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The abrupt cancellation of “The Mehdi Hasan Show” by MSNBC has sparked significant concern among progressives and advocates of journalistic integrity. Mehdi Hasan, known for his candid and incisive journalism, particularly on U.S.-backed Israeli military actions in Gaza, has been a vital voice in mainstream media, bringing critical perspectives to a wide audience. His departure from MSNBC raises serious questions about the media’s commitment to diverse and challenging viewpoints, especially on sensitive geopolitical issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hasan’s show, which began on Peacock in 2020 and later aired on MSNBC’s weekend program since 2021, gained recognition for its rigorous interviews and bold commentary. His coverage of the war in Gaza, where over 15,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, offered a rare critique in American media of the U.S.-backed Israeli assault on civilians. Hasan’s balanced approach also condemned the October 7 Hamas attack against civilians in southern Israel, describing it as “undeniably, a vicious act of terror.”
His journalistic prowess was widely acknowledged, with Guardian columnist Owen Jones lauding Hasan as “forensic, razor-sharp, with an encyclopedic knowledge.” Yet, the decision to cancel his show by MSNBC comes at a time when his critical coverage of Israeli actions in Gaza was gaining traction. Palestinian American human rights lawyer Noura Erakat praised Hasan’s interview techniques, especially his recent conversation with Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as “a class on journalistic method.”
In this notable interview, Hasan persistently challenged Regev to acknowledge the high Palestinian death toll due to Israel’s military actions, and to address misinformation disseminated by the Israeli government. Author Sarah Kendzior pointed to this interview as an example of Hasan’s commitment to evidence-based journalism and willingness to challenge power structures.
The cancellation decision by MSNBC has prompted criticism from various quarters, including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which questioned the timing of this move. Hasan’s recent appearance on “The Daily Show” to promote his program adds to the sudden and unexpected nature of MSNBC’s decision.
MSNBC president Rashida Jones stated that the network reshuffle, including cutting Hasan’s show and adding programs with hosts like Symone Sanders-Townsend and Michael Steele, aims to better position the network for the upcoming presidential election. However, this decision has been perceived by some, like journalist David Sirota, as a step toward homogenizing news content into a binary political narrative, especially as Hasan was among the few voices on cable TV news willing to critically report on both major U.S. political parties.
Hasan’s coverage of the Gaza conflict, particularly his emphasis on Palestinian suffering and criticism of Israeli military strategies, stood in stark contrast to the predominant narratives in U.S. media. This approach, though resonating with a significant audience, appears to have been at odds with the prevailing media landscape that often avoids critical examination of U.S.-backed actions in the Middle East.
The circumstances surrounding Hasan’s show cancellation are reminiscent of Phil Donahue’s dismissal from MSNBC in 2003 due to his anti-war stance as the U.S. entered the war in Iraq. Donahue’s experience highlighted the corporate media’s reluctance to accommodate anti-war voices, a trend seemingly continuing with Hasan’s departure.
Mehdi Hasan’s exit from MSNBC marks a significant moment in the landscape of American journalism, particularly in the context of Middle Eastern politics. His departure underscores the challenges faced by journalists who push the boundaries of mainstream reporting, especially on issues where political and corporate interests are deeply entwined. As the media landscape continues to evolve, Hasan’s experience serves as a critical reminder of the need for journalistic courage and the importance of diverse perspectives in shaping informed public discourse.