Melissa Harris-Perry On Leaving MSNBC: They Just Wanted ‘Horserace’ Coverage

Former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry accused her former employers of turning the network over to “horserace election coverage” during a candid Thursday interview on Democracy Now!

Harris-Perry said that as the election year got underway, MSNBC executives pushed hosts to focus on play-by-play coverage of the 2016 race. That’s “not the same thing, in my perspective, as politics,” she added.

The former TV host and professor at Wake Forest University attributed her reluctance to fall in line with the network’s new direction—and frustration with what she said was a lack of communication—as the reason for her messy public departure from MSNBC in February.

“The issue was that there was a directional change that was not being communicated either to me as an employee or even more importantly to my audience,” Harris-Perry said. “So what happened is was we were simply disappeared with no explanation to the audience, and then I was going to sort of reappear as though everything was fine. That to me was what was unacceptable.”

MSNBC did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

In February, a memo written by Harris-Perry to her staff revealed the former host’s exasperation with MSNBC executives she accused of preventing her from hosting her own show and denying her the editorial control she had enjoyed during her four years at the network. She said that despite staying in the same hotels as other MSNBC reporters during primaries, she was not invited to host her show and was instead brought on as a guest.

At the time, an NBC News spokesman called Harris-Perry’s reaction “surprising, confusing and disappointing.”

“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.” the spokesman told the New York Times in a statement.

Days after the memo leaked, MSNBC announced that it was “parting ways” with the longtime anchor.

As Harris-Perry explained to Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, she felt particularly affronted by the MSNBC’s decision to let her go given that Brian Williams returned to the network after a six-month suspension for fabricating his own reporting experiences on air.

“They said things like we’re in an MSNBC family where second chances always possible, where redemption is an important part of who we are,” she said. “It is frankly painful that after four years of working extremely hard for these people, after giving up a lot of family time and personal time and professional time, to be discarded in that way.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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