Melissa Harris-Perry, host of an eponymous talk show on MSNBC, has accused executives at MSNBC of effectively silencing her show, and says she has no intentions of hosting this weekend.
Melissa Harris-Perry normally airs from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern on weekends, but has been replaced by election coverage for most of the last month, the New York Times reports.
In a letter to her staff, Perry said that while she has been scheduled to host again this weekend, she suspects that’s “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.”
She accuses MSNBC executives of not responding to her concerns — or indeed communicating with her at all — and says she objects not only to the loss of air time, but to a degradation of her show’s editorial authority. Until her concerns are addressed, she says, she won’t be hosting.
In the letter, Harris explains why she objects to hosting this weekend after weeks of having her show preempted “without comment or discussion or notice,” she says:
“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,” Perry, who is black, wrote.
In a statement quoted by The New York Times and the AP, the TV network said many daytime programs, including Perry’s show, have “been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage.” NBC’s statement described Perry’s response as “really surprising, confusing and disappointing.”
Perry also described the “insulting absurdity” of her exclusion from MSNBC’s election coverage, alleging that she was traveling for the election season just like other MSNBC journalists — even staying in the same hotels — but wasn’t included on air. She notes that she has a Ph.D. in political science, expertise on voting issues and nearly eight years of experience covering elections for MSNBC.
“It is profoundly hurtful to realize that I work for people who find my considerable expertise and editorial judgment valueless to the coverage they are creating.
“While MSNBC may believe that I am worthless, I know better. I know who I am … I will not sell short myself or this show.”
The future of Perry’s show is uncertain, the Associated Press reports: MSNBC would not comment on the show’s status.