Just days after abruptly pulling him out, NBC has announced that it's sending correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin back to Gaza. The network removed Mohyeldin after an Israeli strike that killed four young Palestinian boys on a beach in Gaza on Wednesday, replacing him with Richard Engel -- even though Mohyeldin had actually witnessed the attack and played with the boys just a few minutes before their deaths.
This move drew immediate fire from the likes of Glenn Greenwald, who smelled the rat that lives in his nostrils 24/7: establishment media fealty to power (in this case, Israel's power). He hammered NBC in The Intercept, implying that because of Mohyeldin's ethnic background and his apparent willingness to see the current conflict in Gaza from the Palestinian side, the network suits must have decided he was a liability. A good number of media-watchers read Greenwald's post and likewise commenced with the umbrage, with NBC's seemingly simplistic explanation for the change -- they said it was a routine reassignment -- not helping to stifle anybody's suspicions.
Since the beginning of his assignment in Gaza, Mohyeldin's coverage truly has been outstanding -- and it should be mentioned, fair -- so if NBC genuinely pulled him for political reasons, it would mean the network news execs are pretty much afraid of their own shadows. It's not like Mohyeldin was rabble-rousing over there. Even his Twitter feed, while referencing his interactions with Palestinians and at least one eyebrow-raising statement reportedly made by the U.S. State Department, was noticeably free of overt editorializing. Being in Gaza, he concentrates mostly on the damage being done there, but that's where the shells are falling and children are dying. That's a story no matter who you are.
Yesterday, in a quick column about RT correspondent Sara Firth's decision to quit her job, I said this:
Throwing out a bunch of facts or claims and hinting at a connection, then leaving it to the audience to fill in the blanks and create the narrative you obviously intended, isn’t good journalism. It’s a cheat. It’s lazy and at times outright corrupt.
Of course journalism is supposed to raise questions, but it’s also supposed to answer them to the best of its ability. To foment suspicion by merely suggesting something isn’t what a good journalist does. He or she has to at all times be looking for definitive answers. If you don’t have those, you’ve got nothing more than a theory — you’ve proven nothing.
The response by Greenwald and many others -- including our own editor, Ben Cohen, whose opinion I respect a great deal -- to NBC's decision to pull Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza goes to exactly what I said yesterday. Without a supposedly satisfying explanation for a shift in network personnel, people were free to make up their own minds what was going on. And Greenwald was more than happy to sell them on a narrative that furthered his own agenda, one that raised public suspicions of nefarious back-room machinations within NBC and an overall collusion with the authoritarian government of Israel and its lobby here. Basically, as Greenwald's shtick dictates, mainstream media is always an unqualified evil that's hiding the truth from the public and therefore the pulling of Mohyeldin had to be a product of that.
Was it possible that NBC took a reporter of Mohyeldin's quality out of Gaza because someone was scared his mere existence as an Egyptian-American and a former Al Jazeera correspondent would suggest bias? Sure, it's absolutely possible. Was it just as likely that with Israeli ground troops suddenly rolling into Gaza, NBC wanted to put its biggest overseas star in front of the camera to cover it? Yes -- it was. It was also very possible that NBC's comment about fearing for Mohyeldin's safety with Israel bombing every brown person in sight wasn't just a bunch of bullshit. If the country did perceive Mohyeldin as a threat, there was no reason to think he might not be in danger once the street fight began.
NBC is admittedly being as reserved about reinserting Mohyeldin as it was about yanking him. Here's the statement the network issued yesterday:
"Ayman Mohyeldin has done extraordinary reporting throughout the escalation of the conflict in Gaza, filing 25+ reports over the past 17 days, including his invaluable and well-documented contribution to the story on the deaths of the four Palestinian children on Wednesday. As with any news team in conflict zones, deployments are constantly reassessed. We've carefully considered our deployment decisions and we will be sending Ayman back to Gaza over the weekend. We look forward to his contributions in the coming days."
Interestingly, Mohyeldin's tweeted response to the news that he's going back to Gaza is one of the first in which he's come right out and said that he feels a journalistic responsibility to bring the world both sides of the conflict there. As well he should.