Scarborough and Brzezinski denounced Jillette's "bitch" joke, but MSNBC had plenty of notice he likes to tell it

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On MSNBC Live, magician Penn Jillette told a version of a joke about Sen. Hillary Clinton: " '[Sen. Barack] Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month,' right?" After Jillette told the joke, co-host Joe Scarborough said, "I knew I -- you know, I knew I should have warned you before you started it." Co-host Mika Brzezinski added: "I don't like that." But MSNBC had plenty of notice that Jillette likes to tell the joke, which he is seen telling in a Web video, clips of which aired while Scarborough and Brzezinski introduced him.

On the 10 a.m. ET hour of the May 6 edition of MSNBC Live, magician Penn Jillette told a version of a joke about Sen. Hillary Clinton: " '[Sen. Barack] Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month,' right?" After Jillette told the joke, co-host Joe Scarborough said, "I knew I -- you know, I knew I should have warned you before you started it." Co-host Mika Brzezinski added: "I don't like that." Following a commercial break, Scarborough said, "We had Penn Jillette on, and, of course, he's funny on the Internet. ... He says certain things. But he made a joke that I'm sure if a couple of people on the Internet thought was funny." Brzezinski replied, "No, I didn't think it was funny," and Scarborough interjected, "I did not, about Hillary Clinton." Brzezinski continued, "[A]nd I gotta tell you, with all the work that Hillary Clinton is doing, I am insulted actually, quite frankly." But, while Scarborough and Brzezinski denounced Jillette's joke, MSNBC had plenty of notice that it is one he likes to tell; Jillette is seen telling the joke in a February 11 Web video, clips of which aired while Scarborough and Brzezinski introduced Jillette.

Moreover, in her February 13 column, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about the webcast.

In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.

The joke goes: "Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it's not fair, because they're being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there's no White Bitch Month."

Of course, jokes like that -- even Jillette admits it's offensive -- are exactly what may give Hillary a shot. When the usually invulnerable Hillary seems vulnerable, many women, even ones who don't want her to win, cringe at the idea of seeing her publicly humiliated -- again.

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the May 6 edition of MSNBC Live:

SCARBOROUGH: Let's bring out right now comedian and magician --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh. Yeah?

SCARBOROUGH: Penn Jillette. He's dishing out his own unique take on the presidential contest.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: He hosts his own video blog called Penn Says --

BRZEZINSKI: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: -- on crackle.com, where --

BRZEZINSKI: Crackle.com.

SCARBOROUGH: -- he's even offered his own prediction on who might win the Democratic nomination -- based, of course, on his own kind of survey, joke telling.

JILLETTE [video clip]: I cannot believe how much people hate Hillary. Now, this is probably more accurate than a poll, 'cause people have no reason, you know, to laugh. They just do whatever they want. Not one person was offended by it. Everybody seemed to dig it. [video break] So I gotta tell you -- Hillary hasn't got a chance.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: You talked about the loathing of Hillary Clinton --

JILLETTE: It's astonishing -- people that love her seem to hate her. It's -- it's just wacky. You know, I went out to do that joke -- and that's why, you know, I have this thing on Crackle, 'cause you do the joke and then I get to talk about it later -- but I went on to do what I thought was a really cheesy joke. It's a -- we're doing a magic trick with the paper tear --

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

JILLETTE: The joke doesn't matter. And I threw in this joke one of the crew members came up with, and just did this joke about, you know, "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month," right? And it's just the shock of having that word --

SCARBOROUGH: I knew I -- you know, I knew I should have warned you before you started it.

JILLETTE: Oh, should I not have said that?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, probably not.

BRZEZINSKI: I don't like that.

SCARBOROUGH: But anyway your bigger point was?

JILLETTE: My point was --

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: All right, so I'm a little bothered.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah --

SCARBOROUGH: I'll be honest with you.

BRZEZINSKI: I -- you're a little bothered?

SCARBOROUGH: Because I've run for office before --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and just the name-calling.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: We had Penn Jillette on, and, of course, he's funny on the Internet.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: He says certain things. But he made a joke that I'm sure if a couple of people on the Internet thought was funny --

BRZEZINSKI: No, I didn't think it was funny --

SCARBOROUGH: I did not, about Hillary Clinton.

BRZEZINSKI: -- and I gotta tell you, with all the work that Hillary Clinton is doing, I am insulted actually, quite frankly.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think also, it's easy, again -- it is not so easy as a woman to run for office --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and I've seen this time and time again, that, even with my mom working, if you're --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- aggressive and you work hard and you're a man, then you're tough.

BRZEZINSKI: Yep.

SCARBOROUGH: If you're a woman and you do the same thing, then you're called names.

BRZEZINSKI: And that doesn't help.

SCARBOROUGH: That is unfortunate.

BRZEZINSKI: That was bad. Moving on now, win, lose, or draw.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Penn Jillette
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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