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MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry screams at guest in welfare debate

September 04, 2012|By Patrick Kevin Day
  • Melissa Harris-Perry, host of her self-titled show on MSNBC.
Melissa Harris-Perry, host of her self-titled show on MSNBC. (Heidi Gutman / MSNBC )

Cable news anchors yell at guests all the time. Guys like Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell lose their cool on a regular basis. But there's something about the clip of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry yelling at guest financial expert Monica Mehta on a program on Saturday that's touching a nerve with viewers.

The context was a panel discussion touched off by the book "Why Americans Hate Welfare" by Princeton professor Martin Gilens. In the book, Gilens asserts that the public distaste for welfare is a direct offshoot of the 20-year-old efforts of the media to link welfare to black people.

While Harris-Perry seemed deeply affected by the debate, it wasn't until Mehta said that class mobility is "enabled by taking risks" by wealthy entrepreneurs that the host lost it.

"What is riskier than being poor in America? Seriously?" she yelled. Mehta seemed taken aback.

Harris-Perry continued, "I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won't. I'm sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky."

The other panelists, including columnist Bob Franken, Wake Forest professor David Coates and writer/commentator Nancy Giles, continued with the discussion and Harris-Perry later apologized for "losing my temper." But the clip has taken off online, with many people tweeting about Harris-Perry's phrase, "I'm sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky."

Vanity Fair editor and author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted that Harris-Perry's yelling was, "A passion that comes from speaking the truth."

Playwright Lynn Nottage wrote that it was "My favorite tv moment in ages. Speak!"

And film critic Roger Ebert wrote that Harris-Perry "explodes with truth."

Outside of her apology, Harris-Perry hasn't said much about the clip that was being passed around on Monday. She's back at Tulane University, on her first day of class.

The key passage in the video below begins at around the eight minute mark.

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Join Patrick Kevin Day on Google+ or Twitter. Email: patrick.day@latimes.com

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