said, you can check that with those who were present at the meeting, that's it. Those words were simply never said."
In an interview with Channel 2, Sadan said his appointment to Channel 10 was purely professional and was not influenced by his friendship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The news channel has been highly critical of Netanyahu.
"This entire appointment comes on a professional background, and it is in no way connected to the surroundings of the Prime Minister," he said.
"One of the directorate members who wasn't selected (to be chairperson) is trying to thwart the appointment."
"I'll be with Masuda"
The Haaretz report on Sadan's alleged statements caused a backlash among Shas members, who hurriedly demanded from Netanyahu that Sadan be dismissed "due to his racist comments."
Zionist Union MKs and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett joined in the criticism of Sadan.
The Shas party even threatened to break coalition discipline if Sadan isn't dismissed.
"As long as this (dismissal) isn't conducted, the movement's members of Knesset will vote in Knesset plenum sessions as they please," threatened Shas. "The Mizrahi public will be silent no more."
MK Yigal Guetta (Shas) informed the coalition chairperson that until Sadan is fired, he intends not to attend Knesset votes. "I'll be with Masuda in Sderot," Guetta added sarcastically.
"Shas voters constitute hundreds of thousands of Mizrahi Jews who decided to unify and raise their heads so as to eradicate phenomena like Rami Sadan from the world," said Shas head and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.
"We are here to stay, we are here in order to tell people like this that in Israel of 2016 we won't let statements like that pass. Not in public and not in closed directorate meetings."
Education Minister Bennett joined the criticism based on the Haaretz report, saying, "if those statements were said it is a great disgrace. As we invest in the Biton Committee to bring together (Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews), broadcasting in Israel cannot be managed by someone who encourages dark opinions."
In response to the uproar, the Likud party said in a statement, "the comments attributed to Mr. Sadan need to be clarified as to whether they were indeed said, since he strongly denies (having said them)."
"If it is found that the comments were indeed said then these are very serious statements and the Prime Minister completely rejects them."