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NBC Fires Melissa Harris-Perry

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According to NPR, NBC has fired Melissa Harris-Perry, who hosted a weekend show on MSNBC.

Over the weekend, Harris-Perry refused to host her show, protesting what she believed was MSNBC’s consistent preemption of her show in order to cover the presidential primaries. NPR’s David Folkenflik reported Harris-Perry told friends she’d been asked to redesign her show to make it newsier.

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Last week, Harris-Perry made public a letter to her staff complaining about her treatment from MSNBC. She wrote:

 … 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 …

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.

Harris-Perry’s inflammatory rhetoric and downright craziness have been noted for years. Some of her more memorable moments included:

  1. Asserting in an MSNBC promo for the state ownership of children;
  2. Saying police were equivalent to ISIS;
  3. Insisting “arson and looting” were not violent acts;
  4. Insinuating Star Wars was racist;
  5. Calling an incident where a Muslim in Oklahoma beheaded his boss “workplace violence”;
  6. The greatest moment of all: wearing tampons as earrings to show her support of Abortion Barbie Wendy Davis.


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