Melissa Harris-Perry | Media Matters for America

Melissa Harris-Perry

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  • Trump Invokes Right-Wing Media's Voter Fraud Myth To Support Voter ID Laws

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Echoing a right-wing media myth, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed recent court rulings striking down voter restrictions would cause the presidential election to be “rigged” because voter ID laws prevent people committing in-person voter fraud by not allowing them to keep “voting and voting and voting." In reality, in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and voter ID laws disproportionately harm minority voters.

  • The Whiteness Of The Media Is A Slow-Motion Train Wreck

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    MSNBC has canceled its weekend morning editorial program Melissa Harris-Perry. The cancellation deals a significant blow to diversity on cable news, as Harris-Perry consistently hosted the most diverse guests of any of the Sunday morning news shows.

    But the lack of diversity on Sunday morning shows is just part of a much broader media diversity problem. People of color are widely underrepresented in both print and radio newsrooms, and the percentage of non-white journalists in traditional newsrooms has remained largely stagnant over the past 20 years.

    That's not just a workplace problem -- it's an accuracy problem. The absence of people of color in newsrooms and on television allows the biases of white journalists and commentators to go unchecked, resulting in reporting that often overlooks important angles, privileges one side of a story, and fails to provide necessary context to understand news events.  

    Media diversity isn't a luxury good that can be jettisoned for the sake of convenience. White newsrooms are broken newsrooms.

    Video by John Kerr, Carlos Maza, and Leanne Naramore.

  • What We Lose If We Lose Melissa Harris-Perry

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    We may have seen the final episode of Melissa Harris-Perry's unique weekend morning MSNBC show, one of cable news' most diverse and important editorial programs.

    On February 26, The New York Times reported that Harris-Perry had refused to go on her show this weekend "following several weeks of pre-emptions and what she described as a loss of editorial control." The report described how Harris-Perry had become frustrated with MSNBC's pressure to spend more time covering the 2016 election.

    In a letter to her staff published on Medium by a former staffer, Harris-Perry described her reasons for deciding not to host the show (emphasis added):

    Here is the reality: our show was taken - without comment or discussion or notice - in the midst of an election season. After four years of building an audience, developing a brand, and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced. Now, MSNBC would like me to appear for four inconsequential hours to read news that they deem relevant without returning to our team any of the editorial control and authority that makes MHP Show distinctive.


    While MSNBC may believe that I am worthless, I know better. I know who I am. I know why MHP Show is unique and valuable. I will not sell short myself or this show. I am not hungry for empty airtime. I care only about substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work. When we can do that, I will return - not a moment earlier. I am deeply sorry for the ways that this decision makes life harder for all of you. You mean more to me than you can imagine.

    In response to the letter, NBC explained its pre-emptions, stating:  "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." It's unclear how MSNBC will resolve the dispute, but some sources believe the controversy spells the end of Harris-Perry's show.

    With the show's future uncertain, it's worth pausing to acknowledge how devastating it would be to lose Melissa Harris-Perry.

    In a cable news environment that too often seems geared to the lowest common denominator, MHP has always offered something different. While other programs fixated on flavor-of-the-week political controversies and breaking news, MHP was proudly, unwaveringly, a show for nerds -- centering on stories and discussions typically passed over by the breakneck pace of the 24-hour news cycle. Harris-Perry, a professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, asked her audience to think bigger, to connect seemingly trivial news alerts to broader discussions about identity, history, representation, and power.

    When the Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage in June, she wondered if the decision might threaten the queer political movement's resistance to tradition.

    When Bill Cosby was accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women, she challenged the possibility of finding a "perfect victim" in sexual violence stories.

    During the media firestorm surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion, Harris-Perry tied the story to a broader discussion of the history of colonial subjugation in Africa, and the subordination of black bodies in general.

    In the wake of the shooting in a black church in Charleston, she asked if focusing on the Confederate flag as a symbol might distract from material challenges to racist policies that impact black people in the South.

    At the height of the media spectacle around Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore, she dedicated an entire segment to breaking down the history of the incarceration of black males in America, highlighting the "intersection between race and criminality."

    These were not the discussions of a typical cable news show.

    Termed "America's foremost public intellectual" by The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, Harris-Perry challenged her guests and her audience to think critically about what makes news stories meaningful in the first place.

