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Opinion Congressman whacks MSNBC over diversity

On the floor of the House, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) hammered NBC News over recent events. Here are some quotes from the riff, plus annotations from the Erik Wemple Blog.

Gutierrez: “What’s going on at NBC? Last week, Wake Forest University professor and MSNBC television host Melissa Harris-Perry was abruptly pulled from the airwaves without even a chance to say goodbye. NBC said they wanted a show that was more about politics.”

Erik Wemple Blog: Actually, Harris-Perry refused to host her show after alleging that the show had already been taken from her, through preemptions and the stripping of the show’s branding. Sure: NBC is moving toward more politics coverage, though it insists that it wasn’t taking away Harris-Perry’s show. She dissents.

Gutierrez: “I have to say that when I watched the show, Melissa Harris-Perry was talking about politics in a unique way, like few others on the airwaves. She brought diverse voices to the table to talk directly and unapologetically about the politics of race in America.”

Erik Wemple Blog: Well stated, congressman.

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Gutierrez: “Anchorman José Díaz-Balart is another voice that seems to be disappearing from English language airwaves….José had a two-hour show on MSNBC and did a very good job, but José is a lot harder to find these days. They cut him back and now it seems that they’re cutting him out.”

Erik Wemple Blog: MSNBC is indeed preempting Díaz-Balart quite a bit these days.

Gutierrez: “Let’s not forget the great NBC racism flip-flop last year, when NBC severed its ties to Donald Trump because of his racist remarks about Latinos, only to have him host their flagship comedy show ‘Saturday Night Live’ a few months later. That was right about the same time last fall when NBC’s executives met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and NBC News President Deborah Turness told us, ‘We love the Hispanic community’ as she updated us on strides they were making on diversity in hiring. She made it very clear that she had our community’s interests at heart when she said, ‘Yo hablo espanol’ in her beautiful British accent. Most of the news coverage of this meeting was about when she used the term ‘illegals’ to describe immigrants, which, in case you needed a reminder, is not a good idea when you’re meeting with members of the Hispanic congressional caucus.”

Erik Wemple Blog: Brutal.

Gutierrez: “Well, 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….Journalists of color bring a different texture, a different perspective on what issues matter and what should be discussed and debated on television.”

Erik Wemple Blog: That a federal lawmaker dedicated five minutes of time to a diatribe against NBC/MSNBC over racial diversity marks quite a comedown for a media property that not too long ago provided an industry model on this front. Have a look at the daily MSNBC lineup as of late 2014 (from 9 a.m. through 11 p.m. weekdays):

And the current look (the 6 p.m. slot has been filled with Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect,” hosted by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann):