Professor Cornel West has expressed his displeasure with more mainstream black academics in the past, but now that Melissa Harris-Perry has her own show on MSNBC it seems that the scholar has ramped up his attacks on her in particular. In a recent interview with Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine, West said of Perry:

“I have a love for the sister, but she is a liar, and I hate lying … she’s become the momentary darling of the liberals, but I pray for her because she’s in over her head. She’s a fake and a fraud. I was so surprised how treacherous the sister was.”

Treacherous? Cornel West has always had a flair for hyperbole, but really?

His claim stems from his belief that she does not speak for the best interests of black America and instead is a liberal plant, put in place to pacify us and mainstream our thinking. He and Tavis Smiley, talk show host and his partner in the “Poverty Tour,” have spoken out many times against Barack Obama and the ways in which he enables economic oppression. Melissa Harris-Perry has been supportive of the administration, also departing from the West-Smiley agenda in that she expresses a more modern, feminist viewpoint.

The crabs in a barrel image comes to mind very quickly here, which is a shame because we really need a united front of black leadership and accusing folks of “treachery” for not snapping into line with any particular agenda cannot lead to that. There’s always room for dissent among our leaders but does it really have to come to this?

Melissa Harris-Perry’s new show premieres on February 18 on MSNBC.

What do you think?




  • Millie

    Poor Cornel West. He must have asked lobbied for his own show on MSNBC and was declined. “Liberal plant?” Oh boy. He needs to lay off the conspiracy theorist pipe. I once saw Ms. Harris-Perry on a panel on C-Span and the sister was intelligent, witty and on point. I think West and Smiley are the most hate-filled individuals in the black community. Always spewing poison to the masses. Your time is over Mr. West.

  • Sandy

    ICAM. This guy is simply a hater and I can’t wait until Ms. Perry’s show starts on MSNBC.

  • African Mami

    He is always on attack mode. Brilliant but sometimes, I wonder whether he is mentally all there.

  • Jane

    It is sad there can’t be more than one voice at a time for black folk. Cornell and Smiley can’t speak for a whole race and they have gone hollyweird anyway. smh

  • Jocy

    Every time I see Cornel West’s name in an article, I shake my head. I used to admire this man. He has a great mind and has published amazing scholarly works (a few of which I’ve read/own). In recent years, it seems like he is paranoid. Dr. West lashes out against anyone who does not blindly follow his ideologies. I would expect that a man of his intelligence understands the Black race is not a monolith. While we have many commonalities, we have varied experiences that lead to us all having different viewpoints. Instead of attacking Ms. Harris-Perry, Dr. West should determine what their common ground is and partner with her. At the very least, he should go somewhere and be quiet for a while.

  • Mimsy

    It’s sad Dr. West would voice such divisive beliefs during Black History Month. I’m happy Dr. Harris-Perry is getting a show on MSNBC. She’s smart, witty and appealing to viewers. Don’t hate; congratulate.

  • Val

    I disagree with the author of this post; we as African Americans do not always have to agree nor do we have to present a united front. If those that have voices like Dr. West and Ms. Harris- Perry disagree then why can’t they do so in public? Discourse is good. Each I’m sure speak for different segments of the African American population.

  • Joan

    He’s a silly, paranoid and insecure man.

  • jamesfrmphilly


  • LemonNLime

    I could not have said it better myself. This idea that we as black people need to fall in line with whoever’s way of thinking, rather than question and debate, is one that allows for the creation of mindless drones that do as they are told.

    Plus, I really took issue with this sentence,”…we really need a united front of black leadership and accusing folks of “treachery” for not snapping into line with any particular agenda cannot lead to that.” That makes no sense, you can’t have a united front if the people leading it disagree fundamentally…. because they aren’t united.

