MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Refuses To Do Her Show After Election Pre-Emptions

Film/TV Editor
02.26.16 14 Comments
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The Melissa Harris-Perry show upended itself after its titular host announced she was walking away from this week’s Saturday shift. Harris-Perry, a Wake Forest University professor, moonlights as a weekend morning talk show host. She’s been an MSNBC staple for four years, but recently created buzz with a theory that Star Wars presents racist caricatures. Over the past few weeks, the cable news network has pulled her show for election coverage. There have been weekend caucuses, primaries, and debates galore, so maybe a few shows got bumped. It happens.

Harris-Perry was scheduled to return to the air this weekend, but she won’t be back as requested. She’s walking out after growing upset at pre-emptions and “a loss of editorial control.” Harris-Perry sent an email, which was acquired by New York Times, about how she felt “worthless” after being pre-empted. The full email, which is now available on Medium, hints that Harris-Perry felt she was purposely shut out from covering the election:

“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 … 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.”

Harris-Perry believes MSNBC asked her to return only after viewer and social media pressure:

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 response to Harris-Perry’s decision not to return, NBC News issued 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.”

Harris-Perry further expressed confusion over her sidelining. While there’s been absolutely no news of cancellation, she says it would be “reasonable and perfectly acceptable” for MSNBC to make that decision. She simply wants to know what’s going on, and the show may have been canceled with all but a formal announcement. The NBC News statement frames the situation as straight-up preemption, but we may only be hearing part of the story.

(Via New York Times)

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