Piggish Prerogatives

by digby

There is lots of interesting stuff in the ether today, not the least of which is the fact that Rove is coming off the taxpayers payroll at long last, but I want to start you off with this little Media Matters gem from last Friday that absolutely floored me when I saw it. In fact, I backed up the TiVo and watched it twice because I couldn't actually believe what I was seeing:

BURNETT: Well, they were part of the biggest increase in home ownership in this country that we've ever seen. I mean, home ownership's ticked up a few percentage points over the past few years, thanks to low interest rates --


BURNETT: -- and all those creative types of mortgages. And you could say that's a good thing, but, you know, Chris, I guess just to throw it out there and, you know, be provocative, but also ask a fair question -- you know, maybe not everybody is able to own a home. We like to think of owning a home as a right in this country.


BURNETT: It might not be.

MATTHEWS: Could you get a little closer to the camera?

BURNETT: My -- what is it? Is it zooming in strangely?

MATTHEWS: Come on in closer. No, come in -- come in further -- come in closer. Really close.

BURNETT: What are you -- what are you doing?

MATTHEWS: Just kidding! You look great! Anyway, thanks. Erin, it's great to -- look at that look. You're great.

BURNETT: I don't even know. I'm going to have to go look at the tape here. I'm in a strange location.

MATTHEWS: No, you're beautiful. I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. You're a knockout. Anyway, thank you, Erin Burnett.

BURNETT: All right, Chris. See you later.

Anyone who doesn't understand the insidious nature of sexual harrassment should take a look at the video of that exchange. Here you had a professional woman discussing a very serious and urgent subject on a news program. And Chris Matthews, (in an apparent attempt to disprove the fact that he has a sexual fetish for mature, beefy men) treated her like someone he was trying to pick up in a bar (very clumsily, as you would expect.) She was confused, embarrassed and knocked completely off balance by his inappropriate remarks, made all the worse because she was on the air. (It would have been just as wrong, however, if she'd been in a meeting or in a regular workplace conversation.) The woman was trying to do her job and this moron got all cute acting as if he couldn't hear a word she said. How "nice" of Matthews to make her feel and look like a fool in front of hundreds of thousands of people. I'm sure she really enjoyed that "compliment."

She is a beautiful woman, and I don't doubt that her looks have helped her in her television career. Good looks helped Stone Phillips and Anderson Cooper too. But it isn't a crime to be attractive and it doesn't mean that a person deserves to be treated like a bimbo. (When you see the video, it's quite obvious that this woman hadn't flirted or even thought of Tweety in those terms. She was sitting behind a desk analyzing the housing market, fergawdsake. She didn't know what he was talking about.)

Anyway, if any of you wonder why the more subtle forms of sexual harassment drive women nuts, this is it. Is it the end of the world? No. But it's completely inappropriate and it perpetuates this very creepy male prerogative in the workplace that isn't either fair ... or legal. Matthews is a pig. He should apologize to Burnett on the air for that nasty little display and then he should hire a lawyer. I doubt this is the only time he's acted like this. The man has obviously got a problem with women.

Update: If you're not reading Somerby on this topic, you're missing out. Here's one that reader linked in the comment section that I'd completely forgotten about.