Melissa Harris-Perry will not appear on her MSNBC show Saturday because she said she feels editorial control was taken from her.
According to the New York Times‘ Joe Kilbin, Harris-Perry grew frustrated her show has been pre-empted throughout the presidential election. In an e-mail obtained by the Times, Harris-Perry told her co-workers the show had been “taken.”:
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.
The popular cable news anchor and noted academic said she has not been notified if her show was officially canceled. Harris-Perry told Kilbin in a phone interview executives asked her to return to her show this weekend. The anchor has not appeared on MSNBC “for weeks.”
“I will not be used as a tool for their purposes,” Harris-Perry wrote in the email to colleagues. “I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by [NBC News Chief Andrew] Lack, [MSNBC President Phil] Griffin or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back.”
Harris-Perry has carved out a niche during her morning weekend time slot on the network, often discussing issues of race, politics, popular culture and economics in a way rarely seen on TV. She’s cultivated a dedicated online following each weekend, effectively utilizing #Nerdland and pushing conversations on Black Twitter.
The full e-mail Harris-Perry sent to her colleagues was published by MTV News‘ Jamil Smith on Medium Friday afternoon. Smith is a former producer on Harris-Perry’s show:
As you know by now, my name appears on the weekend schedule for MSNBC programming from South Carolina this Saturday and Sunday. I appreciate that many of you responded to this development with relief and enthusiasm. To know that you have missed working with me even a fraction of how much I’ve missed working with all of you is deeply moving. However, 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.