MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry refuses to host her weekend show because of the unfair way she says the network has treated her in recent months.
She isn’t known for censoring herself or backing down from a good fight, and now MSNBC’s Harris-Perry is boycotting her own self-titled show this weekend because she claims the bigwigs at NBC have been making her feel “worthless” by replacing her program with general news in the last few months.
Harris-Perry wrote a letter to her staff members that began, “Dearest Nerds: 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 our brand and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced.”
Although Harris-Perry would later tell the New York Times she didn’t know if there was a personal racial component involved and didn’t think anyone was being “mean” to her because she’s a “black person,” the TV host made a clear reference to race in her letter to her staff, going as far as to call out NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack and MSNBC President Phil Griffin: “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.”
Harris-Perry has built a solid following for her Saturday and Sunday morning program precisely because of her opinionated and bold stances on topics as diverse as the way media covers gun violence in major cities and the racial undertones she feels are present in Star Wars because Darth Vader is black. After stalling her program several times to present breaking election coverage, Harris-Perry argues that MSNBC deemed her “less worthy” than other pundits to weigh in on the candidates and pressing issues. The situation has enraged her to the point where she has even removed “MSNBC” from her Twitter bio.
In MSNBC’s defense, a spokesperson claims the replacement of her program with political coverage is not a personal slight against her: “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.”
As a professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University and the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race and Politics in the South, as well as a columnist for The Nation, Harris-Perry seems more than qualified to join the ranks of other political commentators on MSNBC.
But the cold, hard truth is simply this: As long as she is employed by MSNBC, her bosses have the ultimate say over whether they feel viewers are more likely to tune in and watch the Donald Trump trainwreck unfold on a Saturday morning. They have advertisers to answer to and big ratings are always going to take precedence over anything Harris-Perry has to contribute to any given discourse — no matter how intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent her argument.
Does she have the right to boycott her own show in protest? Sure. Whether it actually changes anything remains to be seen.