On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez hammered MSNBC over recent events on the cable channel as the Illinois Democrat complained about its ever-increasing lack of diversity -- with responses from Erik Wemple, who provides an opinion blog on news media for the Washington Post.
“What’s going on at NBC?” Gutierrez asked early in his remarks. “Last week, Wake Forest University professor and MSNBC television host Melissa Harris-Perry was abruptly pulled from the airwaves without even a chance to say goodbye” on her weekend interview program. “NBC said they wanted a show that was more about politics.”
“Actually, Harris-Perry refused to host her show after alleging that the show had already been taken from her through preemptions and the stripping of the show’s branding,” Wemple responded.
“Sure, NBC is moving toward more politics coverage, though it insists that it wasn’t taking away Harris-Perry’s show,” he added. “She dissents.”
I have to say that when I watched the show, Melissa Harris-Perry was talking about politics in a unique way, like few others on the airwaves.
She brought diverse voices to the table to talk directly and unapologetically about the politics of race in America, a major theme among candidates in a critical conversation to include on the airwaves.
Wemple then noted: “Well stated, congressman.”
Gutierrez then referred to another MSNBC anchor: “I'm sad to see her go like Alex Wagner before her, but I'm even sadder because I don't think these are isolated cases.”
“Anchorman José Díaz-Balart is another voice that seems to be disappearing from English-language airwaves,” he stated. “José had a two-hour show on MSNBC and did a very good job, but José is a lot harder to find these days. They cut him back, and now, it seems that they’re cutting him out.”
“MSNBC is indeed preempting Díaz-Balart quite a bit these days,” Wemple said in agreement.
“You remember José,” the congressman noted. “He's the Telemundo anchorman NBC would bring out to ask a question, only one question, about immigration during the Republican presidential debates in 2012.”
He added: “MSNBC announced that they were sending a team of reporters to Florida to report on the primary next Tuesday, but not José, one of the most respected and recognized journalists in America who happens to be from … Miami and a Florida political dynasty. Apparently, he's not the right guy to report on politics in Florida.”
Let’s not forget the great NBC racism flip-flop last year, when NBC severed its ties to Donald Trump because of his racist remarks about Latinos, only to have him host their flagship comedy show Saturday Night Live a few months later.
That was right about the same time last fall when NBC’s executives met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and NBC News President Deborah Turness told us ‘We love the Hispanic community’ as she updated us on strides they were making on diversity in hiring.
“She made it very clear that she had our community’s interests at heart when she said ‘Yo hablo espanol’ in her beautiful British accent,” the congressman stated.
“Most of the news coverage of this meeting was about when she used the term ‘illegals’ to describe immigrants, which, in case you needed a reminder, is not a good idea when you’re meeting with members of the Hispanic congressional caucus.”
“Brutal,” Wemple responded.
“Well, forgive me for not noticing just how much progress NBC was making on diversity when some of the most visible people of color at NBC -- like Alex Wagner, Melissa Harris-Perry and José Díaz-Balart -- are disappearing,” Gutierrez stated.
“But let's be clear,” he noted. “This is not about quotas, window dressing or checking the diversity file. Journalists of color bring a different texture, a different perspective on what issues matter and what should be discussed and debated on television.”
“That a federal lawmaker dedicated five minutes of time to a diatribe against NBC/MSNBC over racial diversity marks quite a comedown for a media property that not too long ago provided an industry model on this front,” Wemple stated.
“The reality is that our nation has become more diverse,” Gutierrez stated, “and our television and our news media and our political institutions -- including the Democratic and Republican parties -- have not kept up.”
“It's a good time to think about what the phrase “e pluribus unum” really means in America today,” he concluded.
Of course, Gutierrez failed to mention the real reason for the departure of several MSNBC reporters: Nearly a decade spent in the ratings cellar due to the channel's very liberal perspective.