After being off the air for two weekends, and several months of behind-the-scenes discord, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry fired off an email to staffers of her show this week accusing NBC News chairman Andy Lack and MSNBC president Phil Griffin of taking away her weekend morning discussion program.
“I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head,” Harris-Perry wrote in the email, obtained by The New York Times. “I am not owned by Lack, Griffin or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back,” she wrote.
Harris-Perry tells the Times she will not show up to host her show this weekend after two weeks of pre-emptions for political coverage: “Here is the reality. After four years of building an audience, developing a brand and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced,” she said.
A network spokesperson expressed surprise at Harris-Perry’s comments–and decision not to host this weekend, telling TVNewser, “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.”
Harris-Perry last hosted her show on Feb. 7. The following weekend, Joy Reid anchored during Harris-Perry’s usual timeslot, covering news that included the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The following weekend, on Saturday, Brian Williams anchored coverage of Justice Scalia’s funeral, and on Sunday, anchors Thomas Roberts and Tamron Hall anchored political coverage following the South Carolina Republican primary.
The network will have Joy Reid anchoring again this weekend.
Sources tells TVNewser the discord between Harris-Perry, who during the week is a professor at Wake Forest University, has been going on for months. Her likely departure also follows a retooling of the network, under the guidance of Lack, which did away with much of the opinion programming. In July, MSNBC canceled daytime shows hosted by Alex Wagner, Rev. Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz, and added Brian Williams as breaking news anchor, and Chuck Todd to anchor a daily version of Meet the Press.
Harris-Perry joined the MSNBC lineup in 2012. M.H.P. joined Up with Chris Hayes leading to a 4-hour block of live, progressive discussion programming on weekend mornings.