Actress Debra Messing stirred controversy online after questioning a Palestinian journalist’s decision to leave Gaza amid the ongoing invasion by Israel.
In remarks on Instagram, Messing, best known for her role in the sitcom Will & Grace, appeared to downplay the credibility of photojournalist Motaz Azaiza before highlighting his plans to evacuate to Qatar.
“WATCH,” Messing wrote. “GQ Middle East ‘Man of the Year’ and Gaza ‘journalist’ leaves for Qatar. Very interesting decision.”
Azaiza, who has garnered global attention for his raw coverage of the conflict, revealed his plans to leave Palestine on Tuesday in a post to X.
“So, I had to evacuate for a lot of reasons you all know some of it but not all of it,” he wrote. “Thank you all. Pray for Gaza.”
Azaiza covered the conflict for more than 100 days, providing an insight into the toll on civilians from Israeli airstrikes. Most notably, the 24-year-old journalist provided coverage on the bombing of an apartment complex in October that took the lives of 15 members of his family.
Israel has been targeting journalists throughout the conflict, with over 83 killed.
The comments from Messing, a staunch supporter of Israel, immediately led to backlash online from supporters of Azaiza.
“Debra Messing Mocks Heroic Journalist Motaz Azaiza For Leaving Gaza,” one user said. “Mocking a man who witnessed and documented an ongoing genocide for over 100 days? While you sit inside your luxury home in New York? The absolute nerve…”
“Debra Messing is scum,” another added. “It must be nice to mock someone who had to evacuate Gaza for his own safety. Motaz has lived through hell on Earth and this woman thinks it’s funny he had to leave for fear of dying like his friends, family members and other Palestinians. Scum!”
Despite the uproar, Azaiza seems either unfazed or unbothered by Messing’s commentary. After arriving in Qatar, Azaiza vowed in another post on X to continue bringing attention to Palestine.
“I left Gaza with a broken heart and eyes filled with tears. There was no other option after 108 days of continuous massacres against us,” the journalist said. “It’s time to move somewhere else so I can do more work and I pray that I can be a reason to stop this war and help rebuild Gaza again. I’ve arrived Qatar. Thank you. No time to rest. Keep calling for a ceasefire!”
Supporters of Azaiza also offered words of encouragement to the battle-hardened journalist.
“Thank you for everything you have done, you have moved mountains,” an X user wrote. “What you have done in the last 100 days people can’t do in their whole lifetime. You were a pivotal voice in showing the world the Israeli atrocities in Gaza. Wishing you well and safety.”
Since the conflict began, an estimated 25,000 Palestinians have lost their lives. The bombardment began following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which killed 1,139 people in the process.