Christopher Mathias -Huff Post Black Voices
In her first interview since her very public split with MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry recalled a moment during her tenure at the cable network when she realized she “was working for people that truly did not care about me.”
Harris-Perry told the story during an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed’s “Another Round” podcast hosts Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu on Monday, explaining her reasons for stepping down as host of MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry“ program — a show she and her dedicated fans affectionately nicknamed “Nerdland.”
“Every time after that that there was any kind of controversy on the show, it was completely clear that the priority was to protect [MSNBC] and [MSNBC]’s reputation,” Harris-Perry said. “There was never much of any concern about the personal costs, emotionally, fiscally, sometimes literally in terms of safety.”
She cited a “very scary encounter in Iowa” as a turning point that highlighted the problems in her relationship with the network.
In early February, Harris-Perry, who is also a full-time professor at Wake Forest University, was in Iowa with 22 of her students as part of the university’s “Wake the Vote” program. While she was sitting in a hotel lobby, a man who recognized her from MSNBC approached and began incoherently threatening her and invoking Nazi Germany.
“I just want you to know why I am doing this,” Harris-Perry said the man told her. She and a friend then started yelling at the man, who fled the hotel, jumped into a car and drove away.
“I don’t know if he was there to kill me,” she wrote of the incident.
Afterwards, Harris-Perry told “Another Round,” Wake Forest increased security for her and her students on a subsequent trip for the New Hampshire primaries, but MSNBC refused to do so.
“They said: absolutely not,” Harris-Perry said. She said it wasn’t necessarily MSNBC’s responsibility to provide more security, but argued that the channel should have done so anyway. She wasn’t being targeted because she was a college professor, she said — she was being targeted because of things she said on MSNBC.
“The reason somebody wanted to harm me, the reason that people send hate mail to me, the reason I don’t read my Twitter @ replies for four years is because I work for MSNBC,” she said. “The reason my kid puts up with stuff at school, the reason my husband deals with hate — that actually is because of y’all. I’m just asking for one day could I be able to tell the parents of my [students] that I know for certain we’ll be behind [MSNBC’s] security perimeter, because I’ve worked here for four years, and their response was ‘no.'”
“And I have to say,” she continued, “that level of contempt from them, towards me, which I don’t particularly think was racialized — I just think they simply did not care — was extremely painful and hard to take. I didn’t stomp off and quit. It wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back
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