November 30, 2023 - 10:00pm

Mehdi Hasan is the latest casualty in MSNBC’s rush to quiet its anti-Israel faction. The network just cancelled the Pro-Palestine host’s weekend programme, as well as his show on the streaming service Peacock.

The Israel-Hamas War has exposed the inherent tensions within the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition, and Hasan’s cancellation signals an attempt to placate moderates at the expense of the far-Left.

Hasan tracks to the Left of most Democrats on issues related to Israel. For example, he criticised President Joe Biden for comparing Hamas and Russia, saying that “a lot of people around the world see Russia and Israel the same”. In a contentious interview, the former MSNBC host asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior adviser Mark Regev about how many children Israel had killed in Gaza. In response, the New York Post editorial board accused MSNBC of running “interference for Hamas.” 

MSNBC has a potential material interest in moderating its image. It’s currently behind CNN in the weekend ratings, and Hasan’s comments could open it up to the threat of advertiser boycotts. Possibly in recognition of this fact, the network also announced a new weekend ensemble show featuring former RNC chairman Michael Steele — possibly a sign that the network wants to tack to the centre as the election approaches.

It is worth noting, however, that MSNBC did not fire Hasan. He will still give his opinions on the network, and his time slot will be given to another Pro-Palestine host. This isn’t even unprecedented for MSNBC. It fired firebrand host Tiffany Cross before the 2022 midterms, and then spent the entire midterm cycle catastrophising about Republican extremism. 

It will likely do the same thing in 2024. That is, in part, because they have nothing else to cover (an Axios report found that MSNBC mentioned Donald Trump four more times than any other cable network), but it is also a means to hold the network’s coalition together. Very little unites pro-Israel Jews, Muslims, the LGBTQ crowd, black Americans, single women, and high income members of the professional managerial class other than a fear of Trump.

Although he remains in the picture, this conflict has pushed the former President out of the headlines (if only for a brief period). And if the ceasefire doesn’t hold, these divisions will only exacerbate further.

James McElroy is a novelist and essayist based in New York.