Melissa Harris-Perry Likens Relationship With MSNBC To A Passive-Aggressive Boyfriend
When it came down to maintaining her voice or taking a severance package, Melissa Harris Perry chose her voice. And she used it recently during a sit down with “The View,” to clearly explain the reasons why she had to leave the network and even the rationale behind the invocation of the mammy reference and “little brown bobblehead.”
Harris-Perry started the segment by comparing her relationship with MSNBC, to that of a floundering relationship with a passive-aggressive, soon-to-be ex boyfriend.
I think the easiest way to describe this is if think about a relationship. Have you ever been dating somebody and presumably you guys are still dating, but not really? Like, he hasn’t called. Y’all haven’t been out in months and all the places you used to go together, actually he’s out there with somebody else. And you’re like ‘I’m pretty sure we’re not dating anymore.’ So that’s kind of what happened with the show. The show had basically been canceled. All of our branding was gone, the thing that said Melissa Harris Perry was gone, our music was gone and our editorial content was gone. Then, I was gone as a host. So, during the hours of 10-12, I wasn’t there anymore even though I was in Iowa, and New Hampshire and South Carolina, I wasn’t asked to be on air at that time, other people were.
And then some other folks at other places started to notice. They called, they asked MS about it and then at that point, MS decided to put me back on air. But just me, not our show. So our show was a particular kind of thing, it was a table of people with different viewpoints and ideas and what they wanted me to do was just show up and read the news. And so what I declined to do was that. I didn’t decline to come back and do my show.
Then she explained why she used the term mammy in the e-mail that was eventually leaked.
This was an e-mail that I wrote internally to my team. I’m an African American politics scholar so when I say “mammy,” I mean something very particular and it’s basically the history of mammy is that mammy is the Black woman who cares more about the master’s family than her own. And so what I’m saying is I don’t care more about MSNBC’s reputation than I do about the Nerdland family, about the thing that we built, about our viewing audience and about our team. And so I didn’t want to be used as cover. Did I think it was racialized? Not in the sense that they’re coming after Melissa for being Black. Do I think it has racial implications? 100 percent and here’s how I know it. Our show had the most diverse guests on cable news, period. It just is an empirical reality. Taking this show off the air, even if you put me back on the air as a host, meant that the folks that sat at our table, whether they were transgender women of color, whether they were Latino Republicans, they just weren’t going to be there anymore. Because we were the folks that were putting them on air.
Then one of the hosts read a statement from MSNBC where they said that if Melissa hadn’t sent a destructive e-mail, she would have been able to continue to do her show. So, the question, why didn’t she try to meet with them before she sent the e-mail?
She responded that while she was certainly thankful for the opportunities MSNBC granted her, she did try regularly, since November, to meet with executives, all to no avail. When asked if MSNBC had the contractual right to change programming whenever they wanted, Harris-Perry said:
“100 percent, absolutely. Just like your boyfriend has the right to break up with you. They just gotta tell ya.”
Then came the mammy and brown bobblehead references. Harris-Perry said that once those words were in the New York Times, she decided to release the e-mail in its entirety to provide the proper context, fully aware that the relationship with MSNBC was probably irreparable at this point.
Then Harris-Perry explained that during negotiations, she walked away from a severance package and instead chose to continue to be able to use her voice.
“Because in the end, it was either you can have your voice or you can have the money. And I decided to bet on my voice.”
But the bright side of this whole situation is that, in result of her release, the network has actually brought some of the diverse faces, who had been dismissed, back to the network’s line up. And she said if that is the legacy of Nerdland, she can happily live with it.
You can watch Melissa Harris-Perry’s entire segment in the video below.