Scarborough, Brzezinski defended MSNBC from charges of "sexism" in political coverage

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough again defended Chris Matthews' controversial comments about Sen. Hillary Clinton, saying, "[W]hat Chris Matthews said is the same thing Maureen Dowd has been saying since 1998. ... Maybe he said it more bluntly, but to say, that's sexism?" Additionally, co-host Mika Brzezinski called criticism of MSNBC as sexist "unfair."

On the February 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough again defended the controversial January 9 comments of his MSNBC colleague Chris Matthews, in which Matthews said that "the reason" Sen. Hillary Clinton is "a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merit." While discussing women in politics and "sexism and stereotypes in the media," The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel said: "If I read another Maureen Dowd column, which is as catty as can be about Hillary Clinton, you want to just go, 'Stop it. Can we deal with the issues, here?' " Scarborough replied: "I just want to say, though, all of this started, though -- and I'm glad you brought up Maureen. All this started when Chris Matthews said something." Vanden Heuvel interrupted: "I know, which I think was unfortunate." Scarborough replied: "Well, you say that it's unfortunate, but what Chris Matthews said is the same thing Maureen Dowd has been saying since 1998. ... [T]here were a lot of people that said the same thing that Chris Matthews said. ... Maybe he said it more bluntly, but to say, that's sexism?"

On the January 18 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough asserted that it was "outrageous that Chris Matthews has to apologize" for his January 9 comments.

Later on the February 28 show, Brzezinski stated:

BRZEZINSKI: I think that when you bring up MSNBC or Maureen Dowd, the question you have to ask -- and I think it's a fair one no matter how bluntly it's put -- is: Are we being sexist, or are we analyzing what is happening out there? And I think that's been an unfair criticism of our network, if I may speak, because it's something that is happening out there.

When you see her speak, her big change in tone over the weekend, everyone was analyzing it, and I raise the question: Is it because she's a woman, or is it because -- for example, the research that The Nation did in making their decision: Is it Hillary Clinton and her history, or is it because she is a woman? And there are some factors pertaining to her being a woman that have potentially worked against her. What? Are we not supposed to talk about them? I mean, we are trying ... to analyze what is happening in our history and in her run for Senate, which is what Chris was talking about.

Scarborough's and Brzezinski's comments followed vanden Heuvel's claim that "[t]his network has played a role, MSNBC, in some of the sexism and stereotypes in the media." As Media Matters has noted, in addition to Matthews apologizing for his remarks about Clinton, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster was suspended after saying of Chelsea Clinton, "[D]oesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way" by Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

From the February 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: Speaking of history, because a lot of people are heartened by how voters, at least in the Democratic primary, seem to be colorblind. Barack Obama -- like Margaret Thatcher over in Great Britain -- she wasn't a female candidate, she was a candidate -- same with Barack Obama. But there are a lot of things happening regarding Hillary Clinton as a woman. Like, for instance, we have the discussions here every morning.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, we have.

SCARBOROUGH: A woman can't raise her voice on the stump.

BRZEZINSKI: Can't get angry.

SCARBOROUGH: She can't get angry. She can't -- you know, women, as you know, women -- and I saw this with my mother, who -- very strong force. All my aunts -- very strong and forceful.

VANDEN HUEVEL: Right. Right.

SCARBOROUGH: They were treated like little women, with business. "Oh, don't." But the second they got tough, they went from being weak to being --

BRZEZINSKI: The "b" word.

SCARBOROUGH: -- the "b" word.

VANDEN HUEVEL: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: So, are we seeing that on a national level with Hillary Clinton?

VANDEN HUEVEL: Well, first of all, you have to understand that we should look at this globally. There are quite a few women now --

BRZEZINSKI: Exactly.

VANDEN HUEVEL: -- in power in this world --

SCARBOROUGH: Right!

BRZEZINSKI: This is true.

VANDEN HUEVEL: Not just Margaret Thatcher --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you can go back to --

VANDEN HUEVEL: -- whose politics I didn't --

SCARBOROUGH: You can go back to --

VANDEN HUEVEL: You have the president of Chile, which is a very socially conservative country, whose defense minister -- you've had defense ministers, which is a tough position, of France as women. This country has a way to go. We've got 16 percent of women in Congress.

SCARBOROUGH: Why is that?

VANDEN HUEVEL: It's the history --

SCARBOROUGH: Why is it that Israel back, my god, 35 years ago -- Pakistan.

VANDEN HUEVEL: Each country -- listen. A country can't jump out of its skin. It has a culture and history. We have a long way to go. And I think what Hillary Clinton - she's charted a path. But what strikes me is you've got nine, I believe, nine women governors, really strong. The woman who gave the state of the union reply this year, governor of Kansas, endorsing Obama --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, we've had her on.

