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Melissa Harris-Perry's future with MSNBC is up in the air after walkout

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry's future with the channel is up in the air after she announced she won't show up this weekend because she's upset over recent pre-emptions for political coverage.

Harris-Perry, a political science professor at Wake Forest University who joined the NBC News-operated channel  in 2012, announced the walkout in a note to staffers posted Friday on the website Medium. Although her two-hour show was scheduled to air this Saturday and Sunday, it had gone missing in recent weeks because of primary coverage that MSNBC presents with the title "The Place for Politics."

"Our show was taken -- without comment or discussion or notice -- in the midst of an election season," she wrote. "After four years of building an audience, developing a brand and developing trust with our viewers, we were effectively and utterly silenced."

Harris-Perry, who is African American, speculated in her message that her scheduled return this weekend was to provide "cover" for MSNBC. "I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy or little brown bobble head," she wrote.

But in an interview with the New York Times, which first reported the dispute, Harris-Perry said she did not believe race had anything to do with MSNBC's executive decisions regarding her show. Her message to staff said she wanted to come back to the program but is "only willing to return when that return happens under certain terms."

There have been rumblings for weeks within MSNBC that Harris-Perry was upset with her status at the channel. When the Los Angeles Times inquired about it, an NBC News spokesperson said, "The Place for Politics" title was being used across the daytime schedule as news warranted and that Harris-Perry's status as a weekend host had not changed.

But after her walkout and statement, her future with the channel is now described as "unclear," according to an executive not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

The official statement from an MSNBC spokesperson said: "In this exciting and unpredictable presidential primary season, many of our daytime programs have been temporarily upended by breaking political coverage, including [Harris-Perry]. This reaction is really surprising, confusing and disappointing."  

Harris-Perry was hired at a time when MSNBC infused its news coverage with liberal-leaning hosts and commentators throughout the day. Since Andrew Lack gained oversight of MSNBC when he became chairman of NBC News last March, the channel moved back to more straightforward news coverage during the day, leaving commentary and opinion in the prime-time hours.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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