MSNBC, Fox use stories on strip clubs hiring as opportunities to air footage of scantily clad women

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN & LILY YAN

In stories on strip clubs that are hiring, MSNBC and Fox News aired footage of scantily clad women, despite the hosts of the respective segments acknowledging that the Rhode Island strip club they were discussing was hiring to fill several different kinds of positions, not just erotic dancers. By contrast, CNN's report on the same strip club featured images of applicants filling out paperwork, as well as images of the outside of the strip club and other parts of Rhode Island.

In recent days, MSNBC and Fox News have used stories about strip clubs that are hiring as an opportunity to air footage of scantily clad women, despite the hosts of the respective segments acknowledging that the Rhode Island strip club they were discussing was hiring to fill several different kinds of positions, not just erotic dancers. By contrast, CNN covered the job fair at the same strip club by airing images of applicants filling out paperwork.

On the March 21 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Alex Witt reported, "The Foxy Ladies gentleman's club in Providence [Rhode Island] is looking for some new recruits. From dancers to DJs, hundreds are expected to show up ready to show off their skills." During the segment, Foxy Lady owner Tom Tsoumas stated: "We're offering jobs -- every job is a position that we need help with. We're looking for 35 to 40 people. It would range from being one of the general managers right down to bar backs and valets in the parking lot, the whole array of jobs that are involved in the nightclub business." However, as Tsoumas spoke, the following images aired:


The next day, Witt reported on the story again, noting that "more than 150 people showed up at a strip-club job fair this weekend. The Foxy Ladies gentlemen's club has about 35 positions to fill, but most applicants didn't have to show any leg to get that job." But while Witt acknowledged that "most applicants didn't have to show any leg to get that job," MSNBC aired the following images:

Similarly, on the March 21 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, while co-anchor Gregg Jarrett reported that "[o]wners [of the Foxy Lady] say they are looking around for about 30 people to work as strippers, waitresses, bartenders, DJs" and co-host Julie Banderas interjected, "[p]ole dancers," Fox News aired the following footage:

As Media Matters for America's County Fair blog noted, on the March 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, titillating photos and video aired while co-anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed a woman who "turn[ed] to exotic dancing to get [herself] out of financial trouble." Media Matters has also documented other examples of Fox News' pattern of exploiting any opportunity to show scantily clad women, regardless of the seriousness of the issue being covered.

While covering the Foxy Lady's job fair, CNN aired images of applicants filling out paperwork, as well as images of the outside of the strip club and other parts of Providence:

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on March 21:

WITT: Today in Rhode Island, there are people lining up to take it off for a job. The Foxy Ladies gentleman's club in Providence is looking for some new recruits. From dancers to DJs, hundreds are expected to show up ready to show off their skills. Joining me now on the phone is Tom Tsoumas, the club's co-owner. Tom, good morning to you.

TSOUMAS: Good morning, Alex. Thank you for having me on.

WITT: Well, I'm glad you're here. I want to hear about the jobs that are out there available. Whatcha got?

TSOUMAS: I -- could you just repeat that? I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't hear you.

WITT: That's OK, Tom. What kind of jobs are you offering?

TSOUMAS: We're offering jobs -- every job is a position that we need help with. We're looking for 35 to 40 people. It would range from being one of the general managers right down to bar backs and valets in the parking lot, the whole array of jobs that are involved in the nightclub business.

We employ right now about 350 people, and we might need as many as 50 additional people for some peculiar reasons that, if you had time, I'd like to share them with you.

WITT: OK. Which means, though, Foxy Lady's business must be going pretty well. True?

TSOUMAS: Well, I will tell you that at the beginning of September of 2008, for the first time in my 30-year run in the nightclub business, I began to see where the economy was beginning to hurt us a little. And generally, Alex, we're somewhat recession-proof.

Coming into January of 2009, we became very proactive with a number of ideas, simply that we decided in celebration of 30 years in business, that we wanted to say thank you to everybody in New England that had supported us. And as a result, we rolled back voluntarily, unilaterally, all our prices back to 1979 prices, which was the time that we began.

WITT: So --

TSOUMAS: At first, I saw 2 or 3 percent more a week, and then it rolled and rolled and rolled to a point where we need 35 or 40 more people to be able to accommodate and entertain our guests.

WITT: Well, that -- Tom, that sure is a business plan, a business outline there. But I'm curious: How many people do you expect to show up today?

TSOUMAS: Well, I was just thinking about that, Alex, and quite frankly, there's been a great deal of interest in this story. I know the media has been on top of it. I would expect that we'll see a minimum of 200 people, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we saw 400 people.

WITT: Wow.

TSOUMAS: We have an unemployment rate around Rhode Island of about 10.3 percent, and we have eager people looking for good jobs in a safe, clean environment. We've had a national reputation for 30 years, and we build on it every year.