  • Mo

    Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have made it known loud and clear that their beef with the President is personal. And they are bitter through and through. Tavis even went so far as to whine that President Obama has been the first president not to invite them to the White House. ( why does he think he is supposed to have an invitation when it was clear he never supported him wholeheartedly in 2008) Interestingly enough, before they became the “poverty tag team”, Tavis was busy for numerous years pushing “wealth building seminars” for Wells Fargo…one of the chief financial institutions pushing subprime loans to minorities during the housing boom. Of course he quietly parted in 2009, after the economy went in dire straits and millions of Blacks lost their homes…I wonder did he return all that “wealth building” for that Wall Street, financial oligarch money. Smiley says there has been a declaration of war on the poor…funny, since he was one of the first ground soldiers helping set up for the foreclosure crisis..

    I find it interesting that Smiley and Cornel can travel the country on a “poverty tour” and criticize the President, while name-dropping civil rights leaders, but somehow have not found the time to visit Capitol Hill. I mean, if they are serious about ending poverty, wouldn’t the legislative branch be the first place they head to. Especially when they should know it has been the most obstructionist Congress in history that has held back progress for this country and continues too.

    And then I remember, when your hustle is writing books and traveling on the “Black leader” speaker circuit pretending like you care (what did the SOTBU ever accomplish?) then you have to keep the hustle going by bringing attention to yourself and acting like you are the accountability police.

    Oh and btw, Smiley and West’s new book is slated to drop in April. But you already knew that. A good hustle never dies.

    PS. West once said President Obama is scared of free Black men……but it appears MHP let it out the bag that West has a bi-racial daughter in Europe that he has tried to keep under wraps. Now, whom or what is he scared of?

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    ITA. He is brilliant, but he seems to feel slighted way too often.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    I wish we could permanently put to bed this ‘crabs in a barrel’ thing. It is racist and offensive.

  • bluedove

    *Mo clears her throat, drops the mic, and sashays off the stage* You betta break it down!

  • befree

    To be fair did people read Melissa Harris-Perry’s article in The Nation in May? She wrote some nasty and harsh things about him and I am surprised it took him this long to respond. It’s wrong to present it as his comment came out of thin air.

  • Georgia

    While I especially agree with Val up there, I heard West speak years ago in a public forum about his child in Europe, so what exactly did Harris-Perry reveal and if she did, what would that say about her (I have no opinion about her as I’ve never heard/read her)?

  • girlformerlyknownasgrace

    I met this guy in person. Brilliant man, but I do not understand why he spends so much time arguing with specific individuals instead of doing something useful with his time.

  • Whatever

    Exactly. I also agree with him that she is a liberal plant given her own show just in time for election year.

  • sli

    I agree, Val

  • sli

    Word? I was wondering why he was going off like that.

  • Tonton Michel

    Agree, apparently a united front is only possible if you stop thinking for your self judging by this article.

  • binks

    I agree it all goes back to the ideology of two black people arguing they are ruining the race or making us look bad but if it was two white people arguing they are debating. It is good to hear both sides of the agenda instead of calling the other sure a “crab or hater” because you don’t want to hear it

  • pink

    The Ms. Harris conflict aside……Mr. West is a Nutty Professor

  • pink

    The problem I have with West and Smiley is that they were not keeping up all this hoopla when any other President was in office. They wait until President Obama is in office and suddenly all the drama. I lost total respect for both of them a long time ago; not because of their disagreements with President Obama …..but because of the timing. In short I think Smiley and West have become arrogant, and anyone that has that attitude is distainful

  • pink

    Oops……disdainful not distainful

  • Bee

    Thank you, Val! And everyone else above. I agree completely. This “united front” idea coerces black people into believing we can’t/shouldn’t object to the actions/opinions of certain black figures even when the actions/opinions of those black figures might be opposed to our well-being or best interests.

  • ruggie

    Don’t these people have papers to grade?!

  • Ben

    Is it possible that Cornel West knows something about Ms. Harris-Perry that we don’t?

  • mike54

    “because we really need a united front of black leadership ”

    I agree with you except for the above statement, black people including black leaders are not monolithic. I don’t have to agree with someone just because we are of the same race. Sometimes i find myself on the polar opposite of what other black people want, does it mean i should not voice my disagreements just because i am black? One other thing of concern to me, is that any black person who might be an activist or scholar is quickly branded as a “black leader”, i want us to realize that leadership has more to do with service to others than being an eloquent academician. I think Dr West is an intelligent and book smart guy, but not really wise. Thats just my opinion.

