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Melissa Harris-Perry Demands Creative Control of Her MSNBC Show, Gets Fired

Melissa Harris-Perry, a Wake Forest University professor and television talk-show host, is no longer an employee of MSNBC. Harris-Perry revealed that there were tensions between her and the cable news network on Friday, and by the end of the weekend she was no longer employed.

In an email posted on the website Medium, Harris-Perry said that she felt disrespected by her network because her show had been preempted several times and off the air for three weeks. She also complained that although she taught politics, she had not been allowed to report on the ongoing presidential election.

According to The New York Times, there was also friction between Harris-Perry and MSNBC over her decision to discuss Beyoncé’s video Formation, which supports Black Lives Matter and criticizes police violence. Harris-Perry and her guests engaged in a lengthy discussion about the video, but the network opted to run footage from Jeb Bush and Chris Christie’s campaigns in a small box on the screen.

Harris-Perry said creative control of her show had been taken away from her.

“I will not be used as a tool for their purposes,” she wrote. “I am not a token, mammy or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by (Andrew) Lack, (Phil) Griffin or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back.” (Lack is head of MSNBC News. Griffin is MSNBC president.)

She also said the network needs to clarify her position.

“It is perfectly fine, 100 percent reasonable and perfectly acceptable for MSNBC to decide they no longer want the M.H.P. show,” she said. “But they should say that. They should cancel the show; they should stand up. And maybe it would be rewarded with huge ratings, but they shouldn’t kill us by attrition and take us off the air without telling anybody, including us. That for me is what’s painful and difficult.”

According to Richard Prince’s journal-isms, Mark Kornblau, an MSNBC spokesman, confirmed on Sunday the network was severing ties with Harris-Perry.

Harris-Perry, whose show ran on Saturday and Sunday, was one of MSNBC’s stars. She has built a reputation for hosting a show with a diverse roster of guests who often discussed race issues. According to a 2013 study by liberal media watchdog, Media Matters, Harris-Perry’s program was the only political show to have a majority of non-white guests — 39 percent of her guest were Black. Sunday morning political shows are notorious for their lack of diversity.

However, Harris-Perry may have fallen victim to a network that is trying to reinvent itself. MSNBC, which is trailing in the ratings to FOX and CNN, is trying to move away from its former liberal image.

The New York Times said last year that Lack, former head of NBC News, was brought in to change the network’s direction by moving them away from liberal news analysis to covering breaking news. Several Black news personalities such as Joy-Ann Reid, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Touré, were terminated as MSNBC restructured.

Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media show Reliable Sources, said he was disappointed by Harris-Perry’s departure.

“I think she deserved better than this,” he said. “Harris-Perry’s talk show was unique. Love it or hate it, she booked people who otherwise weren’t seen or heard on TV. In some ways, she symbolizes the Obama era on MSNBC, but that era is ending.”

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