Rula Jebreal provided additional details on Wednesday regarding her status as a contributor with MSNBC, confirming the network’s account that her contract ended last month when she opted to pursue other opportunities.
But Jebreal explained to TPM that although she chose to look for opportunities elsewhere, MSNBC retains the right to match any outside offer. As such, she characterized her negotiation with MSNBC as “ongoing.”
“When MSNBC a month ago offered me what they offered me, I decided to take some time off and do other things,” Jebreal said by phone. “But still, I didn’t sign with anybody else because I have to go back to them. And they will have their say on it, eventually yes or no. So because of those terms, because of contractual, complicated terms, this is what’s happening. I am in a position where I am out, but I am not really, totally out.”
When asked if she expected — or even welcomed — a return to MSNBC, Jebreal said her preference was evident in her decision last month.
“As I said, my answer was clear a month ago when they offered me. If I wanted to stay, I would have stayed,” Jebreal told TPM.
“We decided, I decided to go and do things differently,” she added. “But I will have to go back anyway to them because that is how the contract is written.”
Jebreal told TPM that she has not heard from MSNBC regarding her contract status following her on-air criticism of the network this week.
In a statement provided to TPM earlier on Wednesday, MSNBC said that “Jebreal’s contributor deal with MSNBC officially ended last month when she said she wanted to pursue new opportunities.”
“We’ve welcomed her back on MSNBC several times since. Her voice is one of many Palestinian voices on MSNBC,” the statement read.
Questions have surrounded Jebreal’s standing with MSNBC ever since she pilloried the network’s coverage of the Gaza conflict on-air earlier this week. During an appearance Monday on “Ronan Farrow Daily,” Jebreal said that the network is guilty of airing a disproportionate number of pro-Israel voices, and even singled out MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell.
Hours after that appearance, Jebreal said on Twitter that her “forthcoming TV appearances” had been canceled, but she returned to MSNBC on Tuesday night for a spirited interview with Chris Hayes.
In the statement, MSNBC said that her pre-scheduled daytime appearances for Tuesday were bumped “to accommodate the re-airing of Chris Hayes’ exclusive interview with Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year old Palestinian American beaten by Israeli forces.”
Based on a review of MSNBC’s daytime programming for Tuesday, it appears that Hayes’ interview with the 15-year-old was re-shown only once during a 37-second segment on the show hosted by Jose Diaz-Balart.
MSNBC spokesperson Diana Rocco told TPM that the interview “aired during other shows too,” though she didn’t specify which programs, nor did she say on which show Jebreal was originally scheduled to appear.
Jebreal also confirmed that she was scheduled to appear on a daytime program, but didn’t say which one.
“It doesn’t matter,” she told TPM. “That’s true. It was a daytime appearance.”
But Jebreal objected strongly to MSNBC’s characterization of her during her appearance on Hayes’ program. Unlike her interview with Farrow, when she was labeled as an “MSNBC contributor,” Jebreal was identified as a “Palestinian journalist” during her interview with Hayes.
MSNBC told TVNewswer on Wednesday that she was “labeled incorrectly” on Farrow’s program.
Jebreal said that in her two years as a contributor at MSNBC, she was never labeled as a “Palestinian journalist” before Tuesday night.
“I did not see the title. When they said ‘Palestinian journalist,’ that was wow to me. I am not a Palestinian journalist. I am a Palestinian woman individually, but I was not hired for two years because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal told TPM. “I was hired because I was a foreign policy analyst and I was a journalist. A journalist. We don’t call people a ‘Jewish lawyer’ or a ‘black woman from Brooklyn.’ That is unacceptable.”
“For me, the point is I am a journalist. So I go wherever I find better opportunity, stronger possibilities, and I am called there as a journalist. I am not called as a ‘black woman.’ I am not called as a ‘Palestinian,'” she added. “I was never called to be hired by MSNBC because I was Palestinian. [I was hired] because of my foreign policy expertise. I talked about Egypt, I talked about Tunisia, I talked about the Arab Spring, I talked about Yemen, about Iraq, about Syria. And suddenly I become the ‘Palestinian journalist’?”
When TPM noted that she identifies herself as a ‘Palestinian journalist’ on her own website, Jebreal expressed doubt.
“I don’t see where on the website you’re seeing ‘Palestinian journalist,'” she said.
TPM pointed out that in the title of her website, RulaJebreal.net, she is referred to as a “Palestinian Journalist Author and Screenwriter.”
“But the website is RulaJebreal.net. It’s not RulaJebreal.PalestinianJournalist. This is not me,” she said, inviting TPM to visit her website.
“If you open my website, which is RulaJebreal.net — if you want to be accurate — open my website, RulaJebreal.net. It does not say ‘Palestinian journalist,'” Jebreal said. “It does not say that at all, anywhere ‘Palestinian.'”
Here is a screenshot of Jebreal’s website:
Jebreal acknowledged to TPM that it’s been “a very tough three days,” but said she hopes the ordeal brings needed attention to the often one-sided coverage of Israeli and Palestinian issues in the United States.
“I wish this story was not about me. I really wish this story becomes about something in the media that I think needs to be talked about, which is not me. I am not the story. I am a journalist,” Jebreal said. “Maybe I stepped out of my boundaries and I expressed an opinion in a strong way. I understand that this opinion has consequences. I know of those consequences. I paid for those consequences in other places.”
She added, “Saying that, I honestly was never called a ‘Palestinian journalist.'”