After saying she "hold[s] women accountable" when their husbands "stray[]," Schlessinger returned twice to Today in same morning

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY & ANNE SMITH

Discussing marital infidelity on Today, Laura Schlessinger said, "I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need." Despite the fact that panelists later referred to Schlessinger's comments as "absurd" and "nonsense" and that Meredith Vieira said of Schlessinger's first appearance, "The women were hysterically upset with her," Today had Schlessinger return to the program twice more the same morning.

Discussing marital infidelity on the March 11 edition of NBC's Today, conservative radio host Laura Schlessinger said, "[W]hen the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings, sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he's very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs. And these days, women don't spend a lot of time thinking about how they can give their men what they need." Co-host Meredith Vieira then asked her, "But, you say -- are you saying the women should feel guilty? Like they somehow drove the man to -- to cheat?" Schlessinger replied, "You know what? The cheating was his decision to repair what's damaged and to feed himself where he's starving." She added, "But yes, I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need." Despite the fact that panelists later referred to Schlessinger's comments as "absurd" and "nonsense" and that Vieira said of Schlessinger's first appearance, "The women were hysterically upset with her," Today had Schlessinger return to the program twice more the same morning.

Schlessinger made her first appearance during the second hour of the show in a panel discussion with Vieira, psychologist Jeff Gardier, and anthropologist Helen Fisher. During the same segment, Fisher said of Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY): "Well, first of all, all you have to do is look at Eliot Spitzer and he's got very high cheekbones and a very heavy brow ridge, and those are signs of extremely high testosterone. So this is a very high-testosterone man. We know he's very aggressive, and he's also very sexual."

Later in the second hour, co-host Matt Lauer referred to "a very controversial lady, radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She kind of shook it up a little in your last segment." Vieira responded: "Oh, my gosh. The women were hysterically upset with her." Indeed, less than a half-hour after her panel appearance, Schlessinger returned to talk about her new book with Vieira.

During the third hour, Today featured a second panel about infidelity with news anchor Ann Curry, Fisher, Gardier, and Dina Matos McGreevey, ex-wife of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D). Curry said that "there was an assertion made by Dr. Laura ... talking about what may cause some of this, and she generated a lot of controversy on our emails, basically, because she said that perhaps women are to blame when their husband cheat. Now, OK, you're shaking your heads. You're all shaking your heads." Fisher replied, "This is nonsense," and added, "First of all, there's no data to prove it. I mean, let's go for the facts. And second of all, it doesn't -- there's many reasons that somebody is adulterous." Matos McGreevey later said of Schlessinger's earlier remarks: "[Y]ou know, for Dr. Laura to say, 'Well, you know, his wife is responsible for this,' this is absurd."

Schlessinger returned later during the third hour and addressed the panelists' comments as well as email comments from viewers. Responding to the second panel's comments about her own, Schlessinger said, "But I was a little disappointed that you guys had a panel secondary after I was in the green room and pretty much misrepresented and attacked me on what I said when I wasn't there to answer to myself. I didn't think that was journalistically ethical and fair." Schlessinger added, "I certainly didn't blame Mrs. Spitzer and Mrs. McGreevey for their husbands' behavior. I do not know anything about their personal lives." Schlessinger went on to say:

SCHLESSINGER: I was asked to talk about why a lot of men stray. And the fact of the matter is, that men will often sadly breach their vows of holding only on to their wives, because their wives are not holding on to them at all. And I wrote the book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands -- and I was even here talking about that -- and I made it clear that so many times -- excuse me -- women would call and complain that their men were maybe straying, looking at somebody else, talking, or even, you know, a full-blown affair. And I would say, "Let me just ask you one question. What he's doing is wrong. That's a fact. Let me ask you one question: Are you being the kind of wife you would want to come home to?" And that started a whole new way of looking at these situations where we have this happening. And we have vows to love, honor and cherish, and when we don't, there often are catastrophic results.

Later in her third appearance, Schlessinger said, "My job is to help families repair and stay together. And if people don't take responsibility for what they've done -- if he doesn't take responsibility for breaching his vows, that's not helpful. If she doesn't take responsibility for breaching her vows, that's also not helpful. ... They're both at fault."

The blog Think Progress originally noted Schlessinger's March 11 comments.

From the March 11 edition of NBC's Today:

VIEIRA: And do you think that women play any role in this, Dr. Laura?

