Wait, Melissa Harris-Perry Walked Off Her Show?; Update: Show Might Not Come Back

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Feb 27, 2016 2:15 PM
Wait, Melissa Harris-Perry Walked Off Her Show?; Update: Show Might Not Come Back

This week saw a war erupt between Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC, where the unapologetic progressive host decided to walk out on her own show. Perry fired off shots at the executives at the liberal news network, claiming that editorial control had been wrested away from her. Her email to her staff was published on Medium:

As you know by now, my name appears on the weekend schedule for MSNBC programming from South Carolina this Saturday and Sunday. I appreciate that many of you responded to this development with relief and enthusiasm. To know that you have missed working with me even a fraction of how much I’ve missed working with all of you is deeply moving. However, as of this morning, I do not have any intention of hosting this weekend. Because this is a decision that affects all of you, I wanted to take a moment to explain my reasoning.

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.

She went onto say how she was staying in the same hotels as the rest of the MSNBC staff in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, but was “shut out from the coverage.”

“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,” she wrote in conclusion.

Perry’s show is often a buffet for progressive issues, including race, but she later clarified that she doesn’t know if a racial competent is at play with her current dispute. MSNBC admitted that many of their programs have been put through the wringer due to the election and other breaking news, but called Harris-Perry’s actions “confusing” and “disappointing” (via NYT):

“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.”

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.”

So, is this the end of the show? CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter reported that two sources told him that Perry, whose contract expires this October, probably won’t be back on the air:

It was Super Bowl Sunday. The previous afternoon, Beyoncé surprised her fans by releasing a politically charged new song, "Formation."

Conversations about race, gender and politics are a cornerstone of Harris-Perry's acclaimed talk show. But executives at MSNBC wanted her to just cover presidential politics that day — no time for "Formation."

"Her executive producer had to fight for it," according to a source who recounted the skirmish.

[…]

Her MSNBC contract expires in October. Two sources agreed it is "highly unlikely" she will ever be back on the show.

This fight — fundamentally about editorial control — comes at a time when MSNBC and its rivals are trying to squeeze higher ratings out of the chaotic primary season.

[…]

Back on February 7, she covered the Beyoncé video in-depth and said "I will see you next Saturday." But she was bumped on February 13/14 and again February 20/21.

"Our show was taken — without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season," she wrote to staffers.

She said "no one on the third floor," where MSNBC's executives work at 30 Rockefeller Center, "has even returned an email, called me, or initiated or responded to any communication of any kind from me for nearly a month."

[…]

Now Harris-Perry is letting others — presumably lawyers or talent agents — communicate with the "third floor" for her.

Now, it is awkward that a network reportedly bars you from campaign coverage. Moreover, this debacle could (using that phrase lightly) show that the network is moving towards harder news coverage than the typical left wing fanfare. Regardless, there are some, like Mediaite’s Joe Concha, who thinks that Perry totally shot herself in the foot in handling this dispute, calling her a mediocre talent that often veers into patently false or laughable analysis about the issues of the day. He noted Perry chastising a Republican guest for describing then-Rep. Paul Ryan as a hard worker. She took that as a microaggression against slaves. Dude, really?! I would also add another one: Perry suggested that if we take away people’s guns, husbands won’t be able to shoot their wives. Right, because every gun owner is just a ticking time bomb when it comes to domestic abuse. Give me a break.

He contends that Perry has thrown away her television career. At the same time, this is Melissa Harris-Perry, who openly mocked the fact that Romney has a black grandchild. Is it really weird that people open their loving homes to someone who was either unwanted or was unable to be taken care for by their birth parents; and loved, supported, and treated as one of their own in an adopted family? No. Of course not, but for liberals–it is weird if the family is white for some reason. That egregious segment alone should have been reason enough to get Perry taken off the air, despite her tear-filled apology. That’s the thing with liberals, they apologize, but only after they have inflicted the intended damage.