- The liberal British American son of Indian immigrants from Hyderabad, who regularly went viral for his combative interviews, was a vocal critic of the Israeli’s actions in Gaza and strong supporter for the Palestinian people.
Cable news network MSNBC is facing flak for its decision to cancel The Mehdi Hasan Show. Mehdi Hasan, the liberal British-American broadcaster and author, who regularly went viral for his combative interviews, lost his weekly and streaming shows, the network announced on Nov. 30. The son of Indian immigrants from Hyderabad, who regularly went viral for his combative interviews, was a strident critic of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza and a strong supporter for the Palestinian people.
Although MSNBC said the changes were made with 2024 election coverage in mind, those supporting Hasan claim that the liberal host, one of the few Muslim hosts in cable news, lost his job for his views on Israel and Palestine. Politico noted that the news came as “MSNBC has faced scrutiny for its treatment of Muslim on-air personalities since the outset of Israel’s war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.”
Semafor, which first broke the news of Hasan’s dismissal, reported that MSNBC had “quietly taken” Hasan, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi “off-air in favor of more straight news coverage of the conflict.” Politico, however, reported that “MSNBC has denied it was intentionally sidelining the trio.”
Additionally, the report quoted two people familiar with the move, saying that Hasan will become an on-camera analyst and fill-in host. The network plans to expand host Ayman Mohyeldin’s weekend program to two hours to replace Hasan’s show.
“Hasan became a cult favorite online for his tough interview style and impassioned monologues,” Semafor said, but added that “these never translated to ratings successes on the weekends or during fill-in appearances on primetime shows.” The Washington Post notes that “although Hasan was not among MSNBC’s top-rated stars, his segments often went viral on social media, where users celebrated his takedowns.” One of them included a Nov. 16 interview on his show for NBC’s Peacock streaming service where he interviewed Israeli government adviser Mark Regev. “Hasan pressed Regev on the children killed in Gaza by Israeli strikes,” The Post said, adding that “the segment was viewed nearly 6 million times on X.”
The move is part of a shakeup aimed at consolidating the network’s weekend schedule to give MSNBC more flexibility. The network also announced that it would be launching a two-hour morning panel show with Symone Sanders, Michael Steel, and Alicia Menendez. As “Decision 2024 ramps up, the show will provide thoughtful analysis and coverage on the state of our country from three trusted voices familiar to the MSNBC audience,” an MSNBC executive told Variety.
The British-born Hasan formerly worked for Al Jazeera English and the Intercept. He began hosting his Peacock show in 2020 and joined MSNBC’s lineup the following year. The show later moved over to MSNBC in March 2021, airing on Sunday evenings. The show averaged around 400,000 viewers a night, making it one of the lower-performing shows on the network.
Several progressive lawmakers, activists and advocacy groups expressed rage on the news. Progressive Congressman Ro Khanna blasted the network for its decision. “It is bad optics for MSNBC to cancel @mehdirhasan’s show right at a time when he is vocal for human rights in Gaza with the war ongoing,” Khanna (D-Calif.) posted on X. “As a strong supporter of free speech, MSNBC owes the public an explanation for this decision. Why would they choose to do this now?” His post was reposted by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
Actor, comedian and author Aasif Mandvi also took to X to voice his disappointment. “Disappointed that @MSNBC would choose to silence @mehdirhasan, a prominent Muslim voice when hate crimes against Muslims in America continue to rise.”
Similarly, an X user named Kaliyuga Surfer posted that “Hasan and Hasan Minhaj represent the Indian state’s failure in integrating the Muslims into a broader Indian identity.” The result, he said, “is diaspora Muslims having an identity crisis that turns them, either into pan-Islamists or hyper-wokers seeking validation from foreigners.”
Pakistani American columnist Wajahat Ali wants “another news network should scoop up Mehdi Hasan instantly.” However, he is “afraid his politics (progressive, challenges power, humanizes Muslims and Palestinians) make execs nervous. Also, he threatens the other hosts because they know he’s much better than them. But here’s hoping.”
Waleed Shahid, former spokesperson and communications director for Justice Democrats, weighed in on the Democratic Party’s troubles for the 2024 presidential election. “Between Biden sending weapons to Netanyahu, canceling Mehdi Hasan’s show, White House calling the Squad “repugnant,” AIPAC primarying Squad with millions of dollars, and criminalizing nonviolent student activists, some of the most powerful Democrats in America are working overdrive to alienate young, progressive voters.”
Qasim Rashid, Pakistani American author, activist, and attorney, and candidate for US Congress in Illinois District 11 called Hasan “one of the most shrewd journalists out there,” whose “clips regularly go viral for the very reason that he’s so good at his job.” He hopped “Others in the industry could learn a thing or two from him”
Fellow journalists and prominent allies also weighed-in. Charlie Sykes, editor-in-chief of the website The Bulwark, posted that although he disagrees with Hasan, he is “sick at heart over all this.” He described Hasan as “a once in a generation talent; The most gifted interviewer in U.S. media, and nothing has changed my opinion about that.”
We come from different ends of the political spectrum and often disagree, but I’m sick at heart over all this.— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) December 1, 2023
a once in a generation talent; The most gifted interviewer in US media, and nothing has changed my opinion about that https://t.co/aycNeNAQtK
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called Hasan”a brilliant journalist” who is “fearless and tells it as he sees it.”
Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, called the move “outrageous,” and described him as “a superb interviewer for getting at the truth, and has been an honest, principled, and outspoken critic of Israel’s conduct in Gaza.” He wondered whether his criticism behind this move?
It is outrageous that @MSNBC is canceling the show of @mehdirhasan. He is a superb interviewer for getting at the truth, and has been an honest, principled, and outspoken critic of Israel's conduct in Gaza. Was his criticism behind this move? https://t.co/dQOn93Loua— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) November 30, 2023
On the other side, there were some like Indian American author Asra Nomani. “Hallelujah! As an American Muslim feminist, I can tell you: @MSNBC has made a GREAT decision canceling the morally bankrupt Mehdi Hasan,” she wrote on X. “He is an anti-Jew, anti-gay, anti-American Islamist propagandist. Cue up his lawsuit for “Islamophobia.” But it’s Mehdi Hasan who is anti-Muslim, supporting Islamists. Ding-dong, the Islamist is gone.”
Hallelujah! As an American Muslim feminist, I can tell you: @MSNBC has made a GREAT decision canceling the morally bankrupt Mehdi Hasan. He is an anti-Jew, anti-gay, anti- American Islamist propagandist. Cue up his lawsuit for “Islamophobia.” But it’s Mehdi Hasan who is… https://t.co/Sp0hG8XhiN— Asra Nomani (@AsraNomani) November 30, 2023
Joining her is California-based psychiatrist Sheenie Ambardar. This is indeed great news. “Hasan has been maligning Jews and Hindus for years,” she wrote on X. “Glad he finally found out.”