Conservatives are hoping to save Mitt Romney from his failed attempt to avoid a policy discussion about equal pay by feigning outrage over Mika Brzezinski’s pay.
The conservative Weekly Standard, founded by William Kristol, is allegedly making a case about pay disparity out of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where Mika Brzezinski is paid half of what her male co-host is paid. They write, as if shocked, “Brzezinski’s colleague Andrea Mitchell made this point on air yesterday–that pay disparity exists at MSNBC.” Really? As if it doesn’t exist at every other network? We were unaware that Republicans cared about pay disparity. This is most unusual.
We can only assume this is intended to suggest that liberals are no better at women’s pay issues than conservatives, but if that is indeed the underlying point, it’s an utter fail.
The entertainment business is just that – a business. It’s run by men, it’s a huge industry as far as American exports go. Entertainment/media is a top dog in the business world. MSNBC is not a liberal entity- it’s a corporation under NBC Universal run by parent companies GE and Comcast, and as such, it doesn’t embrace liberal values but rather is guided by the amoral profit motive conjoined to the patriarchal system.
MSNBC saw an untapped market in liberal slanted news after Fox News so successfully absorbed the conservative market, and they jumped on it. They didn’t do it because they have a liberal agenda – they did it for money. And Morning Joe is not a liberal show; it’s named after the Republican host Joe Scarborough.
Women have always been paid less in entertainment. Julia Roberts fought to change that, and made huge strides for female stars, but women still make less than a man of similar star power.
If anything, this seemingly shocking revelation of pay disparity substantiates the need for federal policy rather than making a case against it. It demonstrates why the Lilly Ledbetter Act is so important and it should prove to thinking people that the market doesn’t regulate itself fairly without some help, especially when it comes to social change. It’s also evidence of male privilege if indeed the male writer finds this so shocking, because he doesn’t realize that this is par for the course, not a revelation that would surprise most women. Fair? Of course not. Welcome to the party, conservatives — this is why we are so upset by Mitt Romney’s comments.
Conservatives will do anything to avoid the overreaching policy discussion – including trying to find hypocrisies in liberal arguments. No doubt that is the point of bringing up MSNBC’s failure to pay women equally. To wit, sensing an agenda, the Weekly Standard writes, “For Brzezinski’s part, it’s more than a bit odd that she would play down the problems at MSNBC now. After all, her public dispute with MSNBC about pay equity has been well known. In fact, she’s made it herself on her own show.” If anything, the discussion of women’s pay only proves that broad policy change is needed, but what can you expect from a party that still pretends there is no war on women, in spite of a historic record of GOP anti-women legislation over the past two years?
It could be argued that Mika doesn’t have the background that Joe has and this excuses the pay discrepancy, but to make this argument you’d have to believe that substance mattered. What matters in media is branding and name recognition. This is why Sarah Palin got a TV show being paid millions and a book deal that paid far more than she was worth, whereas a person with more to say but without the fame can’t even get their book read, let alone picked up.
So I say yes, let’s discuss women’s pay as a policy issue. It’s established that it is an issue – what does the Weekly Standard think Mika should do about her situation? What do they tell the women of America when their candidate does not support equal pay, and when asked about it, Mitt Romney replied “If you’re going to have women in the work force…,” before launching into women in binders, as if women working were a decision made by men who were contemplating whether or not to grant approval to the family pet to take a stroll every day instead of a matter of economic survival, dignity, freedom and independence.
It’s tough to say whether Mika brings the same star power as Joe to Morning Joe, but she certainly brings more than half of the star power and yet she is pad half of what he is paid (2 million to his 4 million). Personally I’d love to watch a show hosted by her alone so that I could finally hear what she thinks, instead of watching Joe play Bad Boy Smart Man to her Tolerant Cheerleader.
I have a hunch that it’s actually the other way around – not only because of her background and his blatant cheering for modern Republican “ideas” that make no sense except as a cheer for greed, but also because male elected officials too often are remarkably devoid of deep intelligence. To wit, Republicans Todd Akin and Joe Walsh.
But that presumes that content matters and it doesn’t. You saw that in the first presidential debate. Content does not make good TV. Conflict, drama, and things that get you angry make good TV (by good TV, they mean TV that generates eyeballs, not actually “good” TV). The media wants a narrative. In the first debate their narrative is that the Bad Guy pummeled the Good Guy, but this also means the Bad Guy won. The media told the public how to feel, and the public fell in line and then expressed dismay when polls showed that indeed, they weren’t alone in falling for it.
Yes, it’s obvious that Mitt Romney is the Bad Guy – he’s the quintessential Potter to Obama’s hard work and honesty should be rewarded George Bailey archetype. That’s not bias – it’s story, and good story is based on real life themes. Sensata’s Bainport is the Potterville of 2012 and President Obama’s everyone should be doing their fair share is a Bedford Falls vision of America.
Mika could argue that she’s more attractive than Joe, but that’s just another disparity in entertainment – the women must be attractive, while the men can be bland and play the smart man of ideas. It’s obvious that they (entertainment corporations) feel men won’t watch unless they have eye candy, as they’re competing with cable networks that are running genuine t and a all day long now. So we have the Fox News effect trickling down – dumb them down with eye candy, let the men say the “important” things, and try to never inform your audience about real issues like the corporate takeover of the country (unless reporting on that will make the corporation money without threatening the deregulatory legislative – read Republican – agenda of the corporation).
As for Rachel Maddow and the liberal line up, even MSNBC knows that liberals have different measures for attractiveness than conservatives. Fox News is all generic, cookie cutter, blond flesh; MSNBC is unique, smart women — attractive to a liberal audience for reasons conservatives can’t understand. Mika was made over into blonde fluff for their Republican-led show, but she is not just blonde fluff and for that matter, neither are many of the women playing slinky Mean Girl on Fox News. They are smart women doing what they need to do to keep their jobs. It’s not right, I’m not condoning it, but that’s the way it is. Just like it’s a fact that women in media do not get paid the same as men.
What does the Weekly Standard think we ought to do about it, if not federal policy? How would they suggest we address a standard set by their own side – not just Fox News, but corporate news — news for profit, that led to news anchors and hosts as objects of desire rather than trusted sources of information? Corporate news/infotainment for profit is a direct function of Republican policies, so to express feigned dismay at the results is hypocrisy at its finest.
Their fix? Vote for Mitt Romney because he hired binders full of women and let them go home to cook dinner. That will fix the shocking problem of pay disparity at MSNBC, which isn’t a problem anywhere else if we are to judge by the simpering moral outrage expressed at this one case.
The Republican Party is running Todd legitimate-rape Akin, Joe women-don’t-die-from-pregnancy Walsh and Paul forcible-rape Ryan. At the top of their ticket is a man who has agreed that abortion should be illegal even when the mother’s life is at risk and whose campaign said he would not have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act. A female adviser for Romney called equal pay a left wing agenda. And we’re supposed to believe that they care about Mika Brzezinski’s pay disparity? This is just another attempt to muddy the water with binders full of women. Thanks, but no thanks, GOP.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.