Report: MSNBC 'Intends to Part Ways' with Melissa Harris-Perry

Paul Farhi at The Washington Post reports: “MSNBC intends to part ways with host Melissa Harris-Perry after she complained about preemptions of her weekend program and implied that there was a racial aspect to the cable-news network's treatment, insiders at MSNBC said.”

On Friday, The New York Times reported that Harris-Perry refused to report for work Saturday after her program was pre-empted for campaign coverage and made it a racial matter. “I will not be used as a tool for their purposes,” she wrote. “I am not a token, mammy or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by [NBC executives] or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back.”

The rebuke, which became public when it was obtained by the New York Times, has triggered discussions involving the network, Harris-Perry and her representatives about the terms of her departure, said people at MSNBC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks with Perry have not been finalized.

The flap with Harris-Perry, who did not respond to a request for comment, follows a strategic transformation of MSNBC that has swept up several of its minority program hosts.

MSNBC cancelled black daytime host Joy Reid and cut back Rev. Al Sharpton from a nightly show to a Sunday morning program. Latino advocates have felt morning host Jose Diaz-Balart is being cut back in air time. (They overlook that white males like Ed Schultz and Ronan Farrow were also canceled.)

All of the changes carry a potential perception risk that MSNBC — known as the most liberal among the three leading cable-news networks — is diminishing the contributions of its minority personalities, network officials acknowledge...

MSNBC executives said they were surprised by Harris-Perry’s blast on Friday and that it may have stemmed from her perception — incorrect at the time, but now virtually inevitable due to her actions — that her weekend program was about to be canceled. “She’s a brilliant, intelligent but challenging and unpredictable personality,” one executive said. “There was no plan to cancel her.”

He added, “It’s highly unlikely she will continue” at MSNBC. Her email “is destructive to our relationship.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that Harris-Perry had a fight with MSNBC executives over her Super Bowl Sunday show, in which she nearly levitated with joy over how Beyonce was using her new song and video “Formation” to protest against racism in America, including a double middle-finger salute to cops. Beyonce “slayed” “everybody with all of her everything.”

Conversations about race, gender and politics are a cornerstone of Harris-Perry's acclaimed talk show. But executives at MSNBC wanted her to just cover presidential politics that day — no time for "Formation."

"Her executive producer had to fight for it," according to a source who recounted the skirmish.

Stelter suggested Harris-Perry herself telegraphed this moment during a discussion at The New School in 2013. "I show up on TV and say words because, at the moment, I have the cover of a powerful white man," her boss at MSNBC, she said. "The moment that that powerful white man no longer wants me to sit on TV and say words, I will not be allowed to sit on TV and say words anymore."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis