On Monday’s edition of the MSNBC program “Ronan Farrow Daily,” Rula Jebreal blasted the very network that was broadcasting her comments, accusing it of favoring Israel in the ongoing hostilities in Gaza. “Look at how [much] air time [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his folks all have on air on daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others. I’ve never seen one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.”
Matters got a bit testy, as Farrow sought to “push back on that a little. We’ve had Palestinian voices on our air.”
To which Jebreal countered: “Maybe for 30 seconds and then you have 25 minutes for Bibi Netanyahu.”
As she spouted those words, Jebreal was identified on the very program as an MSNBC “contributor,” a term with a certain meaning in the world of cable news. Contributors receive compensation to spew their soundbites on air.
Following this explosive segment, Jebreal revealed on Twitter that she wasn’t quite as welcome anymore:
My forthcoming TV appearances have been cancelled! Is there a link between my expose and the cancellation?what about you @EliLake ?
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) July 21, 2014
Then! Last night, Jebreal turned up on “All In” with MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes, who wished to discuss allegations that MSNBC and other media outlets tilt coverage of the Israel-Hamas hostilities in favor of the former. Hayes summarized Jebreal’s contention about the television cancellations and then said:
Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment. If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of his hosts by name on any issues, 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. Fairly predictable case of cause and effect.
Not the greatest of moments for the generally high-minded Chris Hayes. Read those words again and see if you don’t find a shrugging endorsement of network suits seeking to stifle a dissident in-house voice. To the credit of MSNBC and Hayes, of course, he invited Jebreal back on air precisely to rehash her anti-MSNBC slam. It’s a complex world out there in Cableville.
The more significant dimension of Jebreal’s appearance on “All In” came in the all-important cable-news chyron. As BuzzFeed’s Dorsey Shaw noted, Jebreal was identified as a “Palestinian Journalist,” not as an “MSNBC contributor.” Max Blumenthal reports that MSNBC show teams were angry that they had to cancel Jebreal because of her criticism.
Now for the official word, which the Erik Wemple Blog received moments ago from a company spokeswoman. The line:
Regarding the claim of cancelled appearances: Jebreal’s pre-booked daytime appearance on Tuesday was 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. Jebreal was a guest on “All In” with Chris Hayes on Tuesday night.
While we don’t publicly discuss contract specifics, 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.
Not a bad statement, as corporate-speak goes. Yet there’s still an unanswered question here: If her contributor deal officially ended last month, why was she identified as a “contributor” on Monday and as a “Palestinian Journalist” on Tuesday? MSNBC got right back to the Erik Wemple Blog on that one: “She was labeled incorrectly on Monday’s show due to a production error and we corrected that for Tuesday’s ‘All In’ appearance,” said an e-mail from the network.
More to come on this.