  • Be free

    I am sorry this is untrue. West was very critical of Bush and maybe because folks agreed with him they did not pay close attention. The fact remains that West did over 60 events campaigning for Obama in several states. No one had a problem when he was going above and beyond pulling a lever to get him elected. Folks like to ignore that part of his participation. Cornel said before Obama was elected and while campaining he will be his biggest supporter, but after he is elected Obama would now be apart of the power structure and he will critique him. He did what he said he was going to do, whether folks were paying attention or not.

  • Beautiful Mic

    He’s not a hater, his ideals about the identity clashes with Harris-Perry’s.

    Harris-Perry’s father is an African-American black studies professor, her mother is white. She’s is one of the one’s professing this colorblind and post-racial society which is a damn lie.

    That’s why West refers to her as a liar. And she is a liar.

    Harris-Perry is NEWER BREED African descendant who identifies more with whites. She speaks from the experiences of a biracial person, however white liberals apply her perception of there being a ‘colorblind’ society in regards to all African descendants.

    It’s not the same from African descendants who DO NOT come from a heritage of white/racial privilege via white parentage (posterity resulting from interracial relationships of consent/love).

    Harris-Perry’s idea of a ‘Post-racial’ society extends from having this type of heritage and totally ignores the continued social conditions faced by those who don’t have it.

  • CL

    Um…have you ever read her work or seen this woman speak. I feel like you haven’t based on her critique. Her first book in the academy is about differing Black ideologies in the Black community and the importance of black discourse about politics in everyday conversations. Her second book is about the emotional experience of Black women throughout history and the continued effects that feelings of shame have on them mentally and physically. She has written numerous articles in The Nation addressing issues of race and politics. Her commentary on msnbc on Rachel Maddow and other programs specifically highlights issues of racial disparity in contemporary American society. She has also given numerous talks about issues of race particular issues faced by Black women. I know this because I am in her discipline so I am very familiar with her work and you commentary is just categorically wrong if you had been exposed to any of it.

  • mike54

    Can you cite just one instance that she said we are living in a “post racial” society. I have actually heard her one time on msnbc contradicting exactly what you are attributing her to have said.

  • Trey

    “united front of black leadership” …basically they should all agree on solutions to black issues?? I think conversations like this are healthy, and black people should not be afraid to engage in dialogue like this…and if you have to call somebody out along the way… that’s just what you’ll have to do.

  • BigGirl

    Cornell West and Tavis Smiley sadden me. That they believe everyone should agree with them, or otherwise are in some way “lying”, a “plant” and “treacherous” is sad at best and sick at worst. Their words are dangerous in a time when rather than being post-racial it has become almost fashionable to make racist, sexist and otherwise insulting comments and apologize after the fact. West needs to come clean that he wouldn’t be so upset with Obama if he felt he had been treated fairly and invited to the inauguration. He is behaving like a mean kid in the sandbox, but I believe West is smarter and better than his behavior. I just hope he wakes and realizes what he’s doing, which does not mean he has to agree with or support Obama, before too much more damage is done.

  • Thabo Borole

    Cornel West in my opinion has degraded himself, how do you denbate by calling people namesthis is a low form of discourse. What he as an erudite person should be doing is debating issues or points of disafgreement with the sister. to say sghe is a liar, fraud and a liberal pllantis just crass and idiotic. What is the issue here?tell us do not call her names say i do not disapprove of you here are the facts not insuslts

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    You must be thinking about someone else…..

  • Thrasher

    It is refreshing observing the exchange between Black intellectuals it is long over due. Every aspect of the Black experience deserves to be evaluated and examined. Keep it civil but keep it coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • StrangerDanger

    First, that photo is pure comedy!

    Here’s some context as to what Mr. West may have been upset about.

