House Dem blasts NBC over Melissa Harris-Perry departure

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) took to the House floor on Wednesday to suggest NBC has a racial diversity problem in the wake of host Melissa Harris-Perry’s departure from MSNBC. 

Gutiérrez said Harris-Perry’s exit after the network pre-empted her show for two consecutive weekends reflected a larger issue at hand. He linked the controversy to the lack of racial minorities among Oscar acting nominees for the second year in a row.

“When NBC has a bad year when it comes to race, or when the Oscars have a couple of bad years when it comes to people of color, these are moments to talk about,” Gutiérrez said while standing next to a poster that read “#NBCsoWhite,” a play on this year’s “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag.

{mosads}In addition to Harris-Perry, José Díaz-Balart’s weekday morning show on MSNBC has been preempted for 2016 presidential campaign coverage, and Alex Wagner will not be getting a planned show.

“I’m sad to see her go,” Gutiérrez said, referring to Harris-Perry. “But I’m even sadder because I don’t think these are isolated cases.”

Harris-Perry wrote in an email to colleagues last week that her show was being “silenced.”

“I will not be used as a tool for their purposes,” she wrote, referring to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack and MSNBC President Phil Griffin. “I am not a token, mammy or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack, Griffin or MSNBC.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Harris-Perry downplayed the notion of a racial component in her show’s preemption. 

“I don’t know if there is a personal racial component,” Harris-Perry said. “I don’t think anyone is doing something mean to me because I’m a black person.”

Gutiérrez argued that NBC leadership’s pledges to promote diversity haven’t matched its actions. He mockingly recalled a meeting last year between NBC News executives and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, during which he said NBC News President Deborah Turness referred to illegal immigrants as “illegals” and told the lawmakers “Yo hablo Español.”

“Forgive me for not noticing just how much progress NBC was making on diversity when some of the most visible people of color at NBC like Alex Wagner, Melissa Harris-Perry and José Díaz-Balart are disappearing,” he said.

In addition, Gutiérrez noted NBC’s initial decision last year to cut business ties with Donald Trump after the GOP front-runner made inflammatory comments about Mexicans, only to invite him to host “Saturday Night Live” months later.

He argued that attitudes among television executives failed to sufficiently recognize the value of diversity among journalists. 

“But let’s be clear: This is not about quotas, window dressing or checking the diversity box. Journalists of color bring a different texture, a different perspective on what issues matter and what should be discussed and debated on television.”

Tags Donald Trump

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