BEIRUT: American TV network NBC’s leading correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was pulled out of Gaza Thursday after he reported the Israeli airstrike on a Gaza beach that killed four Palestinian children.
“This is exactly the time I would normally be tuning in to NBCNews to watch Ayman reporting on the ground assault. What a tragedy,” tweeted Sherine Tadros, a Sky News correspondent who had formerly worked with Mohyeldin.
Mohyeldin had tweeted that just before the death of the four children, he was “kicking a ball” with them on Gaza’s beach. He provided the most extensive details on the death of the children, who were members of the same family ranging in age from 9 to 11.
He conducted exclusive interviews with the victims’ parents and with one wounded child prepared to enter the operation room, and was later interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes to give his account on the matter.
Despite his extensive coverage, Mohyeldin was missing from the primetime newscast covering the incident, leading to complaints Wednesday from his fellow journalists. Although his recorded reports were used by the channel, Mohyeldin was not called to give a first-person perspective on the events.
The Intercept later reported that a top NBC executive, David Verdi, had ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.
The network has not officially commented on why Mohyeldin is no longer reporting from Gaza. But speaking to The Intercept, NBC executives reportedly said that the decision to pull Mohyeldin was out of “security concerns,” in light of Israel’s decision to launch a ground offensive Thursday night.
However, just after removing Mohyeldin, the network decided to send its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, into Gaza.
Adding to the controversy, Mohyeldin removed two posts from his Twitter and Facebook accounts, where he reported a U.S. State Department spokesperson blaming Hamas for the Israeli massacre.
“The US State Department Spokesperson just said that Hamas is ultimately responsible for Israel shelling and killing 4 boys who were cousins aged 9-11 because Hamas didn’t accept the ceasefire. Discuss among yourselves,” he had posted on Facebook.
After Mohyeldin’s controversial disappearance from social and broadcast media, the Twitter hash tag “#LetAymanReport” went viral, especially among American channels’ foreign correspondents.
The Egyptian-American journalist, who is known for his extensive experience reporting on the Middle East, started at NBC News in 2001, working at Fox News, CNN and then Al-Jazeera English before return to NBC.