MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry objected to use of the term “hard worker” on a recent show, telling a guest it demeans the experience of slaves. Harris-Perry was interviewing guest Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, about Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and his fitness for the role of Speaker of the House. “If there’s somebody who is a hard worker when he goes to Washington, it’s Paul Ryan,” Aguilar said. While Harris-Perry agreed Ryan could make a good House Speaker, she had a problem with Aguilar’s word choice. “[I] want us to be super careful when we use the language ‘hard worker,’” she cautioned. “Because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work looks like.”Harris-Perry continued, saying “in the context of relative privilege, I just want to point out, that when you talk about work-life balance and being a hard worker, the moms who don’t have health care who are working, we don’t call them hard workers. We call them failures, people who are sucking off the system. Really, y’all do! That’s really what you do!” Aguilar countered: “This is very unfair. I feel that we cannot generalize about the Republican Party.” Harris-Perry hosts a two-hour show on MSNBC every Saturday and Sunday. The network is undergoing a highly-publicized revamp, centered on disgraced NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams’ move from the anchor chair to a breaking news role at the cable network.
Many on social media also had a hard time with Harris-Perry’s statement.