Some say it started four weeks ago, but really, it all started in 2012.
Melissa Harris-Perry, with degrees in American politics and extensive campaign experience under her belt, was given her own show by MSNBC. It ran for two hours at a time on weekends, and it invited crowds of diverse guests–politically, racially, and in overall background–to sit and speak at a higher level with her about the news of the week. The show was applauded for its ability to speak truth beyond the trap of the 24-hour news cycle. Then, four weeks ago, MSNBC began edging Harris-Perry out.
On the night of the first round of voting, the Iowa Caucuses, Harris-Perry’s role as host of her own show was handed off to another MSNBC anchor, Ari Melber. He attempted to introduce her to speak, as she was still to appear in a lesser fashion, but the feed that was streaming Perry live cut out, erasing her from one of the most important nights in arguably the most tenuous election season to date.
In the succeeding weeks, Melissa Harris-Perry‘s usual time-slot on the weekends began to become replaced by other news programming. The assumption was that MSNBC felt that election news coverage had become so abundant and so pressing that they could not afford to allow their competitors to air constant watch of it while they did not, but the network’s actions had drastic effects.
Harris-Perry wrote an email to MSNBC, which has since been released on Medium, detailing how she feels the network sees her as “worthless,” despite her tireless four-year-long tenure on air and her eight years reporting for them. On how she believed her show was stolen away from her, Harris-Perry wrote:
“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.”
Some have suggested that Harris-Perry may have been one of many-to-come victims in MSNBC’s identity overhaul. The New York Times mentioned in an article this weekend that because the network has been consistently falling behind its competitors Fox News and CNN in ratings, it has been trying to move away from its massively-liberal label towards a more moderate, straight-news image. Because Harris-Perry was a vocal figure on topics viewers find blatantly liberal, like civil rights, this departure may be evidence of more to come.
On her last time hosting her show, Harris-Perry, determined to fight the election show that her network cast upon her, spoke on how Beyonce’s performance of “Formation” in the Super Bowl was massively important in the midst of racial turbulence in this country. While she was speaking, videos of Republican candidates rallying supporters live played beside her.
Harris-Perry has made it clear that nothing is to be amended, and that she will not be returning to MSNBC. In closing in her email, she said this:
“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.”