Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal returned to MSNBC on Tuesday night for a spirited interview with Chris Hayes, a day after she said her future appearances on the network had been canceled following her on-air criticism of its coverage of the Gaza conflict.
Before the interview began, Hayes addressed the fallout from Jebreal’s moment of candor a day earlier.
“Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment,” Hayes said. “If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its hosts by name on any issue — Gaza, infrastructure, spending, sports coverage or funny Internet cat videos — the folks at the network will not take kindly to it. Not some grand conspiracy at work — a fairly predictable case of cause and effect.”
On Monday, Jebreal, an MSNBC contributor, went off on the network during an appearance on “Ronan Farrow Daily.” She said the American press is “disgustingly biased” in its coverage of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, and even called out MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell specifically.
“Look at how many airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on-air on a daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others,” she said.
Hours after the appearance, Jebreal said on Twitter that her “forthcoming TV appearances” had been canceled and suggested that it might have been the result of her “expose.”
Hayes opened his interview with a nod toward Mitchell, calling his colleague “an exemplary journalist” but saying he didn’t “want to litigate her specifically.” Instead, he defended the coverage of MSNBC and the media as a whole.
He said Jebreal’s point about “an imbalance in the representation of Palestinians and Israelis or Arabs and Jews” has “largely been true broadly in the media,” but argued that the coverage of the current conflict has been better.
“I think our network, this time around, and I think the media more generally — and now I’m talking about the New York Times and other places — have been doing a much better job in this conflict. I think the image that most Americans are seeing from this conflict, by and large, are images of the destruction in Gaza,” Hayes said. “I think that’s been the defining feature of this. And in fact, there’s all these people talking about how the Israelis are losing the media war for the first time.”
Jebreal didn’t buy that argument.
“Listen, if that’s true then you have to explain to me why the public opinion is 99 percent pro-Israeli,” Jebreal said. She also pointed to a study showing that CNN had far more Israeli officials than Palestinians in its coverage of the 2012 Gaza conflict.
“What I was talking about yesterday, and my frustration come from my love for journalism and media, and my love for unbiased journalism,” Jebreal said.
“I think we are really creating a disservice to our public opinion in the American audience. Let me just explain why. Not only because we are giving more airtime to the Israelis, but actually we are not covering the content in which and the context in which the conflict is taking place. Most Americans think, OK, Israelis are minding their own business and Palestinians wake up one day in Gaza and they decide, OK, let’s fire missiles. This is not what’s happening.”
Hayes eventually said that he believes airtime is a “bad metric” and pointed out that his efforts last week to land an interview with a Hamas official were futile.
“It is, it turns out, extremely difficult to get a Hamas official to come on your TV show,” he said.
Ultimately, the two found something resembling common ground, with Hayes acknowledging that Palestinians are not interviewed with the same frequency as Israelis and Jebreal conceding that “MSNBC has been doing [a] better job than others.”
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, a fierce critic of the U.S. media’s coverage of Israel and Palestine, applauded Hayes on Wednesday for welcoming Jebreal on his show.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 23, 2014
Jebreal did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.