In a blogpost, MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris Perry recounted a frightening encounter in Iowa on Monday night, with a stranger who threatened her and appeared to invoke Nazi Germany. She had traveled to the Iowa caucuses with a group of students from her politics class at Wake Forest University, as part of the university’s “Wake The Vote” program. While she and some of her students were watching television in a Des Moines hotel lobby, the stranger approached her, coming “much closer than is ordinary or comfortable,” and asking a series of incoherent questions, demanding how she “got to be credentialed to be on MSNBC.” She describes trying to ignore the man, until the moment he says: “I just want you to know why I am doing this.”
Harris-Perry, who has spoken publicly about being a rape survivor, describes how this experience flashes before her eyes: “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.” She fears he might have a gun, a knife or “worse” and hears him mutter something about Nazi Germany and “rise to power”. At this point, a friend who is sitting with her “fearlessly”: throws herself between her and the man: “Together we raise our voices and make a fuss. He turns. He runs out. He jumps in a car. He drives off.”
Harris-Perry says she does not know whether the man was there to hurt her, or whether the only threat was a “barrage of hateful words”, but says it’s thanks to the thought of her students that she was able to slip out of her momentary trance, writing: “It is not an exaggeration to say my students may have saved my life,” even though many of them probably didn’t even know it happened.
On Wednesday, the MSNBC anchor and professor took to Twitter to thank people for their concern, reiterating that she was doing fine now: “Deep gratitude for all expressions of concern. Had common response-felt fine 1st 24 hours then shaky/ teary. Better now.”
I don't know if he was there to kill me. They were there to save me. https://t.co/Fzs8rgg0ns
— Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) February 2, 2016
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