This week we learned that Melissa Harris-Perry, professor at Wake Forest and host of The Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC walked off of her show after she became angered at being preempted for election coverage for several weekends. This had come shortly after having to fight for covering the new Beyonce song and not the election. This whole story prompted me to ask one question.
What the hell is wrong with MSNBC?
The MHP Show was a bright and incisive show that covered topics in unique ways and broached topics that were not being touched in the rest of the media. Why would it make sense to co-opt her coverage for several weeks? Harris-Perry is a professor of political science! shouldn’t her voice be one that the network would want to be discussing the election? Though one might be originally sympathetic to the network’s desire to cover the election over the new Beyonce video, that argument doesn’t reach muster.
The thought-provoking video released by Beyonce on the eve of the Super Bowl, was incredibly relevant. Tracing the roots of Black Lives Matter through the lens of Hurricane Katrina, the song and video are incredibly resonant to the contemporary discussion on race that is happening in the country.
But what worries me, and what truly saddens me, is what the loss of Harris Perry will be for the media and for public discourse. There is no denying that Harris-Perry was at times controversial. But her show did an incredible service to this nation. Talking about race, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, public policy and pop culture, The MHP Show tackled the issues shows wouldn’t talk about. It raised questions of trans lives before Caitlyn Jenner made it popular. She raised the specter of voter suppression before it was an election year. In short, she raised issues that would become incredibly important months later.
Harris-Perry also brought on voices that no one else would have been willing to bring on their shows. Her guests were diverse and were not a chorus of left wing pundits. She would invite dissent and strive not to push an agenda, but to have a meaningful conversation about critical issues. There were few things that made my weekend more than getting up early, making coffee and watching The MHP Show. And it pains me terribly that those days are over.
It is my fervent hope that Melissa Harris-Perry finds a new way to bring her voice to the world. I would be lying if i didn’t think that it would be amazing for another news network to pick her up even if it was as a consultant and not for a show. I have long found Harris-Perry delightful and loved to hear her insight when she was just a consultant for MSNBC and not a host.
The termination of Melissa Harris-Perry also raised questions about MSNBC. Harris-Perry joins a collection of diverse voices silenced and removed from the network or otherwise marginalized. The hosts have become whiter and the network has become more mainstreamed. What attracted me to the network was the thoughtful and insightful news coverage that yes, had a liberal point of view.
The future of MSNBC is far from clear. Their termination of Melissa Harris-Perry was certainly a blow to the diversity of the network. Though Harris-Perry will no doubt continue her distinguished scholarship, there can be no doubt that she will be missed. What is clear is that that MSNBC has erred in their separation from HArris-Perry and that the media is losing one of its most thought-provoking voices.