Melissa Harris-Perry refuses to host her show, claims she has been ‘silenced’

Melissa Harris-Perry is refusing to host her own show on MSNBC this weekend after a nearly month-long absence during which “Melissa Harris-Perry” was being pre-empted by election coverage.

Harris-Perry explained her decision in a memo sent to her staff that was initially reported by the New York Times and later published in full on Medium by former producer Jamil Smith at Harris-Perry’s request. Her memo explains that, although her name has been added to this weekend’s lineup (the show normally airs Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to noon ET), “I do not have any intention of hosting this weekend.”

Harris-Perry feels that the decision to add her to this weekend’s lineup was an attempt at damage control:

Putting me on air seems to be a decision being made solely to save face because there is a growing chorus of questions from our viewers about my notable absence from MSNBC coverage. Social media has noted the dramatic change in editorial tone and racial composition of MSNBC’s on-air coverage. In addition, Dylan Byers of CNN has made repeated inquiries with MSNBC’s leadership and with me about the show and what appears to be its cancellation. I have not responded to reporters or social media inquiries. However, I am not willing to appear on air in order to quell concerns about the disappearance of our show and our voice.

She continues this thought a bit later in the memo, specifically calling out NBC News chairman Andy Lack and MSNBC president Phil Griffin:

The purpose of this decision seems to be to provide cover for MSNBC, not to provide voice for MHP Show. 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.

In a phone interview with the New York Times on Friday, Harris-Perry clarified that she does not believe the situation is related to race, and that “I don’t think anyone is doing something mean to me because I’m a black person.” Harris-Perry also showed frustration at the lack of communication with anyone responsible for the decision to preempt her show:

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.

Harris-Perry again brings up the lack of communication later on, saying “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.”

In a statement to CNN’s Dylan Byers, an NBC News spokesperson said “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. This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing.” Gawker says they received an identical statement when they inquired about the situation.

Gawker has also pointed out that, “according to the service, Harris-Perry removed ‘Host of @MHPShow’ — her MSNBC show’s official Twitter handle — from her Twitter biography sometime in the past week.”

MSNBC has not commented about the future status of “Melissa Harris-Perry.”

[New York Times | Gawker | Photo: Getty]