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Melissa Harris-Perry Calls Out MSNBC For Silencing Her Show, One of Their Few Diverse Voices

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MSNBC doesn’t seem to think their correspondents of color can handle election season. At least, that’s what it feels like when the network, in its bid to increase its breaking election coverage, just so happens to do so when hosts of color are supposed to be on the air, erasing their contributions, and relegating them to the weekends. Those that already had time slots on weekends — like Melissa Harris-Perry — found themselves constantly pre-empted for election coverage that they weren’t invited to take part in.

You know who did get asked to be a part of it? Brian Williams, whom they brought back to be their leading daytime news anchor — after he got suspended by NBC and subsequently lost his job as the anchor of Nightly News with Brian Williams last year for exaggerating his reporting adventures in media appearances. So…you can bring back fired, humiliated Brian Williams, but you can’t have current morning host Jose Diaz-Balart do election coverage? You’ll pre-empt Harris-Perry’s show on weekends, but won’t invite her to participate in the election coverage?

This treatment prompted popular host Melissa Harris-Perry, who has hosted her eponymous show on MSNBC for four years, to walk off her own show. She refused to host it last weekend, and subsequently called out MSNBC for the treatment she and other hosts of color have received over the years. She sent an email to her team at the show expressing her deep regret and explaining why she made the choice she made. You can read the full email here (and you should!), where it was reprinted with Harris-Perry’s permission by a former producer on the show.

It is clear from her email that this problem extend beyond just her treatment during this particular election cycle. This seemed to be a long time coming:

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.

MSNBC have since officially cancelled her show, whereas before they were just not airing it so they could have white people do breaking election coverage while they edge out Harris-Perry and their other commentators of color. As she was still under contract, negotiations were necessary:

Harris-Perry refused to make a deal regarding a “non-disparagement clause” according to CNN. Because the entire point is that she felt silenced at the network. She’s not going to take money to be silenced forever from speaking out against MSNBC — and the fact that they would even try to make that kind of a deal with her in the first place shows how little they understand about what’s at stake here. So, she didn’t take any money from them. Which sucks, but then left her free to tweet a flurry of responses thusly:

BOOM.

What sucks for me personally is that I’d always thought of MSNBC as a liberal safe-haven, where things like diverse voices weren’t just considered important, but par for the course. It’s sad to see that even in the most liberal corners of media, stuff like this can happen.

But Harris-Perry is smart, fearless, and has a loyal fanbase. Whatever her next move, she’s sure to be a success, and we wish her the best of luck as she moves on to other endeavors.

(via Blavity, Washington Post, and The New York Times; image via UMKC/Flickr)

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