Popular MSNBC show host Melissa Harris Perry recently faced a threatening encounter with an individual in Iowa this week. Harris-Perry took a group of her students from Wake Forest University to observe the Democratic caucuses; the trip was a part of the Wake the Vote program. The program is only for a selected group of students, and is designed in efforts to offer “an intensive civic learning and democratic engagement experience.”
Harris Perry teaches politics and international affairs. She wrote a blog post on the Wake Forest site describing the altercation, which involved the man briefly mumbling something about Nazi Germany and took place in a hotel lobby of Downtown, Des Moines. She says the man started questioning how she ended up on TV, while getting very close to her. Here’s part of what happened according to her:
“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC.”
I am not sure if it is how he spat the word credentialed, or if it is how he took another half step toward me, or if it is how he didn’t respond to my question, but the hairs on my arm stood on end. I ignored it. Told myself everything was ok.
“Well. It is not exactly a credential…” I began.
“But why you? Why would they pick you?”
Now I know something is wrong. Now his voice is angry. Now a few other people have stopped talking and started staring. Now he is so close I can feel his breath. Before I can answer his unanswerable question of why they picked me, he begins to tell me why he has picked me.
Harris Perry, who is a survival of rape and has previously written about her experience, also said she felt like she was getting flash backs of that experience while this recent encounter was happening.
“I just want you to know why I am doing this.”
Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why.
I freeze. Not even me – the girl in me. The one who was held down by an adult neighbor and as he raped her. The one who listened as he explained why he was doing this. She freezes.
At that point, she writes the man began getting closer to her muttering a while bunch of things she couldn’t understand. She only heard “Nazi Gernany” and “rise to power.”
She then noticed her students were nearby, and were not going to let her succumb to this attacker without a fight.
“Instead of sitting still as he tells me what he is going to do and why, I jump up. I move. I put space – a table – between him and me. My friend jumps too. It is breathtaking how fearlessly – almost recklessly – she throws herself between he and I,” she writes. “Together we raise our voices and make a fuss. He turns. He runs out. He jumps in a car. He drives off. We try to explain to hotel security what has happened and how I receive hate mail and even death threats, how I have had people show up at my workplace, how this might be serious. They listen politely, but this is the Iowa caucus, and I am not a candidate, so they go back to their evening. And we go back to ours.”
Amid all the chaos, Harris Perry worried that her students were not going to complete the whole Wake the Vote program. “It was the fear of a ruined lesson plan that propelled me out of my seat and away from the potential attacker,” she concluded.
Thankfully, Melissa was not hurt. She later took to Twitter to thank the masses for their concern and to reiterate that she is ok.
I don’t know if he was there to kill me. They were there to save me. https://t.co/Fzs8rgg0ns
Deep gratitude for all expressions of concern. Had common response-felt fine 1st 24 hours then shaky/ teary. Better now.
— Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) February 3, 2016