WITT: You know --

TSOUMAS: And it's been an extraordinary run.

WITT: I guess so. You know, Tom, I'm going to suggest you might prepare yourself for more. There was one janitorial job open in Ohio, got 700 applications for one job -- to be a janitor. And your jobs are a little more, shall we say, diverse.

So, anyway. I'm just saying.

From the 8 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on March 22:

WITT: Meantime, in Rhode Island, more than 150 people showed up at a strip club job fair this weekend. The Foxy Ladies gentlemen's club has about 35 positions to fill, but most applicants didn't have to show any leg to get that job.

In fact, the club owner says about 400 people showed up, but The Providence Journal reports most of those people were men looking to work the door. Most women who said they were looking for work wanted jobs that didn't involve removing their clothes.

From the March 21 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:

BANDERAS: All right. So, from space to strip clubs. Gregg, take it away.

JARRETT: That's an easy segue way. Thanks very much.

BANDERAS: Hey, you're welcome.

JARRETT: And I -- by the way, I know nothing about those clubs. Never been in one.

BANDERAS: Uh-huh.

JARRETT: A gentlemen's club in Rhode Island is hoping to take advantage of the state's weak economy. The Foxy Lady strip club -- love that name --

BANDERAS: I love that one.

JARRETT: -- holding a job fair in Providence. I'm not kidding. Owners say they are looking around for about 30 people to work as strippers, waitresses, bartenders --

BANDERAS: Pole dancers.

JARRETT: -- DJs. And they hope competent people -- competent people --

BANDERAS: They want smart, educated people to dance on a pole.

JARRETT: They want competent people who would normally shy away from working in a strip joint to reconsider in light of the U.S. economy.

BANDERAS: Hey, it's tough times. You gotta do what you gotta do.

JARRETT: I can make some recommendations.

BANDERAS: Those were some interesting fishnets. You don't even notice. You weren't even watching. You're such a good guy. You don't even look at the video. The rest of the guys here are, like, drooling on the floor, but you don't --

JARRETT: I caught a peek. Those looked like Cher's fishnets.

From the March 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

KELLY: Plus, what does this picture have to do with the economy?

BILL HEMMER (co-anchor): Oh my.

KELLY: A new report says the tough job market is forcing more and more women to take off their clothes. We'll talk with one of them, straight ahead.

[...]

KELLY: Well, are desperate times calling for desperate measures? Some reports claim more and more women are strapped for cash and are turning to exotic dancing to get themselves out of financial trouble. Really?

Well, joining us now is Rebecca Brown. She is featured in one of these reports, and she's now a dancer at Chicago's Pink Monkey gentlemen's club. Hi, Rebecca.

BROWN: Hello.

KELLY: Thanks for being here with us. All right, so you are now a dancer at this club, but you were not always an exotic dancer. What were you doing before you got into this line of work?

BROWN: Before, I was working at a chain restaurant for about seven years, and I did everything from bartending, serving, and I was also a new store opener.

KELLY: OK. So, then you found yourself out of that job last summer, and you went around --

BROWN: Correct.

KELLY: -- and you applied for some administrative, some secretarial jobs, as I understand it. Is that right?

BROWN: That's correct.

KELLY: And you didn't get them, or they just didn't pay enough?

BROWN: I went on a few interviews, but nothing panned out.

KELLY: OK. So, then how do you go from, you know, working in the restaurant industry -- and I know you were a trainer as well for a restaurant chain -- how do you go from that to applying for administrative jobs to becoming an exotic dancer?

BROWN: Well, I had to pay rent. So, it was either do this or I wasn't going to have a place to live.

KELLY: But, I mean, you know, psychologically, Rebecca -- because I'm trying to understand. Obviously, a lot of women out there have been through financial hard times. They don't all have your body. But some do. And they wouldn't even consider going into this line of work. You know, how do you cross that line mentally?

BROWN: It took a lot. It took a lot of attempting and trying to get through this. It was definitely a difficult challenge in the very beginning. And I didn't have another choice. I mean, I had bills that I had to pay, and I'd had an opportunity with a manager that worked at the Pink Monkey. And he said that he could get me a job right away, and I said, "All right. Well, I'll try."

KELLY: When you first get up on that stage and, you know, you've never taken off your clothes for money before, and you're do -- you know, you're trying to pay your bills, but you first get up on that -- I mean, what is that like?

BROWN: Mortifying. It's really, really hard. For the first week, I didn't even get up on stage. I just pretty much stayed at -- worked the room. But it gets easier. It gets easier.

KELLY: Does it?

BROWN: So --

KELLY: Because, I'll tell you --

BROWN: Yeah.

