Let me start by saying that I like and respect Kirsten Powers. She is still officially the News Hounds “Best in Show” for her courageous confrontation with Megyn Kelly for using the bogus New Black Panther Party “controversy” to turn President Obama into a “scary black man.” But, unfortunately, I can’t find anything positive or constructive about Powers’ decision to jump into the Limbaugh/Fluke fray with a gratuitous attack on the left.
Powers is both a Fox News analyst and a Daily Beast columnist. On Sunday (3/4/12), she wrote a Daily Beast column called Rush Limbaugh Isn’t the Only Media Misogynist. In it, she argued, as The Daily Beast summarized, that “liberals who led the charge (against Limbaugh) need to start holding their own side accountable.”
In the first place, I think it’s a false equivalency to compare, as she does, Bill Maher’s comments about Sarah Palin (he called her a “dumb twat,” a “bimbo,” “boob,” the c-word, etc.) with Limbaugh’s multi-day attacks on Sandra Fluke. For example, Limbaugh said, “Who bought your condoms in sixth grade?” on the same day he called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” On another day, he said, “So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” He also said, Fluke was “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk,” and “She’s having sex so frequently that she can’t afford all the birth-control pills that she needs”. He accused her of being “an anti-Catholic plant from the get-go on this.” This kind of talk went on for three days before Limbaugh issued his less-than-convincing apology over the weekend.
I’m not here to talk up the c-word or Bill Maher. But there’s a difference between a casual utterance – no matter how offensive – and a tirade of misogynistic accusations. Moreover, Palin and the other conservative women named by Powers as victims of liberal misogyny: Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham and Hillary Clinton – are all public figures who make a living putting their views before the public. With the exception of Clinton, their stock in trade is hate mongering. They’ve all given as good as they got. Sandra Fluke, on the other hand, is a law student who testified before Congress for what she sees as a need for contraception coverage in health insurance. Yes, she may be an activist but she’s hardly the kind of person who frequents and slugs it out in the political arena.
But most importantly, the outrage at Limbaugh is about hate speech. Let’s face it, hate mongering is what makes Limbaugh Limbaugh and there’s no liberal counterpart. It’s not about a dropped C-word or an occasional “dumb twat” any more than it’s about “slut” or “prostitute.” It’s about Limbaugh's over-the-top tirades of unmitigated hostility aimed at his political foes.
Let’s say, at least for the sake of argument, that Powers has a valid concern. I don’t like hate mongering or misogyny no matter who the recipient is. But what is the point of attacking the left in a situation where even Powers agreed that the outrage is justified? What we need is a national discussion about what’s acceptable rhetoric and what isn’t. Accusing the left of hypocrisy just gives Fox News an excuse to change the subject to more attacks on the left.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened yesterday on Fox. Powers got at least two appearances on Fox where she willingly participated in an “attack-the-left-over-Limbaugh” discussion. During the day, on America Live, in a segment FoxNews.com gleefully called, “Liberal columnist says ‘double standard’ in attacks on Rush”, the discussion quickly (and predictably) turned into an attack on Maher. Host Megyn Kelly (she of the scary black man meme) said she found it “interesting” that “none other than Gloria Steinem goes on his show and doesn’t confront him about it.” Who did? Ann Coulter. “Why do they get away with it when somebody like Rush does not?” Kelly asked. As if Limbaugh has not gotten away with it for all these years.
Powers argued that the reason for the double standard is that the outrage is more about politics than offense. Liberals “see an opportunity,” she and Kelly agreed. And conservatives don't? It happens on Fox News regularly. Has Powers missed that?
Later, on Hannity, FoxNews.com called Powers’ segment, “Left’s war on women.” Sean Hannity announced “there is a glaring double standard” in the media. “Tonight we thought we’d remind you of some of the disgraceful rhetoric that the left has used when talking about women on the right side of the political spectrum.” To “balance” Powers, she appeared with African American Tea Party pundit, Deneen Borelli. Borelli added her own examples of being vilified by the left. “It’s a huge double standard,” she complained and immediately suggested that somehow President Obama is at fault. “President Obama is bringing the country down to the dim light of the valley,” she said, comparing him to Reagan’s vision of America as the “shining city on the hill.”
Powers said “all of the pro-Obama people” thought it was “fair game” to go after Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign with sexist attacks and misogynist attacks. “What you see is that they stand up when it suits them,” Powers said.
Perhaps she's right about the left's self-serving outrage. But the thing is, Powers somehow overlooked the kind of below-the-belt personal attacks that go on over at Fox News every day, especially on Hannity’s shows. Here are just a few examples:
Curtis Sliwa said on Hannity & Colmes that he wanted a bat to go after Rosie O’Donnell “like a human piñata.” Do you think Hannity objected? Or how about Hannity promoting Donald Trump’s birtherism, even after Obama presented the long-form birth certificate? Or what about Hannity’s pal, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, saying that “most blacks” in Tennessee are racists? Just a few days ago, Ann Coulter announced on the Hannity show that Ted Kennedy deserved to be called a “pile of human excrement” when he died. No objection from Hannity about that! Recently, Hannity praised Hank Williams, Jr. for refusing to apologize for calling President Obama "the enemy."
And speaking of misogyny, Bill O’Reilly recently mimicked Limbaugh’s tactics by painting Fluke as a slut but just not coming out and saying so.
Powers said she thought President Obama should give back Bill Maher’s $1 million donation. So I ask, how on earth can she justify accepting money from Fox News?
I'll reiterate my respect for Powers and I'll add that I think her concern about speaking out against sexism is genuine and well intended. But, as the saying goes, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. It's hard to see how attacking the left at a time when they are indisputedly right (pardon the pun) - and on Fox, no less - leads to anywhere good.
Once again, this seems a great time to re-embed Jon Stewart’s “Special Victim” segment in which he highlighted the hypocrisy of Fox News pundits complaining about a double standard. I hope Powers sees it, too.
You would have thought it was like they were saying the f-word. Too funny … also embarrassing.