Melissa Harris-Perry announced by email this week that she was refusing to go on her weekend show on MSNBC. The New York Times confirmed her decision not to appear this weekend (her show is on from 10am to noon Sat. and Sun.) and published excerpts from the letter she sent out saying she felt she had been “utterly silenced” by the top brass at MSNBC.
“Here is the reality: Our show was taken — without comment or discussion or notice — in the midst of an election season,” she wrote. “After four years of building an audience, developing a brand and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced.”
Gawker published longer excerpts from the email. In one section Harris-Perry raises the possibility she was only invited on the air this weekend, after weeks of being preempted by other election news, so the network could dodge questions from CNN’s Dylan Byers about what was happening with her show:
The purpose of this decision seems to be to provide cover for MSNBC, not to provide voice for [Melissa Harris-Perry]. 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 [Andy] Lack, [Phil] Griffin, or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back.
On Friday, Harris-Perry walked back the idea that there was a racial angle to the story, telling the Times she didn’t think race was a factor.
A spokesman for NBC News told the Times Harris-Perry’s reaction to the serial preemption of her show was “really surprising, confusing and disappointing.” However, another quote published by Gawker suggests she had good reason for feeling she was being shut out at MSNBC:
I have hosted a weekly program on this network for four years and contributed to election coverage on this network for nearly eight years, but no one on the third floor has even returned an email, called me, or initiated or responded to any communication of any kind from me for nearly a month.
In addition to the silence from the top brass there were other signs her show might be on the chopping block. In January the custom graphics for her show was replaced on screen with the network’s more generic “Place for Politics” slogan. Harris-Perry tells the Times today she doesn’t yet know if her show has been canceled.