Progressive lawmakers, activists and advocacy groups voiced their outrage Thursday at MSNBC’s decision to cancel a show hosted by Medhi Hasan, claiming that the network was seeking to silence one of its most prominent Muslim on-air personalities.
“It is bad optics for MSNBC to cancel @mehdirhasan’s show right at a time when he is vocal for human rights in Gaza with the war ongoing,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) posted on X, formerly Twitter. “As a strong supporter of free speech, MSNBC owes the public an explanation for this decision. Why would they choose to do this now?”
Khanna’s tweet, which was retweeted by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), came as activists and advocacy groups cried foul on the network’s decision.
“@msnbc make this make sense. @mehdirhasan’s program has felt like an oasis on air and more needed than ever,” Noura Erakat, a Palestinian American human rights lawyer, tweeted Thursday. “He should be amplified, not shut down.”
In a statement, Eva Borgwardt, a spokesperson for IfNotNow, a Jewish advocacy group that opposes U.S. support for the Israeli government, called Hasan “a vital voice holding those in power to account, providing a space for those questioning unconditional US support for Israel, and rigorously reporting on the news” and said it was “impossible to not see this cancellation as part of the sharp rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate over the last two months.”
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, also known as Bold Progressives, launched a petition Thursday calling on MSNBC to reinstate Hasan. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), a prominent progressive, posted on X that he is among the petition’s signatories.
Hasan, a prominent left-leaning commentator, joined NBCUniversal in 2020, first hosting a show on streaming platform Peacock. The show later moved over to MSNBC in March 2021, airing on Sunday evenings. The show averaged around 400,000 viewers a night, making it one of the lower-performing shows on the network. Hasan will remain with the network as an on-camera analyst and fill-in host.
Hasan could not be reached for comment. The news of Hasan’s show’s cancellation was first reported on by Semafor.
The news came as MSNBC has faced scrutiny for its treatment of Muslim on-air personalities since the outset of Israel’s war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Semafor reported that MSNBC had “quietly taken” Hasan, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi off-air in favor of more straight news coverage of the conflict. MSNBC has denied it was intentionally sidelining the trio.
The cancellation of Hasan’s show was part of a broader reshuffling of the liberal-leaning cable network’s weekend programming lineup. The network said that it would cancel a show hosted by Yasmin Vossoughian and expand a show hosted by Mohyeldin to two hours. Mohyeldin, like Hasan, is Muslim. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart’s Sunday show will move to the 6 p.m. block, and Alex Witt will be on air for three hours on the weekend.
MSNBC also announced the launch of a new weekend show called “The Weekend,” hosted by Alicia Menendez, Symone Sanders-Townsend and network contributor and former RNC chair Michael Steele. The show will premiere Jan. 13 and air on both Saturdays and Sundays. Menendez and Sanders-Townsend will no longer host their existing weekend shows.