VANDEN HUEVEL: -- Kathleen Sebelius. [Arizona Gov. Janet] Napolitano is the other head of the Governors Association. So, there are a lot in the pipeline -- much more to do. But I think, Joe, let's be honest here. This network has played a role, MSNBC, in some of the sexism and stereotypes in the media.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, hold on a second.

VANDEN HUEVEL: But not you, but you know what? Also Maureen Dowd -- they're women. If I read another Maureen Dowd column, which is as catty as can be about Hillary Clinton, you want to just go, "Stop it. Can we deal with the issues, here?"

SCARBOUROUGH: Well, but -- OK. But hold on a second. I just want to say, though, all of this started, though -- and I'm glad you brought up Maureen. All this started when Chris Matthews said something --

VANDEN HUEVEL: I know, which I think was unfortunate.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you say that it's unfortunate, but what Chris Matthews said is the same thing Maureen Dowd has been saying since 1998 --

VANDEN HUEVEL: So, equal opportunity. Let's take 'em --

SCARBOROUGH: -- 1999. No.

BRZEZINSKI: No, it's --

SCARBOROUGH: There aren't a lot -- there were a lot of people that said the same thing that Chris Matthews said.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: Maybe he said it more bluntly, but to say, that's sexism?

BRZEZINSKI: Well --

VANDEN HUEVEL: Can I come back to The Nation for a moment? We have a really important document in the magazine this week. Gloria Steinem -- we've talked about her, Joe. Remember what she wrote that --

SCARBOROUGH: And I agree.

VANDEN HUEVEL: -- sexism is more of a barrier than racism. I think both remain barriers in this country, even with the advances.

SCARBOROUGH: And that was my question at the top.

VANDEN HUEVEL: She has a piece in our issue --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

VANDEN HUEVEL: -- with other women where those who support Obama and those who support Hillary are saying the stakes are too high for us to be divided. Let us find a way to work together because both candidates, they feel, are historic, are important.

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on one second, Mika.

BRZEZINSKI: Now, listen --

SCARBOROUGH: I just want to bring up one point that what you said.

BRZEZINSKI: OK, fine, but --

SCARBOROUGH: Really quickly. I just want to put a period on all this. That's actually with the Gloria Steinem piece, what you're talking about -- and I quoted Gloria Steinem before New Hampshire that a woman would never be able to get away with being in Congress for one year before running for president. But that's my question, and I'll read The Nation to get the answer from Gloria Steinem --

VANDEN HUEVEL: Please. Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- on whether we have further to go in dealing with gender than race. Go ahead, Mika.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, no, I mean, I think that when you bring up MSNBC or Maureen Dowd, the question you have to ask -- and I think it's a fair one no matter how bluntly it's put -- is: Are we being sexist, or are we analyzing what is happening out there? And I think that's been an unfair criticism of our network, if I may speak, because it's something that is happening out there.

When you see her speak, her big change in tone over the weekend, everyone was analyzing it, and I raise the question: Is it because she's a woman, or is it because -- for example, the research that The Nation did in making their decision: Is it Hillary Clinton and her history, or is it because she is a woman? And there are some factors pertaining to her being a woman that have potentially worked against her. What? Are we not supposed to talk about them? I mean, we are trying --

VANDEN HUEVEL: Well, I think -- no.

BRZEZINSKI: -- to analyze what is happening in our history and in her run for Senate, which is what Chris was talking about.

VANDEN HUEVEL: I mean, I think there have been comments, wherever they were, about how she looked like a wife outside of probate court during a divorce, or that she is where she is --

SCARBOROUGH: OK, I got -- let me stop you there, though.

VANDEN HUEVEL: But that the important thing to me: the issues.

SCARBOROUGH: Let me respond, though. No, no, no. George Bush Sr., though, when he ran in 1988, I heard it 100 times if I heard it once, that George Bush Sr. reminds every woman of what? Their first husband.

VANDEN HUEVEL: The other thing, though, I would say is that John Edwards stepped on it, too. Remember when she teared up before New Hampshire?

BRZEZINSKI: Yes. Yes.

VANDEN HUEVEL: And his first reply was, we need a strong commander in chief. I can tell you the women at The Nation and others jumped all over that --

SCARBOROUGH: That was ridiculous.

VANDEN HUEVEL: -- 'cause that is a stereotype that we have to break through. Now, the media, not naming names, when a male leader does it, they're emotional. They're in sync with their feelings. So that's where I think there is a double standard that we need to kind of --

SCARBOROUGH: That's a discussion --

BRZEZINSKI: Are we reporting on it, or are we a part of it, I think is an interesting subject.

SCARBOROUGH: That is.

VANDEN HUEVEL: Well, I think the media -- there is no question that, in any event, the media is part of it. And in this presidential election, the media drives the narrative. Who's the front-runner? Who's this? Who's that? So putting aside sexism and stereotypes, it's on all fronts.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
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