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NBC Parts Ways With MSNBC Anchor Melissa Harris-Perry

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now some media news. NBC cut ties with Melissa Harris-Perry, who had been hosting a weekend show on the cable network MSNBC. NPR's David Folkenflik reports Harris-Perry questioned the network's commitment to progressive voices and people of color.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Melissa Harris-Perry cuts an unusual figure for a cable TV news star. She's an African-American professor at Wake Forest University. She sits on the left side of the political spectrum. Here she was in a segment about a tussle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over who's a better progressive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: During the progressive era between the 1890s and the 1920s, people who considered themselves progressive were part of a movement that sought to fix some of the economic and social problems that...

FOLKENFLIK: That from one of Harris-Perry's final appearances. MSNBC has won strong ratings by focusing on the primaries. It's run extended interviews with Donald Trump, for example. Harris-Perry told associates the network had preempted her show repeatedly to feast on the political spectacle. This past weakened, she refused to host her show in protest. Harris-Perry wrote to friends that she'd been asked to refashion her program on newsier subjects. A senior NBC official said Harris-Perry had been told repeatedly that preemptions were temporary and that her show was not in peril. But he said the disruptive and strongly-worded dissent against the network forced NBC's hand. Back when she took the job, Harris-Perry told me she hoped to be the first of many who looked like her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

HARRIS-PERRY: Ten years from now, being able to look back and say, you know, I did a good job will be if there are a lot more little black girls anchoring shows. Like - and all kinds of shows, right? Not just liberal talk shows or whatever we are point-of-view shows but all of it.

FOLKENFLIK: Last year, NBC's Lester Holt was named the chief anchor for NBC News, the first African-American to hold such a role at a broadcast network. Latino groups have questioned similar preemptions of Jose Diaz-Balart's MSNBC show. NBC says it remains committed to him, giving him other responsibilities and working around his schedule in Miami for NBC's Spanish-language network Telemundo. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.