MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry wrote in an essay published online Tuesday that she was verbally threatened during the Iowa caucuses by a man who she said was muttering about “Nazi Germany.”
Harris-Perry wrote that she was at a hotel lobby in downtown Des Moines watching the caucus results roll in when a strange man approached her and asked about her teaching credentials and her position at MSNBC.
“But why you?” Harris-Perry said he asked her. “Why would they pick you?”
At that point, Harris-Perry said the man moved close enough to her where she could “feel his breath.” She wrote that he then told her: “I just want you to know why I am doing this.”
Harris-Perry said the sinister encounter gave her flashbacks to her experience of being raped at age 14, which she has written about previously.
“I freeze. He speaks. And moves closer. Is there a knife under the coat? A gun? Worse? And I can’t hear all the words,” she wrote. “But I catch ‘Nazi Germany’ and I catch ‘rise to power.’ But I can’t move. I am lulled by a familiar powerlessness, muteness, that comes powerfully and unexpectedly. It grips me. Everything is falling away.”
Harris-Perry wrote that remembering the 22 Wake Forest University students who traveled with her to Iowa to observe the caucuses then jumpstarted her to action. She said she sprang up and distanced herself from the man, while a friend of hers physically stood between them until the man ran away.
She wrote that her group reported the bizarre incident to hotel security, but the night’s caucus activity prevented further action.
She thanked those who had contacted her after she published the essay:
Deep gratitude for all expressions of concern. Had common response-felt fine 1st 24 hours then shaky/ teary. Better now.
— Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) February 3, 2016
Read her full essay here.