    MHP has also been a welcome break from the persistent whiteness of cable news media. As the only African American woman hosting an editorial cable news show, Harris-Perry offered a direly needed alternative perspective. Her ability to talk about her own experience with race and identity was a huge part of what made the discussions on her show so significant and rare.

    MHP's panels consistently featured the most diverse lineup of guests of any of the Sunday morning news show. Her show was unique not only because it featured far more women and people of color than the typical program, but because it gave a platform to people who weren't traditional powerbrokers, people who weren't interested in repeating sound bite talking points about current events.

    The power and influence of Harris-Perry's voice is matched only by the space she created to elevate the voices of those who most needed to be heard. Nowhere is this more evident than in her treatment of the transgender community. Harris-Perry has hosted some of the most compassionate and informative segments on the fight for transgender equality on cable news, challenging her audiences to look beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, regularly hosting transgender guests and sharing their stories. Last August, she invited prominent transgender activist Janet Mock to guest host her show, resulting in one of the most significant news segments on violence against transgender women that's ever been aired on national television. 

    Melissa Harris-Perry worked for years to create the gold standard for what editorial cable news shows should look like.

    Every week, MHP asked its viewers to stop, breathe, and be thoughtful. Without MHP, nerds will have lost a key respite from the trending news alerts, commentator screaming matches, and sensationalistic coverage that typically saturate cable news coverage.

    It's possible that this rift between Harris-Perry and MSNBC will be temporary -- that the network will once again create space for her thoughtful weekend programming once the spectacle of the presidential election dies down.

    It's also possible that Harris-Perry chooses to walk away permanently if she no longer believes she can do "substantive, meaningful, and autonomous work." If that happens, we nerds will lose what has been a rare bright spot in an ocean of cable news noise.

    And that's something worth mourning.


    On February 28, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter reported "an MSNBC spokesman confirmed that the channel is 'parting ways' with" Harris-Perry.

  • On Melissa Harris-Perry, Eric Boehlert Calls Out The Benghazi Hoax: "We Have Been Debunking This For Three Years"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the October 24 edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry:

    BOEHLERT: She testified 33 months ago. She answered a lot of these questions 33 months ago. Media Matters has a list of, not only every question she was asked, all of them have been answered. We have been debunking this for three years.

    HARRIS-PERRY: I actually wonder if you guys are sad it seems to be over now, because now what happens at Media Matters?

    BOEHLERT: Look, if they're going to keep throwing misinformation at us, we'll just keep fact-checking it. 


    We Counted Every Question: The Benghazi Hearing Was Dominated By Debunked Media Myths And Things Clinton Already Answered

    It's Time For The Press To Break Up With Gowdy's Benghazi Committee

    Three Years Of The Benghazi Hoax In Five Minutes

    A Comprehensive Guide To Myths And Facts About Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, And Those Emails

  • INFORME: Menos Invitados Latinos En Programas Dominicales, Tema Migratorio Sigue Dominando Las Discusiones

    ››› ››› JESSICA TORRES & CRISTINA LóPEZ G. English language version

    En un nuevo informe sobre el "síndrome monotemático", Media Matters encontró que los programas dominicales en español continúan dedicando considerable atención al tema migratorio, aparentemente a expensas de temas que son de igual importancia para la comunidad latina. Adicionalmente, a pesar de que los latinos constituyen más del 17 por ciento de la población estadounidense, solo cuatro por ciento de los invitados a los programas dominicales en inglés entre el 4 de enero y el 3 de mayo de 2015 eran latinos - una reducción de un 42 por ciento en los niveles de participación para finales de 2014.

  • STUDY: Hispanic Guests And The Sunday Shows: Fewer Appearances On English-Language Programs, Single-Issue Emphasis On Immigration Continues

    ››› ››› JESSICA TORRES & CRISTINA LóPEZ G. Versión en español

    A new Media Matters report on the "single issue syndrome" found that Spanish-language Sunday shows continue to devote considerable attention to immigration at the apparent expense of issues equally important to the Latino community. In addition, although Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, only 4 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows between January 4 and May 3, 2015 were Hispanic - a drop of 42 percent from their 2014 appearances over a similar time period.

