- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry says she feared for her life during an encounter with a man rambling about Nazi Germany Monday night in Iowa.

Ms. Harris-Perry, a professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, wrote in a blog post on the school’s website Tuesday that a man approached her in a Des Moines hotel lobby and began threatening her incoherently.

She had traveled with a group of 22 Wake Forest students for the Iowa caucuses as part of the university’s “Wake the Vote” program, The Huffington Post reported.

Ms. Harris-Perry said she was watching the caucus results unfold on the hotel lobby television when she suddenly noticed the man standing right next to her, “much closer than is ordinary or comfortable.”

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,” Ms. Harris-Perry wrote.

His voice grew angry, she said.

“Now a few other people have stopped talking and started staring,” Ms. Harris-Perry wrote. “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.”

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

“Oh — there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why,” Ms. Harris-Perry said she thought. “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.”

“I freeze. He speaks. And moves closer. Is there a knife under the coat? A gun? Worse?” she continued. “And I can’t hear all the words. But I catch ‘Nazi Germany’ and I catch ‘rise to power.’ But I can’t move. I am lulled by a familiar powerlessness, muteness, that comes powerfully and unexpectedly. It grips me. Everything is falling away. Until in my peripheral vision I catch sight of a ponytail, the movement of an arm, the sound of familiar young voices and I remember … my students.”

Ms. Harris-Perry wrote that remembering her students “roused” her to action. She and a friend made “a fuss” until the man left and then they alerted hotel security.

“I don’t know what kind of harm he was prepared to do. Perhaps the only threat was a barrage of hateful words — or maybe he planned to do something worse. I have faced both. Both seemed plausible in this encounter,” she said.

“I had little time to fret because moments later, a dozen of my students came tumbling into the lobby,” Ms. Harris-Perry wrote. “I don’t know if he was there to kill me. … It is not an exaggeration to say my students may have saved my life.”

The MSNBC anchor later took to Twitter to extend her “deep gratitude for all expressions of concern,” adding that she “had common response - felt fine 1st 24 hours then shaky/ teary. Better now.”

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