Melissa Harris-Perry Refuses To Appear On MSNBC Amid Fears Her Show Will Be Cancelled
Bad news from nerdland. MSNBC has royally pissed off one of our favorite personalities, to the point where she is refusing to appear on the network this weekend.
In an email to her staff, posted from her Twitter, Harris-Perry reveals that while she believes an MSNBC decision maker ( presumably Andy Lack or Phil Griffin) added her to the weekend lineup, she has no plans to appear due to ongoing radio silence from the network leadership about the status of her show, which she believes may be headed for cancellation, after being sidelined for several weeks for election coverage. Here’s a significant excerpt:
Here is the reality: our show was taken — without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season. After four years of building an audience, developing a brand, and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced. Now, MSNBC would like me to appear for four inconsequential hours to read news that they deem relevant without returning to our team any of the editorial control and authority that makes MHP Show distinctive.
The purpose of this decision seems to be to provide cover for MSNBC, not to provide voice for MHP Show. I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack, Griffin, or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back. I have wept more tears than I can count and I find this deeply painful, but I don’t want back on air at any cost. I am only willing to return when that return happens under certain terms.
I have stayed in the same hotels where MSNBC has been broadcasting in Iowa, in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina, yet I have been shut out from coverage. I have a PhD in political science and have taught American voting and elections at some of the nation’s top universities for nearly two decades, yet I have been deemed less worthy to weigh in than relative novices and certified liars. I have hosted a weekly program on this network for four years and contributed to election coverage on this network for nearly eight years, but no one on the third floor has even returned an email, called me, or initiated or responded to any communication of any kind from me for nearly a month. It is profoundly hurtful to realize that I work for people who find my considerable expertise and editorial judgment valueless to the coverage they are creating.
While MSNBC may believe that I am worthless, I know better. I know who I am. I know why MHP Show is unique and valuable. I will not sell short myself or this show. I am not hungry for empty airtime. I care only about substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work. When we can do that, I will return — not a moment earlier. I am deeply sorry for the ways that this decision makes life harder for all of you. You mean more to me than you can imagine.
This really hurts our hearts. Harris-Perry also spoke with the NY Times via phone interview confirming she would not appear on the show this weekend.
She said she had received no word about whether her show, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and Sundays, had been canceled, but said she was frustrated that her time slot had faced pre-emptions for coverage of the presidential election. She said she had not appeared on the network at all “for weeks” and that she was mostly sidelined during recent election coverage in South Carolina and New Hampshire.
Harris-Perry also clarified some of the comments in her email to the Times:
“I don’t know if there is a personal racial component,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is doing something mean to me because I’m a black person.”
She said that last month the onscreen branding for her show was replaced by MSNBC’s slogan, “The Place for Politics.” With the election heating up, her show was pre-empted each of the last two weeks, and for the most recent edition, on Super Bowl Sunday, she was told to talk mostly about the election. Ms. Harris-Perry, who is under contract, said that she was told this was how it was going to play out for the “foreseeable future.”
Ms. Harris-Perry said not being able to talk to her viewers felt like a “betrayal.”
“It is perfectly fine, 100 percent reasonable and perfectly acceptable for MSNBC to decide they no longer want the M.H.P. show,” she said. “But they should say that, they should cancel the show, they should stand up. And maybe it would be rewarded with huge ratings, but they shouldn’t kill us by attrition and take us off the air without telling anybody, including us. That for me is what’s painful and difficult.”
In the meantime, the network has also responded to Harris-Perry’s decision:
An NBC News spokesman said in a statement, “In this exciting and unpredictable presidential primary season, many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including M.H.P. This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing.”
It definitely sounds like network politics at play. How much do you think was a racial issue? And how much a ratings? According to the NY Times story MSNBC hasn’t been doing as well as Fox or CNN with election season ratings. Is Harris-Perry doing the right thing by taking herself off the air? Or do you think she acted prematurely.
Whatever the case, Black Twitter has been responding with a mixture of pride, astonishment and disappointment. Hit the flip for some reactions.