There must have been some major high-fiving when CNN announced that Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker would be taking over Campbell Brown's 8 p.m. slot. High-fives between Bill O'Reilly and his producers, and Keith Olbermann and his producers.
By featuring these two individuals, CNN appears to be a network that has lost track of the sensitivities and sensibilities of its female audience. And, on the back of the bevy of female departures from CNN this year, one has to wonder if CNN has a woman problem?
As a New Yorker and head of a women's organization, I received scores of emails from enraged women when word got out that CNN was considering hiring the disgraced former governor. The network couldn't possibly be serious? After all, we had witnessed the very public humiliation of Silda Wall Spitzer, the brilliant, talented spouse who gave up the prospect of a high-powered career to play the supporting role and raise the children.
Silda was and is a tireless advocate for causes related to women and children. In fact, I was on the Planning Committee for My Sister's Place where Silda was scheduled to deliver the keynote address on March 11, 2008 on the subject of reducing domestic violence. Many of us had months before heard Silda's inspiring speech about the importance of getting more women into government. Tragically, on March 10th, we learned that then Governor Spitzer had been caught on a federal wiretap arranging a rendezvous with a high-priced prostitute.
New York women will never forget Silda's demeanor days later when she dutifully emerged alongside her disgraced husband for a news conference. As detail after detail of Spitzer indiscretions surfaced, the normally vibrant and vivacious first lady of New York looked like a broken women. Many of us cried for her. Many discussed on the schoolyard how their poor daughters must be devastated and humiliated.
How can CNN grant this man the limelight again?
To make matters worse, CNN's next move was to give Spitzer a "work wife" antithetical to his real wife. Whereas Silda fought tirelessly for women and women's issues, Kathleen Parker is one of the most anti-women woman of modern day media.
While Silda stood with women politicians, Parker seems to delight in demeaning women leaders like Secretary Hillary Clinton ("...what she must have imagined sounded like passion was to mere mortals the screech of an angry woman.") and Sarah Palin ("If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself."). Concurrently, Parker defends misogynists, extolling us to give Larry Summers a break for his statement that girls are genetically inferior to boys in math and science (Summer's statement has been disproved, but did immeasurable harm to women and girls' advancement in those fields).
Parker couldn't wait to criticize President Obama for establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls, or ding women's groups for defending Hillary Clinton (boys will be boys), or yawn over complaints that President Obama was excluding women from his inner-circle.
But Parker truly outdid herself this week penning Obama: Our first female president. A true gang tackle of our gender. As a blogger Sandra describes: "...it manages to both undermine female leaders by likening their leadership styles to Obama's noted passivity and incompetence, and to attempt to emasculate Obama by suggesting that his communication style is feminine. It's a masterpiece of misogyny."
And one has to wonder. The New Agenda received emails concerned about legion of female departures from CNN: Campbell Brown, Christiane Amanpour, Erica Hill, Betty Nguyen, Heidi Collins and so on. Our assumption has been that the departures were the economic consequence of the loss of viewers. After all, men have been leaving too.
The public will likely never know the inner workings at CNN. But we do know this: CNN would have better served their audience by selecting Silda Wall Spitzer and a "work husband" for that 8 p.m. slot. Pass the clicker!
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