This week, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry resigned stating her own network was effectively silencing her by preempting her show for two weekends in a row. The cable news show, which is eponymously-titled Melissa Harris-Perry, normally airs between 10am-12pm EST on weekends. Perry, who is African-American, also stated that she was traveling across the country for election coverage as well as staying in the same hotels as other MSNBC staff – but was not given any air time. Perry has impressive academic credentials with a PhD in political science and she acquired almost 8 years of experience doing election coverage for MSNBC. In a statement, the network said a number of daytime programs, including Perry’s show, had “been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage”. The network also described Perry’s reaction as “really surprising, confusing and disappointing.”
On Tuesday, Perry said her exit negotiations with MSNBC dissolved after she refused to accept the terms of a non-disparagement clause that she described as “a gag order.” The details of the clause were revealed to have restricted Perry to speaking about the cable network only when it was “positive or in her academic work.” Perry wrote a letter to her fans, at one point stating, “I will not be used as a tool for their purposes . . . I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head . . . I am not hungry for empty airtime. I care only about substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work.”
Shortly after reporters got news of Perry’s departure a strange thing happened. MSNBC hired the recently fired Ted Cruz campaign spokesperson, Rick Tyler, who appeared on the network for the first time Friday afternoon. This is the guy that was too extreme for the Ted Cruz campaign! Not only that, Tyler was fired for lying about how GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio feels about the Bible. Tyler posted a video online of Ted Cruz and his father reading a Bible; it claimed Rubio walked past them and said, “Got a good book there, not many answers in it.” (I’m still trying to figure out how that’s an unreasonable thing to say). I, personally, don’t know why these Republican types never get creative with their dirty tricks. If you’re going to do this kind of stuff, you’ve already crossed-over to the dark side, go all out. Tyler should have claimed Cruz drugged a wayward ostrich with LSD and converted it to Satanism shortly after bathing the thing in tapioca pudding and violating it for a horrifying 11 hours. Something!
Let’s travel back to autumn of 2011. MSNBC was being awarded with record ratings after the Occupy Wall Street movement had sparked so much awareness and activism. Thousands of people angry and frustrated with political corruption and economic disparity flocked to NYC’s Zucotti Park and cities across America. Taking advantage of the Occupy Movement’s momentum, MSNBC adopted the slogan, “Lean Forward” and started hiring more progressive, intellectual journalists like Melissa Harris-Perry and others to anchor their programming. Many viewers starved for a progressive viewpoint on cable news gravitated to MSNBC as a result.
Now, it’s five years later and the network has taken a sharp turn away from progressive politics. Newsmax reported in August that MSNBC had dropped its “Lean Forward” slogan from graphics shown during primetime programming. It also changed the graphics from “msnbc” in lowercase to the all-caps “MSNBC”. The changes have also led to a noticeable drop in visibility for journalists and anchors of color at the network. Commentator and anchor Mark Halperin, who once referred to Gov. Chris Christie as “magical”, was recently awarded the time slot that was previously occupied by the Reverend Al Sharpton. Also, Jose Diaz-Balart, who also has an eponymously-titled show on MSNBC, has witnessed his program preempted in recent weeks in favor of breaking political coverage. Alex Wagner, a female Asian-American MSNBC anchor, also saw her weekday show canceled last summer.
From a progressive perspective, corporate media has become an intellectual wasteland, overwrought with fevered egos and questionable motives. Cable news giants like CNN often take what’s called the Washington “Villager” mentality. The technique is to reinforce notions of “objectivity” that always lead to the conclusion that both political sides are exactly the same. I sometimes watch CNN or MSNBC if it’s on the television at someone’s house. Viewership on these channels must be almost entirely geriatric evidenced by the abundance of drug commercials between breaks. Drug commercials are so clinical and depressing. I said sayonara to cable almost two years ago, getting my news-junkie fix from the Internet. And guess what – some good has come from MSNBC’s purging of progressive talent. Former network anchor, Cenk Uygur, who is Turkish-American, created the online talk show, The Young Turks, with the goal of starting a moderate-liberal political and entertainment show. It later became the first video news show on the Internet and is now the largest online news show in the world. Take that, corporate hacks!