The Melissa Harris-Perry Show you love might be out a host as the professor has walked off the weekend series she’s led since 2012 due to continued pre-empted election coverage.
According to an email obtained by the New York Times Harris-Perry wrote her staff that she feels the show—which airs on weekend mornings at 10 am—has essentially been cancelled without being axed officially.
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.
You can read the full email on Medium, which the show’s former producer Jamil Smith says Harris-Perry asked him to post. In it, Harris-Perry says she is slotted to appear this weekend, but won’t, because she has been “shut out” from covering the election despite her wealth of political knowledge.
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.
Harris-Perry also confirmed to the Times that she’s not returning to The MHP Show this weekend, though MSNBC has asked her back. She hasn’t appeared on the show for weeks despite the recent New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, the latter of which both Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton threw their focuses wholly on the black vote, something her show is excellent at dissecting.
The Wake Forest professor and television host said she’s unsure what NBC News chairman Andrew Lack and MSNBC president Phil Griffin are planning by pre-empting her show but she’s not here for it.
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.
She later added in an interview, “I don’t know if there is a personal racial component, I don’t think anyone is doing something mean to me because I’m a black person.”
For NBC News’s part, a spokesman said this in a statement:
“In this exciting and unpredictable presidential primary season, many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including M.H.P. This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing.”
Behind the scenes, MSNBC has been struggling to compete with Fox News and CNN with viewers for some time and Lack is reshaping the channel, emphasizing hard news in order to boost ratings. Still, The MHP Show was where the station racked up its most diverse panelists due to Harris-Perry’s cross-section coverage of politics, culture, race and gender that’s nearly impossible to find on a mainstream platform elsewhere.
“It is perfectly fine, 100 percent reasonable and perfectly acceptable for MSNBC to decide they no longer want the M.H.P. show,” she said. “But they should say that, they should cancel the show, they should stand up. And maybe it would be rewarded with huge ratings, but they shouldn’t kill us by attrition and take us off the air without telling anybody, including us. That for me is what’s painful and difficult.”
Harris-Perry has removed the show from her Twitter bio. MSNBC, please don’t ruin our favorite MSNBC show to compete with Fox News.
Contact the author at Hillary@jezebel.com.
Image via Getty.