After four years, MSNBC cancelled the talkshow of African-American writer and political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry. The cable news network had repeatedly pre-empted her weekend morning show, and in response to questions about her absence from MSNBC’s roster had scheduled Harris-Perry to appear in a weekend news-reading role. This led Harris-Perry to write a memo to her staff that explained she was turning down this assignment, saying:
The purpose of this decision seems to be to provide cover for MSNBC, not to provide voice for MHP Show. I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy or little brown bobblehead.
This memo—which pointedly noted that “social media has noted the dramatic change in editorial tone and racial composition of MSNBC’s on-air coverage”—was effectively the end of Harris-Perry’s career at MSNBC. “It’s highly unlikely she will continue” at MSNBC after the memo became public, a network executive told the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi (2/28/16). The email was “destructive to our relationship,” the executive explained.
So bringing up the status of people of color at the network is something that you can’t do at MSNBC without destroying your relationship there—despite the fact that, as CNN’s Dylan Byers (3/2/16) pointed out, MSNBC has cancelled or sidelined numerous non-white hosts in recent years, including Martin Bashir, Toure, Karen Finney, Al Sharpton, Joy Reid, Alex Wagner and José Díaz-Balart.
What you can do without permanently harming that relationship, however, is fabricate stories about historical events, as Brian Williams did—because he’s being brought back to be the channel’s regular “breaking news anchor.”
Another thing that won’t necessarily destroy your relationship to a major cable news network is being accused of domestic violence by your child. In proceedings that resulted in Fox News host Bill O’Reilly losing joint custody of the two children he had with his ex-wife (Gawker, 2/29/16), a psychologist testified that O’Reilly’s teenage daughter had described an incident in which “her dad was choking her mom or had his hands around her neck and dragged her down some stairs.” (Choking, by the way, is considered one of the most serious signals that a physically abusive relationship could turn deadly.)
The allegation was first reported by Gawker in May 2015; the news site followed up by publishing the relevant court transcripts. The story doesn’t seem to have affected Bill O’Reilly’s relationship with Fox one bit, where he continues to have a platform to fulminate (2/11/16) about how “the dissolution of the black family has led to the rise of young black male crime.”