Pimp My Riot: In Defense of David Shuster

02/10/2008 04:04 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Go ahead and pick up those rocks and get into pitching stance, because
I'm about to suggest something unthinkable.

As you must know by now, MSNBC's David Shuster has revealed himself to
be the Anti-Christ by suggesting on-air that Chelsea Clinton's role in
her mother's campaign smacks of opportunism on the part of Camp
Clinton; his exact words were that the once-and-possibly-future First
Daughter was being "pimped out" by Mom and Dad. Since most folks
assumed Shuster wasn't alluding to the MTV brand of pimping out, which
I imagine would've involved jacking Chelsea up on 24" rims, the wave
of thoroughly bullshit outrage in response to his admittedly
ill-advised comment began pushing across the land almost immediately.
Over the past few days, Shuster's been excoriated in the press and the
blogging media, suspended by NBC, and targeted for as public a shaming
as possible by Hillary Clinton herself.

Most of those now engaging in the obligatory and all-too-gratifying
pile-on claim Shuster's offense to be two-fold: He insulted the child
of a particular presidential contender for behavior most politicians'
kids engage in -- the cynical would say that all candidates
pimp their children in one manner or another -- while cavalierly
flaunting the depth of anti-Clinton group-think that supposedly
permeates MSNBC.

Hillary, though, has taken the argument one step further.

Her campaign is insinuating that Shuster's comment is a slight against
all women, more proof that MSNBC -- the special-needs child of the NBC
News family -- is essentially one big frat house. They cite a 12-month
period that's seen the dismissal of Don Imus for making a crude but,
let's face it, somewhat innocuous joke about the Rutgers womens'
basketball team, an on-air mea culpa from Chris Matthews -- not to
mention his inability to talk to Erin Burnett without little hearts
dancing over his head -- and now Shuster's indiscretion.

In other words, the Clinton camp seems to be recasting this in exactly
the kind of terms that are likely to motivate women voters; the fact
that the Clintons are so adept at this sort of misdirection is
precisely the reason their critics consider them little more than
political profiteers who will say or do anything to make points at the
polls.

This is why it's become second nature to question their motives, no
matter how genuine or innocent those motives might seem at first
glance. While there's no doubt that Chelsea Clinton simply wants to
see her mother elected president, the campaign's own "handling" of her
makes Chelsea look like just another weapon in the Clinton arsenal,
and Hillary's indignation reek of calculated insincerity.

Understand something, I'm certainly not claiming that what David
Shuster said wasn't incredibly stupid and somewhat unfair, nor am I
saying that Hillary Clinton wouldn't make a decent president. However,
it's not as if a journalist's decision to question the motivations of
the Clintons is happening in a vacuum; the press has seen the Hillary
and Bill PR machine in action for quite some time now, and maybe for
that reason is apt to regard the Clintons' actions with slightly more
suspicion than it otherwise might. I'll be the first one to say that
this is unfortunate.

Did David Shuster deserve to be disciplined?

Yes, but not for the reason his detractors might think and not by the
one charged with doling out the punishment.

Shuster raised a relevant point in an unquestionably crass and
injudicious manner, and there's no doubt that he wouldn't challenge,
say, Michelle Obama, in the same way -- lest he risk having Al
Sharpton amass a torch-wielding mob at NBC's front door before the
opening credits of the 5 O'clock news even hit the air. Now though, a
different group is demanding satisfaction for what it feels is a
personal slight, and, for starters, it wants that one ineffectual
gesture aggrieved parties invariably want in times like this: a public
apology. I'll never understand why an obviously insincere show of
genuflection acts as some kind of panacea to the perpetually
pissed-off, but a good rule of thumb is this: If someone's apology has
to be demanded, he or she probably doesn't really mean it. When you
look at it like this, suspending Shuster is probably justified since
he knows exactly what he said and meant every word of it -- making any
apology an act of ass-kissing theater. Still, factor in the comical
twist that Shuster's official reprimand is being self-righteously
administered by NBC News President Steve Capus -- the same man who
turned ethical somersaults on national television last year to justify
his network's shameful decision to air the manifesto of Virginia Tech
gunman Seung-Hui Cho -- and you have to wonder what's really
wrong over there at 30 Rock.

Maybe Shuster got off easy.

He gets to spend some time away from the Clintons and the
peacock for awhile.