On Sunday, MSNBC confirmed that they have officially “parted ways” with Melissa Harris-Perry. This comes after weeks of sporadic inclusion in news coverage, repeated preemption, and an email that NBC executives said was “destructive to [their] relationship.”
For her show on Super Bowl Sunday, she was told to concentrate on presidential politics. When she chose to devote 12 minutes of her hour-long show to Beyonce’s “Formation” video, as she’d originally planned, part of the screen was taken up with a box showing footage of the Jeb Bush and Chris Christie rallies in New Hampshire. For the next two weeks, her show was preempted in favor of political coverage. Friday, she announced her refusal to host her show this weekend, saying this in an email to her staff:
Some unknown decision-maker, presumably Andy Lack or Phil Griffin, has added my name to this spreadsheet, but nothing has changed in the posture of the MSNBC leadership team toward me or toward our show. Putting me on air seems to be a decision being made solely to save face because there is a growing chorus of questions from our viewers about my notable absence from MSNBC coverage. Social media has noted the dramatic change in editorial tone and racial composition of MSNBC’s on-air coverage. In addition, Dylan Byers of CNN has made repeated inquiries with MSNBC’s leadership and with me about the show and what appears to be its cancellation. I have not responded to reporters or social media inquiries. However, I am not willing to appear on air in order to quell concerns about the disappearance of our show and our voice.
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 encourage you to read the email in its entirety.)
As CNN media correspondent Brian Stetler pointed out, the aforementioned executive described Harris-Perry as a “challenging and unpredictable” personality. She added it to her Twitter bio.
— Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) February 28, 2016
— Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) March 1, 2016
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