  • REPORTE: El Síndrome Monotemático: Cómo Los Programas Dominicales Debilitan La Inclusión De Los Hispanos

    ››› ››› JESSICA TORRES & CRISTINA LóPEZ G. English language version

    Los programas dominicales, tanto en inglés como en español, tratan a los hispanos como un bloque monotemático, enfocado mayormente  en la inmigración, según un análisis de Media Matters que examinó las discusiones hechas y los invitados a programas desde el 31 de agosto al 28 de diciembre de 2014. A pesar de que los latinos constituyen más del 17 por ciento de la población estadounidense, el reporte encontró que solamente siete por ciento de los invitados a los programas dominicales en inglés, son hispanos, de los que un 46 por ciento habló específicamente sobre inmigración. El reporte también señaló que a pesar de que los programas dominicales en español dedican atención significativa al tema migratorio, cubren muchísimo menos otros temas de similar importancia para la comunidad latina. Confinar las perspectivas de los latinos a un único tema va en detrimento de su habilidad de involucrarse en discusiones sobre otros temas que les afectan tanto a ellos, como al electorado en general.

  • REPORT: Single Issue Syndrome: How Sunday Shows Undermine Hispanic Inclusion

    ››› ››› JESSICA TORRES & CRISTINA LóPEZ G. Versión en español

    Sunday shows in both English and Spanish treat Hispanics as a single-issue constituency focused on immigration, according to a Media Matters analysis that examined the shows' discussions and guests from August 31 to December 28, 2014. While Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, the report found that only 7 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows were Hispanic, of which 46 percent spoke specifically about immigration. The report also found that while the Spanish-language Sunday shows devoted great attention to immigration, they gave much less coverage to issues of similar importance to the Latino community. Confining Latinos' perspectives to a single issue damages their ability to engage in discussions about the other equally important issues that affect them and the general electorate.

  • MSNBC's Sunday Shows In 2014: MHP Remains Most Diverse While Up Slips

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    MHPMelissa Harris-Perry's guest pool remained extremely diverse while diversity on Up with Steve Kornacki dropped in 2014, according to a Media Matters review.

    Because the MSNBC programs feature significantly different formats than the Sunday morning political talk shows on the four major broadcast networks and CNN (they are two-hour programs that air on both weekend days and are less focused on the news of the week), we did not review the ideology of their guests nor, for the sake of consistency, include them in our initial capsule report. But as the data from their Sunday editions contained in our full report shows, both programs demonstrate that it is possible to produce a show featuring more women and people of color than seen elsewhere.

    For the second year in a row, Melissa Harris-Perry was the most diverse program of the seven we reviewed for gender and ethnicity. 55 percent of the program's Sunday guests were people of color and 45 percent were women. Only a quarter of guests were white men. All three measures were virtually unchanged from 2013, showing a clear commitment to a diverse guest pool.

    Up's guest pool remained the second most diverse of the seven programs in 2014, but the program slipped from 2013, booking a larger percentage of white men and fewer women and people of color.

    Here's the data for gender in 2014 and 2013:

    For ethnicity:

    *This chart has been updated for accuracy

    And for gender and ethnicity combined:

  • Watch MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Cover Transgender Issues The Way They Should Be

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    In a refreshing contrast to the problematic and often transphobic coverage provided by other media outlets, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry used her eponymous show to allow a transgender woman to tell her own story in a segment that highlighted the importance of letting transgender people speak for themselves.

    The February 1 edition of Melissa Harris-Perry featured an interview with transgender author and activist Janet Mock, whose new memoir Redefining Realness tells the story of Mock's experiences as a trans woman of color. Harris-Perry opened the segment by noting the challenges confronting the transgender community, including disproportionate levels of violence and harassment and employment discrimination.

    In her interview, Mock told Harris-Perry that she wrote her memoir to empower other trans women by "bringing words to explain my experiences" and showing that trans people "exist in the daytime and live a very full life":

    MOCK: I think for me [I wrote a memoir] because not enough of our stories are being told. And I think that bringing words to explain my experiences - and not only explain my personal experiences, but also, like, the political context was really important to me, but I knew that young girls needed a personal story that reflected them. And I think that a lot of women will see - a lot of marginalized women, at least - will see themselves in the experiences that I described in the story.

    The segment differed sharply from other news outlets' coverage of transgender issues. In January, an article on the sports website Grantland outing transgender golf club inventor Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt was fiercely criticized and sparked questions about the role the author's reporting may have played in prompting Vanderbilt to commit suicide. Transgender experts and advocates said that the story and its tragic ending underscored the need for news organizations to get the input of actual trans people when reporting on issues related to the community.