    Disagreement is a natural part of discourse, although I feel like Mr. West’s reaction was a bit over the top and his wording choice was poor.

    Perhaps this is just his style of speaking, but it’s ironic that he is engaging in disingenuous double talk while calling someone else a liar. “love, sister” ≠ “treacherous, liar.” The icing on the cake was “I’ll pray for her”. I can just see an old church lady huffing and puffing saying that about someone she can’t stand.

    Say you respectfully disagree with her, say her claims are baseless, say she’s a plant if that’s what you really feel, but all this “love, sister,” nonsense just makes you sound like another phony politician

  • AshantiGirl

    I agree with @Thrasher as long as it is a dialogue supported by facts there is nothing wrong with expressing negative opinions, if anything it is healthy. We need to move away from the hand holding ‘we shall overcome” attitude, relationships and race politics are a lot more complex than that.

    On another note being a public persona comes with a responsibility, if he is making these remarks because of private interactions they have had they don’t belong in this arena. I want to see debate and disagreement not back biting and attacking..

  • Jasmine

    Everything you just said was false:

    1) Does someone being bi-racial make them “identify” with being white?
    2) If you listen to her on the Colbert Report she states that she identifies as being an African- American woman
    3) I saw her speak at my university- Washington University in St. Louis, for MLK Day and she stated that she did not believe we were in a post- racial society and that the idea that we were living in one was a fallacy

    so…nice try?

  • BlacknAmazed

    Yea…Well. People need to practice what they preach….I’ve been on other black blogs and you can tell who is friends with who….it’s funny to me. To see the bias attitudes towards the poor…..Just so you can say there is some uppity mixed president in the white house(call em how I see em) So, they spend a great deal of time attacking Dr. West and Tavis Smiley in the media for speaking up. I appreciate West and Smiley for trying to give a voice to people who don’t have one …in this country. Obama is no saint….so…anywho.

    And everybody knows if you cut the right amount check….Al Sharpton will say anything. PERIOD
    Cause.. Jesus just loved him some cheddar and camera time…LOL

  • BlacknAmazed

    It’s weird Beautiful Mic… If you look at many of the people around Obama and his Cabin….that’s all of their stories. Everrrrry one of them is either married to a white person and/ or they are mixed. check it out for yourself….not making it up….it’s weird to me that they all have to have the same mind set…to work for him I guess. As if to these people they are doing black people some type of favor. Yet, the “black” community is doing the absolute worse in this country. and still sliding downards. under this man. and simply because his skin is brown. We are not suppose to not say anything and just let it happen. I don’t think so. People need to say what they need to say. Just like they did against Bush….goes it’s no difference.

    I don’t know to much about her…and not really interested.

    Romney 2012!

  • BlacknAmazed

    Big Girl :) really?

    You must be from The Root…..please don’t start with that old silly he didn’t get tickets nonsense….this is exactly what I’m talking about. People can attack Dr West and he’s not suppose to clap back…I don’t think so. You get what you give in 2012!

    People should be able to disagree…and if we are claiming that we are trying to promote unbias and responsible media…then everyone should be able to voice their opinions. That’s what I think. I don’t have to agree with her or him. But they both should be allowed to speak their minds. Unless somebody is getting paid off by the Obama camp.

  • BlacknAmazed

    Oops! Pink…. Your whole statement is wrong. They did voice their opinions about Bush and Clinton…So whatever! keep it moving with your lies.

  • eat my shorts

    yes, cornel went over the top but context is everything. Melissa launched a really personal attack on him in the Nation a while back. 2 wrongs don’t make a right and both are as bad as each other at this point.

  • moplus

    Dr. West is correct and to further add to his comment, What is two or three hand picked blacks, (Shopton & Perry) on msnbc as opposed to the past five years of targeted crimes by his masters./suffe ch

  • moplus

    Dr. West is correct and to further add to his comment, What is two or three hand picked blacks, (Shopton & Perry) on msnbc as opposed to the past five years of targeted crimes by his masters.

