MSNBC Anchor Describes Terrifying Harassment, Racial Threats

"I don’t know if he was there to kill me," Melissa Harris-Perry wrote about the encounter Monday night in Iowa.
Shahar Azran via Getty Images

MSNBC anchor and Wake Forest University professor Melissa Harris-Perry was in her Iowa hotel lobby on Monday night when she said a man came dangerously close to her, threatening her incoherently and invoking Nazi Germany.

She traveled to Iowa with a group of 22 Wake Forest students as part of the university's "Wake the Vote" program. The students were out watching the caucus results unfold.

Harris-Perry said she was glued to the lobby's TV, only noticing the man when "he was standing right next to me, much closer than is ordinary or comfortable," she wrote in a post on Wake Forest's Anna Julia Cooper Center website.

He launched into a series of bizarre questions, asking her what she taught and how she could be "credentialed to be on MSNBC," she said.

"The hairs on my arm stood on end. I ignored it. Told myself everything was ok," she wrote.

His voice grew angry, she said.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this,” he told her.

She said she froze in place at that moment, terrified that he was about to reach for a knife, a gun or "worse."

"I can’t hear all the words," she wrote. "But I catch 'Nazi Germany' and I catch 'rise to power.' But I can’t move."

She finally sprung into action, she said, and moved in order to create some distance between them.

Harris-Perry said a friend of hers, who she was sitting with at the time, took stock of what was unfolding and stood 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."

"I don’t know if he was there to kill me," she wrote.

It's thanks to her students that Harris-Perry was able to come out of the type of trance she had slipped into, she added. "As he’d invaded my space with angry, incoherent cruelty, I heard a voice in my head roar, 'Not in front of my students!'" she wrote.

Harris-Perry declined to give comment to The Huffington Post, but she did express her "deep gratitude for all expressions of concern" on Twitter Wednesday morning. She added that she felt normal for a day after the incident, then grew "shaky/teary," but is feeling better now.

Read Melissa Harris-Perry's full account here.

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