SCHLESSIGNER: Well, it's interesting. What you said about what men need --

VIEIRA: I mean the wife obviously.

SCHLESSINGER: -- is very true. Men do need validation. I mean, when they come into the world, they're born of a woman and getting the validation from Mommy is the beginning of needing it from a woman. And when the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings, sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he's very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs. And these days, women don't spend a lot of time thinking about how they can give their men what they need --

VIEIRA: But, you say -- are you saying the women should feel guilty? Like they somehow drove the man to -- to cheat?

SCHLESSINGER: You know what? The cheating was his decision to repair what's damaged and to feed himself where he's starving. But yes, I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need.

FISHER: First of all --

GARDIER: But of course, two wrongs don't make a right --

FISHER: Well, first of all, all you have to do is look at Eliot Spitzer and he's got very high cheekbones and a very heavy brow ridge, and those are signs of extremely high testosterone. So this is a very high-testosterone man. We know he's very aggressive, and he's also very sexual. And in fact, these days we're working harder on our relationships than we ever --

VIEIRA: But --

GARDIER: And he may not look at the consequences. When you -- when you're talking about testosterone, quite often you're going -- just it's hormone-fueled so you're not looking at the consequences. And studies have shown that men look at the consequences much less than women do.

[...]

LAUER: Coming up, we're gonna talk more --

CURRY: Not that I mind.

LAUER: -- to a very controversial lady, radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She kind of shook it up a little in your last segment.

VIEIRA: Oh, my gosh. The women were hysterically upset with her.

LAUER: I think just for fun, I may go read the emails in a second.

ROKER: Yeah.

LAUER: Anyway, she's got a new book out called Stop Whining, Start Living.

VIEIRA: Yes.

LAUER: And she's here to help people embrace the positive, not the negative in their lives. We'll talk more to her.

VIEIRA: Number one word: acceptance. She'll explain what she means by that.

[...]

VIEIRA: If you want your advice sugarcoated, don't expect to get it from Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She has been dishing out guidance on the radio for more than 30 years, some of it pretty controversial. She's also the author of nine New York Times best-sellers, and has a new book out today called Stop Whining, Start Living. Dr. Laura, good morning again.

SCHLESSINGER: Good morning.

VIEIRA: Stop whining? Whining is part of living, isn't it?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, it is, and I start out the book by demanding that we have time to whine when it's necessary. It helps us vent. It helps us take it outside of ourselves. Look at it and make decisions as to what to do. For example, I think you're a wonderful example of this. I know something about your situation with your husband --

VIEIRA: Yes.

SCHLESSINGER: -- and if there was ever anything to whine about, the two of you have that in terms of his health issues. But instead, I understand that your perspective is, that it doesn't matter what we're both struggling with, we're both still taking care of each other. So perfection in your life is not about not having an illness or having all the money you want or -- perfection in life is your attitude.

VIEIRA: So this book is really about when whining gets out of control.

[...]

CURRY: And this issue, you know, earlier in this program, there was some -- there was an assertion made by Dr. Laura, who is among some of you in this group, talking about what may cause some of this, and she generated a lot of controversy on our emails, basically, because she said that perhaps women are to blame when their husband cheat. Now, OK, you're shaking your heads. You're all shaking your heads.

FISHER: This is nonsense.

CURRY: Nonsense?

FISHER: First of all, there's no data to prove it. I mean, let's go for the facts. And second of all, it doesn't -- there's many reasons that somebody is adulterous.

GARDIER: And I think -- I think if nothing else, perhaps partners need to take some responsibility for what has happened. It's not about the blame game. It's about looking at what is going on in this marriage that may have been ripe for this to happen. But as I said earlier, the person who cheats is doing it in a very selfish manner. It's a very selfish act, because you don't repair the problems in a relationship or repair your own psychological issues by going out and getting involved in an extramarital affair.

[...]

CURRY: Can I say something, though? I think everyone feels compelled sometimes when they meet someone, even if they're married or they're not --

[crosstalk]

GARDIER: It feeds the ego.

CURRY: So what is the thing that makes people stop? What makes some people stop?

FISHER: It's self-control, impulse control.

AL ROKER (weatherman): Dina -- go ahead, Dina.

GARDIER: Impulse control and maturity.

FISHER: Yeah.

