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Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Morning Joe' and Eliot Spitzer Know How to Keep Women Quiet

In her book "All Things at Once," Mika Brzezinski recalls fondly that getting her gig on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" was like being "back at the Brzezinski family dinner table, fighting to make myself heard." We all know families where everyone must fight to have their voice register above the mealtime din. While news talk shows aren't the on-air equivalent of that family dinner table, two high-profile newswomen may as well be kids eating meals in their parents' homes again, because they're having a hard time getting a word in edgewise as they co-host shows.

On "Morning Joe," the show's namesake, Joe Scarborough, speaks five times more than co-host Brzezinski, according to an article in The New Republic titled "The Sexism of Morning Joe." Neither the theme of the article nor the statistic surprises me. Aside from the fact that Mika gets in fewer words, Scarborough never hesitates to interrupt her when she's speaking and, based on my morning ritual of watching a few minutes of the show while making my own morning joe, he often throws in some mocking condescension for good measure if he doesn't agree with her, especially if she's talking about unhealthy food and childhood obesity.

I've long found Scarborough's dismissiveness extremely annoying, and I have no doubt there's an element of sexism in his actions. But Scarborough's attitude is only one leg of a three-pronged problem when it comes to the low volume of women's voices in the world of cable news punditry.

Brzezinski is no timid twenty-something, no newly minted J school graduate. She's been a journalist for two decades and has had some impressive stints in the mainstream media, not to mention her bold, now famous Paris Hilton script burning/shredding episode. So it's fair to expect Brzezinski, the author of a new book titled "Knowing Your Value," to know her own value, and be less of a sidekick and more of a conversation driver. The show's producers play a role in this scenario, as well. After all, they're the ones who plan the program and have the final say in who plays what role with which guests.

At least Brzezinski has Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker to commiserate with about the clear imbalance.

Disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been maximizing his airtime on CNN's "Parker/Spitzer," continually cutting off his co-host, who just happens to be the one with top billing. Parker has made no secret of the fact that she's not too happy about the continual interruptions and Spitzer's apparent attempts to edge her out with his nightly monologues, leading some to speculate that she is ready to walk away from the prestigious gig unless something changes. (Continues here)

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