KELLY: -- when I see these clips on the air -- and I'll just be honest with you -- because, you know, you seem like an honest person; you've been clear with us -- I see these women and I always think, "Gosh." I feel sorry for them. I want to get them out of there and I want to get them, you know, in a job where they don't have to take off their clothes for money. Am I being condescending? You know, is that -- do I misunderstand what it's like for the dancers? Is it fine? Is it empowering in any way?

BROWN: Not so much that it's empowering. But for a lot of the girls, especially the girls that I work with, a lot of them take care of their entire family. A lot of their parents are out of work. They're taking care of their -- if they have a kid, they're taking care of their kids, their brothers and sisters and --

KELLY: How much dough do they make?

BROWN: We do very well. We do very well. Don't get me wrong. There are nights that are horrible, and we don't make any money. But, you know, all and all -- you know, Fridays and Saturdays, we are consistently packed. So we do very well.

KELLY: You know, I look at this and I think -- this is -- again, this is probably my own bias coming through, but I think, "This is no life to recommend to, you know, young girls who are trying to make money." You're in the industry. Is that true? I mean, if you had a daughter, would you encourage her to go into this line of work, or would you push her to do something else?

BROWN: Oh, I would definitely push her to go -- you know, to do definitely something else. But sometimes, you just come across some really hard times, and you just -- you have to do it. And like I said, the girls that I work with, a lot of them didn't have a lot of other choices. And a lot of them all have degrees. Probably like 60 percent of our girls have degrees and have lost their jobs.

KELLY: Really? College degrees?

BROWN: Yes.

KELLY: You know, we heard -- we read in the article, there's a place here in New York City called Sin City gentlemen's club. The guy had 85 responses to one job opening. Rick's Cabaret here in New York City, they say that applications for dancing jobs are double what they were a year ago.

But then you find the alternatives. There's a club called -- I think it's Foxy Lady in Rhode Island. They held a job fair last weekend, and something like -- of the 150 people who showed up for the jobs, the vast majority said, "We don't want to take off our clothes." You know, I mean, they don't want to -- they just don't want to do it, no matter how bad the hard times are.

Do you think you're going to do this for a while, Rebecca? What do you think of the life span of this job is?

BROWN: Maybe about another year. I am still looking for a full-time job and going back to school. So, after that -- I don't think I'll do it for forever. Not very long. Not for -- maybe a year.

KELLY: Do you worry how it will affect your long-term prospects, if you want to ever run for public office or run a corporation?

BROWN: A little. It does a little, but in -- I think with the way things -- the economy is today and the way that things have been changing with people's mindset that, you know -- it's kind of opening people's eyes. Strip clubs aren't dirty places to go. They're very, very nice places, and they're very classy. And the women are treated very, very well.

KELLY: Well, I'll say this. You are one fit woman. And you -- it must --

BROWN: Thank you. Thank you.

KELLY: -- take a lot to keep that body, Rebecca. So, all the best to you, and I hope things go your way.

From the noon ET hour of CNN Newsroom on March 23:

T.J. HOLMES (anchor): So in the meantime, we want to move on to some other things, but now I guess I feel kind of strange talking about strip clubs while I'm waiting to hear from the president of the United States. But that's what I've got to talk about here.

A lot of people looking for a job. And if you are willing to take your clothes off, then we have got the place for you. It's called the Foxy Lady strip club in Providence, Rhode Island. The club held a job fair. Yes, this weekend, a job fair. Had about 30 positions open. Now, this wasn't just for people who wanted to take off their clothes, even though, yes, they were hiring some strippers. They also need bartenders, servers, managers, things like that.

I spoke with the mayor of Providence about the job fair.

[begin video clip]

HOLMES: Let me get your thoughts on the unemployment rate there in your town. And just -- again, just the sign of the times [unintelligible] something like this we're seeing now.

DAVID CICILLINE (mayor of Providence, Rhode Island): There's no question that Rhode Island is suffering from one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And what's very exciting about the economic recovery plan is we'll be able to demonstrate real job growth, particularly in green technology jobs in the building trades and the infrastructure work and in some important technology investments.

But, you're right, the Foxy Lady announced that they are looking for bartenders and bouncers and dancers and a whole range of positions and are going to have a job fair because they feel like there's a lot of people who might be looking for work. But we certainly want everyone who is looking for a job to find work in our state and certainly in my city. The economic recovery plan has lots of ability to do that, but I think there are industries that are growing even in these bad economic times.

HOLMES: Hey, a job is a job right about now. And we hear --

CICILLINE: A job is a job, right?

HOLMES: We hear their Friday legs and eggs brunch is a hit there. But let me go back to you --

CICILLINE: Come down to Providence. I'll take you there.

[end video clip]

HOLMES: Just need to get on the record: I am not going to the legs and eggs brunch at that club.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC
Person
Julie Banderas, Alex Witt, Megyn Kelly, Gregg Jarrett
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live, America's Newsroom, America's News HQ
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