MATOS McGREEVEY: It's morality and maturity, but, you know, for Dr. Laura to say, "Well, you know, his wife is responsible for this," this is absurd. It's just like blaming a rape victim, and we see that happen all too often. They rape -- they blame a rape victim for, you know, being victimized. It's just insanity. This woman is suffering. She's enduring some excruciating pain. And to have to listen to the criticism, and I heard the criticism myself. People still to this day, "Why did you stand by him?" And I'm tired of hearing, "Oh, there's a little woman who's standing by her man." It's not about that. We all make it. We all do it for very personal decisions. I did it for my daughter, for my family. And I thought I was doing the right thing at the time because, you know, I loved this man. I learned three days before his announcement that, you know, he had been cheating and he was having his homosexual relationship. It was a shock to me and you don't -- it's not like flipping a switch and your feelings for the person evaporate overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICES: Sure. Right. Absolutely.

[...]

CURRY: But first, the aforementioned Dr. Laura Schlessinger --

HODA KOTB (co-host): Aforementioned.

CURRY: -- earlier on the program, the radio talk-show host who doles out relationship advice, talked about her new book. It's called Stop Whining, Start Living.

KOTB: Stop Whining --

CURRY: She's back to answer your email questions. So we've got a lot of email questions about stopping whining, but we need to start because of the feedback that we've been getting about some of the things that were said earlier about the governor.

SCHLESSINGER: I don't want to seem like I'm whining --

KOTB: You're not whining!

SCHLESSINGER: But I was a little disappointed that you guys had a panel secondary after I was in the green room and pretty much misrepresented and attacked me on what I said when I wasn't there to answer to myself. I didn't think that was journalistically ethical and fair --

CURRY: OK, so what do you --

SCHLESSINGER: But I am basing -- I certainly didn't blame Mrs. Spitzer and Mrs. McGreevey for their husbands' behavior. I do not know anything about their personal lives.

UNIDENTIFIED: Right.

SCHLESSINGER: I was asked to talk about why a lot of men stray. And the fact of the matter is, that men will often sadly breach their vows of holding only on to their wives, because their wives are not holding on to them at all. And I wrote the book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands -- and I was even here talking about that -- and I made it clear that so many times -- excuse me -- women would call and complain that their men were maybe straying, looking at somebody else, talking, or even, you know, a full-blown affair. And I would say, "Let me just ask you one question. What he's doing is wrong. That's a fact. Let me ask you one question: Are you being the kind of wife you would want to come home to?" And that started a whole new way of looking at these situations where we have this happening. And we have vows to love, honor and cherish, and when we don't, there often are catastrophic results.

And this is what I was speaking to. I was certainly not speaking about those two wives in particular, and I just wanted to clarify that -- without whining.

CURRY: OK, I -- and you just did it. Here's what Karen from Pennsylvania asks. She says that, "I think Dr. -- I think that Laura Schlessinger should be challenged on why cheating is the woman's fault. Are men too weak that they can't be held accountable for their own mistakes?" In other words, I think this question --

SCHLESSINGER: I'm holding men accountable --

CURRY: But what she's saying is why --

SCHLESSINGER: -- for their egregious errors.

CURRY: -- why would you have, and this question is basically saying, why would any of that responsibility be on the wife --

SCHLESSINGER: Because I would challenge the wife to find out what kind of wife she's being. Is she being supportive and approving and loving? Is she being sexually intimate and affectionate? Is she making him feel like he's her man? If she's not doing that, then she's contributing to his wrong choice.

KOTB: But if she's being -- let's pretend she's being the worst wife. She's too tired, she's got kids, she's exhausted, there are a lot of things lacking. Isn't there sort of a better plan than for the husband to have -- than to go --

SCHLESSINGER: You know what? You're missing the point.

KOTB: Tell me the point.

SCHLESSINGER: The point is, what he's done is wrong.

KOTB: Right.

SCHLESSINGER: The point is, what she's done is wrong. And I have kept marriages together after affairs because I have reminded the women that, "You have the power to turn this around. He had his children with you. He has his future-life plans with you, your dreams. His whole mind, body, and soul was wrapped up in the promise of you. If you now turn that back on, all this stuff you turned off -- because I'm busy or I'm irritated or I'm annoyed or I'm self-centered -- if you turn that around, you have that man back." My job is to help families repair and stay together. And if people don't take responsibility for what they've done -- if he doesn't take responsibility for breaching his vows, that's not helpful. If she doesn't take responsibility for breaching her vows, that's also not helpful.

CURRY: I think most people would --

SCHLESSINGER: They're both at fault.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender
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Today Show
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