Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) took NBC to task on the House floor Wednesday for what he perceives as a lack of diversity on the network’s news stations.
Citing former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent departure from the network, the cancellation of former MSNBC host Alex Wagner’s show, and Jose Diaz-Balart’s diminishing role on the airwaves Gutierrez concluded NBC has taken a negative turn. “What’s going on at NBC? Last week Wake Forest University professor and MSNBC television host, Melissa Harris Perry, was abruptly pulled from the airwaves without even a chance to say goodbye,” he said.
“NBC said they wanted a show more about politics,” he continued.
But I have to say when I watched the show, Melissa was talking about politics in a unique way, like few others on the airwaves. She brought diverse voices to the table to talk directly and unapologetically about the politics of race in America, a major theme among candidates in a critical conversation to include on the airwaves. I’m sad to see her go, just like Alex Wagner before her, but I am even sadder because I don’t think these are isolated cases. Anchorman, Jose Diaz-Balart, is another voice that seems to be disappearing from english language airwaves.
The Illinois lawmaker pointed to “the great NBC racism flip-flop” last year, when NBC allowed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump — who Gutierrez and other Democrats have lambasted as “racist” — host “Saturday Night Live” after previously distancing the company from him following Trump’s comments about illegal immigration.
“Forgive me for not noticing just how much progress NBC was making on diversity when some of the most visible people of color at NBC like Alex Wagner, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Jose Diaz-Balart are disappearing,” Gutierrez said. “But let’s be clear, this is not about quotas, window dressing, or checking the diversity box. Journalists of color bring a different texture, a different perspective on what issues matter and what should be discussed and debated on television.”
According to Gutierrez, the television and popular culture should reflect the country’s ever-growing diversity.
“The reality is that our nation has become more diverse and our television and our news media and our political institutions — including the Democratic and Republican parties — have not kept up,” he said. When NBC has a bad year when it comes to race, or when the Oscars have a couple of bad years when it comes to people of color, these are moments to talk about and confront the emotions and ideas we all have, we all have, bout race and ethnicity.”