MSNBC's newest host, leftist professor Melissa Harris-Perry debuts Saturday morning, creating an actual four-hour block for the radicals at The Nation magazine. Harris-Perry is on the cover of this week's Metro Weekly, a gay D.C. news magazine. At the end of the interview with Chris Geidner, there's this whopper: her bible is written by Al Sharpton and Rachel Maddow.
"Undoubtedly, a little bit of both. Look, I love Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and The Rachel Maddow Show. And, I can't think of two shows on the same network that are more different in tone and content." Then she said: "I see them as my Old Testament and New Testament. I really need them both. I need to smite my enemies, and I need to understand them. And then I need to smite them, and then understand them. I probably will do a little bit of both on my show." But wait, there's more.
Naturally, Harris-Perry owes her new show to Maddow, and so she must be honored:
An awful lot of how this happened is undoubtedly because of Rachel [Maddow]. And I don't even necessarily mean for me personally, although, that's part of it. Her willingness, first, to make me a regular guest on her show, which led to the network making me a contributor for the network, and then for her and her staff to ask me to sit in as a guest host, both of those things are a straight-line trajectory to how this happened. But, I think, more importantly, is the fact that Rachel exists that makes this possible. That she demonstrated so clearly that there is a ratings bonanza [??] to be had for smart, a young woman who is not primarily there because she's adorable but is rather there because she is brilliant and has something to say about the news. Every time I watch Rachel on air, I think, ''Do people really know what's happening here? This is kinda crazy.''
She just made a lot of space. She's not the very first person to make that space, but she made it at MSNBC in a way that makes [my] particular hire possible. I think of Gwen Ifill as someone who for me is a real role model in this part of my life. Again, the point of Gwen Ifill isn't her adorableness, however adorable she might be. The point of Gwen Ifill is her intellect, her capacity, her ability to explain something to you that you didn't know before. But she was doing that on the public airwaves. It was very different that Rachel brought that to mainstream media.
Speaking of Gwen Ifill, the host of Washington Week on PBS, Harris-Perry revealed she was a very regular commentator on PBS in Chicago to discuss Obama's Senate race in 2004:
Had I not, in 1999, decided to take a job at the University of Chicago, it's not clear to me that I would be here right now. But, I did, so that means that when this guy named Barack Obama ran against this guy named Alan Keyes in the 2004 Senate race, I was on campus. I was Barack Obama's constituent, and I had just written a book about black politics. And I was a local expert. So I ended up doing a thousand hours of PBS talking about the 2004 Senate race because I happened to be there. If I'd been a professor at the University of Maryland – another wonderful, fantastic place – that wouldn't have happened.
Had I not made the decision to come to Princeton – as much as I am hating that decision today – in '06, who knows what would have happened, because it was the fact that I was driving distance to New York that meant that when Rachel got her show in '08 that I could just hop in a car or on the subway and join her on set.
For laughs, there's always MSNBC people lamenting how other networks are leading with the ugly rhetoric:
I know the rhetoric is really bad right now, and I know it feels ugly. In fact, we spend a lot of time on MSNBC pointing out the ugly rhetoric, and I think there's real importance in expressing it and putting in the light, in part so we can fight back against it, but I am such an optimist, I really am. It's sort of pitiful actually. I keep thinking that this is just the death rattle of this version of American racism. Not that we are on the precipice of a post-racial age, and any day now we're going to sing ''Kumbaya'' together in Benetton commercials. Not that. But that this particular version of assuming that a black body is inherently unequal and invaluable. It just seems so fringe to me as an idea right now. It seems to govern less and less of what human interactions are like.
And so, when I look at President Obama, I do not see perfection – not by my definition of liberal, lefty perfection, not at all. But, I do see his presidency, the first family, the visual images and the realities of him as both sometimes a real champion of progressive causes, sometimes a real champion for more authoritarian causes – but all of that challenges what it is we think ''the black guy in the room'' is, and in that way it's all good.
The Metro Weekly article began with her demanding Obama "evolve" already on "gay marriage" and stop pussy-footing:
Raising President Obama's ''evolving'' view on marriage equality with Melissa Harris-Perry makes her laugh.
''Yeah, it's evolving,'' she says with an incredulous chuckle. ''I know. That's just so irritating.'
Looking at the possible Republican opposition this fall, she adds: ''Am I gonna vote for him? Yeah, I'm gonna vote for the president. But am I irritated by him talking about an 'evolving' position on marriage when he's the child of an interracial couple? That's nuts.''
Harris-Perry, also the child of an interracial couple, is having none of it. ''You know, like, stop. Just be evolved. Just stop. That's no good.''