Melissa Harris-Perry has declined to host MSNBC presidential campaign coverage in her show’s timeslot this weekend. In a note she wrote to the show staff, then shared with the press, she said she’s boycotting to protest MSNBC’s preemption of her show MHP. A program called Place For Politics has taken its place the past few weekends “owing to recent primaries,” a network spokesperson said. This week she was asked to host Place For Politics coverage during her regular 10 A.M. to noon hours on Saturday and Sunday; she refused, the network rep said.
In her memo, Harris-Perry said putting her on the air in her timeslot this weekend “seems to” have been a decision made “solely to save face because there is a growing chorus of questions” from viewers about her “notable” absence. “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,” she said in the memo.
What Harris-Perry has built is a program that in January achieved No. 4 status among four cable news networks, in the news demo on Saturday and Sunday, and No. 3 in overall audience. On Saturdays the program’s overall audience was 389K and its new-demo crowd 108K in January. Sundays it copped 309K total viewers and 99K news-demo viewers in January.
What MSNBC had asked her to anchor this weekend, she said was “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.” That plan, she said “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 [NBC News chairman Andy] Lack, [MSNBC president Phil] Griffin, or MSNBC.” Harris-Perry is under contract at the network.
Joy Reid will again host the timeslots, as she has the previous two weekends.
“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,” Harris-wrote in the memo. “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.”
Asked for comment, the MSNBC spokesperson said, “In this exciting and unpredictable presidential primary season, many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including MHP.
“This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing,” the rep added.
“I love our show. I want it back,” Harris-Perry said in her memo to staff, adding that she has wept tears over the preemptions, but is only willing to return to the network “when that return happens under certain terms.”
“I am not hungry for empty airtime,” she said in the note. “I care only about substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work. When we can do that, I will return — not a moment earlier.”