In an email to coworkers, Melissa Harris-Perry said she won’t show up to host her MSNBC show this weekend after being replaced for two weeks for election coverage and allegedly losing editorial control.
“Here is the reality: Our show was taken — without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season,” she said in the email, which was obtained by the New York Times. “After four years of building an audience, developing a brand, and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced.”
Harris-Perry said her program had been preempted for two weeks and substituted with coverage of the election. She also said that during her show on Super Bowl Sunday, she was told to talk about the election. The host typically uses the show to address social justice, diversity, and racism. She also felt sidelined by the network during election coverage in South Carolina and New Hampshire.
Asked to return to the show this weekend, Harris-Perry confirmed to the newspaper that she won’t show up. She also blamed NBC News chairman Andrew Lack and MSNBC president Phil Griffin for the mistreatment of her show, which airs from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and Sundays.
Typically the third-place news network after Fox News and CNN, MSNBC’s election news has helped to raise ratings. Harris-Perry says her show’s on-screen branding has been replaced by the network’s new slogan, “The Place for Politics.” And she says that she had been told that the pre-emptions and focus on politics would be the way things go for the “foreseeable future.”
“It is perfectly fine, 100% 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.”
An MSNBC representative told the Times via 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.”
Read Harris-Perry’s full message to her coworkers aka “Nerdland,” obtained by Medium.com, below:
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.
Undoubtedly, television nurtures the egos of those of us who find ourselves in front of bright lights and big cameras. I am sure ego is informing my own pain in this moment, but there is a level of professional decency, respect, and communication that has been denied this show for years. And the utter insulting absurdity of the past few weeks exceeds anything I can countenance.
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 realise 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.
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