“MSNBC has quietly taken three of its Muslim broadcasters out of the anchor’s chair since Hamas’s attack on Israel last Saturday amid America’s wave of sympathy for Israeli terror victims.
The network did not air a scheduled Thursday night episode of The Mehdi Hasan Show on the streaming platform Peacock. MSNBC also reversed a plan for Ayman Mohyeldin to fill in this week on the network for host Joy Reid’s 7 p.m. show on Thursday and Friday. Mohyeldin, an Egyptian-American journalist and veteran NBC News correspondent covered the conflict from Gaza for two years. In 2021, he aggressively questioned Israeli leaders on strikes on the territory. Two network sources with knowledge of the plans told Semafor that the network also plans to have Alicia Menendez fill in this upcoming weekend for Ali Velshi, a third Muslim-American host who on Sunday interviewed a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority.
Some staff at MSNBC have been concerned by the moves, feeling all three hosts have some of the deepest knowledge of the conflict. NBC says the shifts are coincidental, and the three continue to appear on air to report and provide analysis.
A company official vehemently pushed back against any notion that either Hasan or Mohyeldin were being sidelined in any way. Over the past several days, Mohyeldin has appeared on several programs on MSNBC as a guest including shows hosted by Reid and Chris Hayes. While he did not host Reid’s show, a network official said that the cable channel opted to stick with its more recognizable weekday hosts rather than hand over the reins to weekend anchors. Hasan’s Peacock show is taped, and the network official said his show was shelved in favor of keeping coverage on the NBC streaming service more up-to-date.
“We have and will continue to cover the barbaric terrorist attacks on defenseless civilians in Israel last weekend and the tragic war it has provoked thoroughly and in all their dimensions,” NBCUniversal Executive Vice President of Communications Stephen Labaton said in a statement.
The moves come as MSNBC — like the Democratic Party with which it’s often aligned — has swung into intense solidarity with the Jewish state after the murderous Hamas attacks. That shift has come with heated internal and external objections to anything that breaks with that solidarity, and has come with social media criticism of Hasan, Mohyeldin, and Velshi. Hasan has also been vocal on X, formerly known as Twitter, condemning the Hamas attack and calling attention to the plight of civilians in Gaza.
Middle East divisions have also spilled into the company’s internal politics. On Wednesday, an NBCU engineer organized a network-wide support event for staff who felt grief over the conflict. But a Slack channel dedicated to the event devolved into fighting after the engineer rebuked a producer for Velshi’s show who asked why there were no Palestinians speaking at the event.
“I’m creating an event for those interested in hearing updates about the situation in Israel and a place to share family/friend stories from on the ground,” the NBC event organizer said, noting that there would be a rabbi in attendance.
“There’s no Palestinian representation at this?” Velshi’s producer asked.
“This is not about Palestinians and Jews/Israelis,” the organizer said, tagging NBC’s HR director. “This is about terrorists and Jews/Israelis. Anyone entering this group needs to denounce terror and what happened on Saturday. Claims of ‘freedom fighting,’ rationalizations, really, anything not explicitly and unequivocally about being supportive during this difficult time; these do NOT belong here.”
Velshi’s producer said that the employee had sent them a private message including some “incredibly offensive things.”
“You’re on here equating the loss of Palestinian civilian life with terrorism and saying that I have no right to grieve, as you do. You’re putting words in my mouth, demanding that I denounce terror as if I had anything to do with it. Not sure how you have managed to twist all this from a simple question asking, where can I, as someone with friends who are currently trapped in both Gaza and Israel, go to grieve?” the producer responded.
An NBC HR representative then stepped in and pleaded with staff to “maintain decorum,” sharing the company’s employee conduct handbook, and advising them to attend a company diversity, equity, and inclusion meeting.
But the meeting was similarly derailed. After an NBC editorial employee asked about whether the network should discuss the historical context of the conflict, a colleague from the company’s tech team jumped into the comments.
“Context? For burning babies in their beds? This is just about evil acts done by evil people for evil reasons,” the NBCU tech employee said. “Moral clarity.”
Labaton noted that NBCU is not unique in its struggle to cope with the fallout of last Sunday’s attack.
“Many people, not only here, but across the country and the world, have understandably been struggling to comprehend the horrors that occurred last weekend and the ensuing war,” he said in a statement. “We are giving our team members the support and space that they need during this time.”