Joe Scarborough opened today's Morning Joe with coverage of the unfolding terror attack in Mali, and promptly turned to Ayman Mohyeldin for a report.
The very first words out of Mohyeldin's mouth were "it's important to emphasize we still don't know the identity of these gunmen who have taken the hotel hostage." Great point, Ayman. I mean, sure, they were yelling Allah Akhbar, and released hostages who could recite passages from the Koran. But can anyone prove they're not a bunch of Yale frat boys on early Spring Break wearing hideously inappropriate Halloween costumes? Or perhaps some insufficiently sensitive Mizzou administrators invading the safe space of the hotel guests?
Now, it's so that Mohyeldin also reported that there are al Qaeda-affiliated groups operating within Mali, and that other groups may be pledging allegiance to ISIS. So if at some point Mohyeldin reported that it was not clear which radical Islamic terrorist group is responsible for the attack, that's useful information. But to lead his report with the warning he gave suggests something else at work.
Let's remember that this is the same Mohyeldin who called American sniper Chris Kyle a "racist" who went on "killing sprees," thereby winning for himself the MRC DisHonor award for worst quote of the year. The same Mohyeldin who suggested that a Palestinian stabber in Jerusalem was unarmed when shot by police despite footage clearly showing a knife in his hand.
What will it take for NBC to find a more objective Middle East reporter?
JOE SCARBOROUGH: The U.S. Embassy in Mali has confirmed it is aware of an ongoing active shooter operation in the city. And according to the APA, Malian army commander says about 20 hostages have already been released. Let's go right now to NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin live in Brussels. He's, of course, been following the latest developments there very closely. But also the latest developments in Mali. Obviously, Ayman, this has been a war-torn country for some time. A heavy French presence especially after you had the Islamists take over the country a few years ago in 2013. What can you tell us about the country and why we're seeing yet another massive terror operation there this morning?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN: Right. Well, it's important to emphasize we still don't know the identity of these gunmen who have taken the hotel hostage.