  • Elle

    I think one of the biggest issues and issues with many of Black politicians, news anchors and activists is that they don’t realize that all of those occupations are independent of each other. Barack Obama is not an activist for the betterment of African-Americans sure he is a Black president and in a sense he does represent us but essentially his job is the commander and chief of this entire country not just the people in his race. If he took such an approach he would be deemed a racist by the GOP. Same thing with Melissa, she’s a political commentator not an activist for African-American sand until we change our mind frame and realize that this fight is not JUST ours, there will never be someone of Dr. King stature that has a show on MSNBC.

    I do think we need a strong leader but some people simply are not cut out for that thing and why should we want to be led by someone who is not good at doing such? If Cornel West wants to make a difference he needs to stop talking down about our people and continue to push forward and see progress his own individual mission. Not everybody has the same values, not everybody is going to stand behind you. Many Black people have grown complacent with our current state which is an issue but calling people out is not going to help that. Push forward and hope and pray that eventually the rest will follow.

  • endora

    Melissa Harris-Perry is a rock stat! The first black woman to have a show that is politic driven! Thank God! I have lost all respect for Cornell West and Tavis Smily! What is their point? As a diverse group, we do not need to be bullied into taking up someone’s cause/blief when it is not ours. We are allowed to be whole humans. West and his partner in crime Smily attempt to dehumanize/demonize and thus discredit because someone has a different mind set then their own or becuase someone resist their bullying. It’s shameful! Plus Melissa is a woman so West is even more enbolden to attack her. The article Boyce Watkins was skewed towards West. They are all on the same side which is against Melissa. They are jealous! Bottom Line-CRABS in a DEEP BARRELL!

  • Mr Jay

    That is a suitable picture because West is fast becoming a caricature. I have the utmost respect for Melissa she is always reasoned and insightful and I see her point even when I don’t necessarily agree with her.

  • pink

    Black: If Tavis and Cornell did speak out against Clinton and Bush…..we didn’t hear about it like we do about President Obama. Most of the talk about Bush was that he couldn’t put a sentence together, and Clinton and Monica was the hot topic. In all fairness with the 24/7 constant news reporting mixed with online blogs/websites news is much more accessible. And I most certainly don’t recall Tavis or Cornell going on every talk show and bashing Bush or Clinton about helping black folks. Granted they may have had private meetings with them. Bottomline is that the President is the President of all the people…not just black people. And anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that (because he’s bi-racial) if he was constantly talking about a black agenda the majority of people in the country (which happen to be white) wouldn’t take him seriously. In fact a lot of folks don’t show him respect now… I can imagine how it would be if he had a BIG Bold black agenda. Get a gripe (get realistic)!! And I still say Smiley and West are projecting sourgrapes.

  • BellaG

    Cornel West has mental issues..Case closed.

  • gryph

    i think that mhp might be a ‘liberal plant’: she’s clearly in obama’s pocket. that doesn’t mean that west isn’t a self serving caricature of himself using ‘the people’ as a guise for his own ego and entitlement.

    if west is angry about what she wrote in the nation, he should really just be mad at himself. there was nothing at all off-base or below the belt in what mhp wrote. she won that exchange, west came back with stupid attacks and now she’s just moving on to better things.

    like west, early in his career, mhp offers some good insights. and, like west early in his career, i’ll be skeptical of her race performances and alliances.

  • http://MSN Sandra Sharp

    Jealousy, envy, foolishness! These two guys have been in the public eye with their dramatics for years and simply cannot accept Melissa’s success. One day black people will learn to stand together even when there is disagreemenet. That’s one of our biggest problems. Instead of embracing success, they take the “good ole white boys” route that blacks are incompetent, over their head, or lucky. That’s what they say about our President. Please find a barbershop and a dentist and stop your nonsense. Ten years ago they complained that there are no opportunities in media for blacks, now that we see some advancement, they appear to say, OK, you’re right Mr. Charlie, we’re not competent enough to be seen and heard in the National media. I’m not impressed with his big words and theatrics! You’re an embarrassment!

  • fran


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