Now obviously, having grown up in America, and spent a lot of time here, America is much closer to my heart, and the American audience is much closer to my heart. All the years I spent in high school and college in the US, everything I did, even on a one-on-one level with my friends, was always reporting to them about what the reality of the situation is on the ground. So in essence I always felt myself [to be] an ambassador from the Middle East to the United States. But at the same time whenever I was in the Middle East, whenever I was in Gaza, whenever I was anywhere else, I was an ambassador of America to this part of the world. And when people would see me and see the opportunities that I had in the US and I would tell them and describe to them what life was really like in America, their misperceptions about America changed. So this was the ultimate platform in doing what has always been something that I did on a personal level. It was now the ability to do it on a massive, million-viewer [laughs] platform on a daily basis, through msnbc.com, through MSNBC, Nightly, Meet The Press, the Today Show, what have you.
To some of your American viewers, you may be less welcome than you were for the audience at Al Jazeera.
All I can say is that I believe in the American people. I really do. I really believe that they have the right spirit and the right attitude about tolerance, as a society, as individuals, and as a culture. It’s said over and over, not to be a cliché, but America is a country of immigrants and the stories of successful immigrants bridging the gap are tremendous, from every culture and every walk of life in the United States. And I think that over the past ten years, because of what has happened since 9/11, and America’s involvement in the Arab world and the broader Islamic world, the time is right for Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and people from that background—who’ve been for decades integrated in the United States—to become more vocal and to become not just observers of American life, but to be participants of mainstream American life. And nothing can be more mainstream in America than reporting for an American network like NBC.
That’s why this decision weighed heavily on me, not just as a journalist, but as an Arab American. I knew that in some ways I would be paving the way. I’m not the first Arab American to work for an American network, but I’d like to think that it is breaking new ground for a lot of young reporters from all different kinds of backgrounds who may think that, you know what?—American media is generally of a certain type, out of a certain background, reporting to a certain audience, and we’re certainly going to try to push the envelope with that a little bit and see what the reaction is going to be like.