Cable network MSNBC might be going back to “all white, all the time.” That’s what the Washington Post seems to be implying with their headline, “#MSNBCSoWhite.” Unless you’ve been under a rock, you should know that Melissa Harris-Perry, the professor and author most recently known for her news and public affairs show on MSNBC, has effectively ended her relationship with the network.
Harris-Perry’s departure gave new life to gripes on social media about MSNBC’s racial composition. These included the hashtag #MSNBCSoWhite, an echo of the protests that surrounded the absence of minorities among the Oscars’ best-acting nominations.
People close to Harris-Perry compiled a list of names of those with minority backgrounds who’ve been dismissed or assigned to lesser roles in the past year. The list includes program hosts such as Al Sharpton, Alex Wagner and Joy Reid, and African American contributors and pundits such as Michael Eric Dyson , Touré , Karen Finney and Goldie Taylor. Three other African Americans who have appeared as panelists and pundits — Janet Mock, Dorian Warren and the Rev. Jacqui Lewis — now mostly appear on Shift by MSNBC, the network’s little-viewed digital channel.
An email sent out to staffers on Saturday gave Harris-Perry’s reasons: It wasn’t only due to lack of editorial control. She was basically being kicked to the curb instead of being called upon for elections-centered analysis.
I have stayed in the same hotels where MSNBC has been broadcasting in Iowa, in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina, yet I have been shut out from coverage. I have a PhD in political science and have taught American voting and elections at some of the nation’s top universities for nearly two decades, yet I have been deemed less worthy to weigh in than relative novices and certified liars. I have hosted a weekly program on this network for four years and contributed to election coverage on this network for nearly eight years, but no one on the third floor has even returned an email, called me, or initiated or responded to any communication of any kind from me for nearly a month. It is profoundly hurtful to realize that I work for people who find my considerable expertise and editorial judgment valueless to the coverage they are creating.
By the way, when Harris-Perry says certified liars—she’s talking about this dude.
Dave Zirin over at The Nation lamented the cancellation of the show and defended Harris-Perry, writing:
Instead of responding to these concerns, network executives chose to simply kill the show, citing the email as “destructive to our relationship.” A nameless exec, speaking to The Washington Post, called her a “challenging and unpredictable personality.” It is certainly true that Melissa fought for her vision of what she wanted the show to be, but it is difficult to imagine that a white, male host would be attacked so personally and called “challenging and unpredictable” for exhibiting similar behavior. It also speaks volumes that such adjectives—“challenging,” “unpredictable”—would be seen as insults in the modern news media world, instead of high praise.
Yvette Carnell, writer and critic, thinks the departure of Harris-Perry and other commentators of color coincides with the departure of the first African-American resident of the White House. You can hear her theory about that in the video below, courtesy of The Real News Network.