Longtime LGBT ally Melissa Harris-Perry is calling out MSNBC over its handling of her weekend show and other contributions, plus “the dramatic change in editorial tone and racial composition of MSNBC’s on-air coverage,” saying she will not appear on the cable channel this weekend.
In an email to her staff, shared by former staffer Jamil Smith on Medium, Harris-Perry noted that her name appears on MSNBC’s schedule for this weekend’s coverage of the Democratic presidential primary from South Carolina, but said, “I do not have any intention of hosting this weekend.”
She said her eponymous show, which aired Saturdays and Sundays, was taken off by MSNBC “without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season.” It a follow-up interview with The New York Times, she said MSNBC and NBC News executives have not told her whether the show has been canceled, but it has been preempted for several weeks for election-related programming.
She has been “shut out from coverage” of the presidential election, she said in the email, “deemed less worthy to weigh in than relative novices and certified liars.”
As for this weekend, she wrote, “Some unknown decision-maker, presumably [NBC News chairman] Andy Lack or [MSNBC president] 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.”
“After four years of building an audience, developing a brand, and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced,” she continued in the email. “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.”
She is willing to return only on her own terms, she said in the message. “I will not be used as a tool for [MSNBC management’s] purposes,” she wrote. “I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack, Griffin, or MSNBC.”
Speaking to the Times, though, Harris-Perry, who is African-American, said she didn’t think there was racial animus on the part of Lack and Griffin, who are white. “I don’t know if there is a personal racial component,” she told the newspaper. “I don’t think anyone is doing something mean to me because I’m a black person.”
NBC News responded to Perry’s comments in a prepared statement, the Times reports. “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.,” the statement read. “This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing.”
If NBC News and MSNBC decide they no longer want her show, they should be up front about it and cancel it, Harris-Perry told the Times. “They shouldn’t kill us by attrition and take us off the air without telling anybody, including us,” she said. “That for me is what’s painful and difficult.”
Harris-Perry, a Wake Forest University professor, has hosted her MSNBC show since 2012, after several appearances as a correspondent on out MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow's nightly program. Harris-Perry's show has often dealt with LGBT issues and featured LGBT guests, many of them people of color. It was the venue for transgender woman CeCe McDonald’s first appearance after her release from a men’s prison where she was incarcerated for second-degree manslaughter, in a case she says was self-defense.
Others appearing on the show have included successful trans businesswoman Angelica Ross, trans actress Laverne Cox, bisexual Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, and gay Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart. Trans writer Janet Mock has also guest-hosted for Harris-Perry.