Deli owner delivers political punditry for Egyptian TV from washroom studio

Hatem El-Gamasy often appears as a pundit for Egyptian television news. His viewers don’t know that he owns a deli in New York — and he broadcasts from its washroom.

NEW YORK — Every other day or so, Hatem El-Gamasy connects to a news audience nearly halfway around the world, delivering hot takes on U.S. politics, live from New York, but on Egyptian television.

When the broadcast ends, he slips out his earpieces, opens the door of his makeshift studio and returns to his day job.

“You want ketchup on that?” he said to a customer on a recent morning. “Extra ketchup as usual?”

El-Gamasy owns the Lotus Deli in Ridgewood, Queens, a place known for its sandwiches, extensive craft-beer selection and its gracious, friendly owner. But few of his customers — and likely, none of his viewers in Egypt — know that the man making egg sandwiches and small talk behind the counter is the same one who appears on popular Egyptian television news programs, holding forth on subjects from immigration policy to North Korea.

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Nor do many know that his television studio is a washroom in the back, past the potato-chips display.

After a reporter approached El-Gamasy about his two careers, he decided to go public.

“The fear for being exposed is that they’ll say, ‘He’s just a sandwich guy. How does he talk about these big issues?’” said El-Gamasy, 48, sipping coffee in his bodega recently. “But I’m also an educated guy, and being a sandwich guy is not against the law.

“And look at what I say. It’s very credible.”

El-Gamasy’s improbable broadcast career began last year, not long after he wrote an opinion piece for an Egyptian news organization predicting Donald Trump’s victory in November, at a time Hillary Clinton was still nearly 20 points ahead in the polls.

He had written Op-Ed pieces over the years, mostly as a hobby. But the article predicting Trump’s victory caught the attention of someone at the Egyptian state broadcaster, Nile TV, who was looking to interview an Egyptian American about the election.

The interview went well; El-Gamasy’s phone began ringing with more requests, each one expanding his journalistic reputation in a country that has been known to detain reporters.

“He’s very polished and he knows about political life and political news in America,” Muhammad El-Muhammady, a producer for ONtvLIVE, said in an…

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