David Shuster Finds His Katrina?

Some cable personalities have their issues. And by that I mean a topic that gets them riled, works them into an on-air lather, becomes — even if fleetingly — their thing. For Lou Dobbs, it’s illegal immigration. With Anderson Cooper, it was Hurricane Katrina. Glenn Beck has, among other issues, 9/11 (or, 9/12). With Shep Smith it was, at least once, torture. And for MSNBC’s David Shuster it is… beauty pageants? The superficiality. The attention-seeking. The way the contestants mangle simple words. Shuster has had enough.

Check out this heated back-and-forth between Shuster and colleagues earlier today prompted by the news that Miss California Keeps Crown. (See how determined Contessa Brewer is to wring Something Of Value out of it all, only to be shot down at every turn):

TAMRON HALL: Well, the big decision coming out of Manhattan from The Donald [Trump]. It sounds like he’s overruling Miss California USA and saying that Carrie Prejean can keep her crown…

DAVID SHUSTER: Can I vomit right now? I mean, literally, can I vomit? Doesn’t this represent everything that is wrong with the superficial nature of these pageants? [Prejean] talked about how women can make a difference in the world. She lied. She avoided taking personal responsibility. She blamed others…and whined about all the attention when I thought, gee, isn’t that what beauty pageants are all about? Getting attention?

And never mind Carrie Prejean, Donald Trump seemed to be saying that lying is okay. He said we take tough questions but not at this news conference when they’re too tough for Miss California. Tami Farrell said on the Today show this morning — she’s the [runner-up to Prejean]— she said no, it wasn’t Prejean binded by contractual obligations. Let’s see. The language would be bound, bound by contractual obligations. This entire thing is a sham.

CONTESSA BREWER: Here’s the thing. Some pageant contestants are smarter than others and that’s why they…

SHUSTER: Clearly not very smart, these two…

HALL: Some people are smarter than others. Some people… David, who is the winner here? We can slam and say this makes us nauseous, whatever language we choose to use here. But this young lady, despite our opinions and her thoughts on opposite marriage, as she put it, she today at this second is the winner. She’s kept the crown and people are talking about her more than the person who won the pageant. It is a beauty pageant and they kind of worked it.

SHUSTER: About as superficial an event as you will find in our society. This is one of the most superficial events we will find in our culture.

BREWER: Have you watched reality tv?

HALL: …I think we’re overreacting to an event. To call it the most superficial I think is going overboard.

BREWER: I think this is a great jumping-off point for a conversation about same-sex marriage, about hypocrisy.

HALL: No. It’s not.

BREWER: You guys have both had your turn. Tamron, let me finish. Today on Facebook and on Twitter, the viewers are on fire on this story discussing it. I just want to read two comments to you. “Vito” says President Obama is also against gay marriage and has semi-nude photos and we haven’t seen that kind of controversy erupt. And “Eric” says freedom of speech…. does not give you the freedom of the responsibility of your speech.

It is a good jumping off point.

SHUSTER: The only jumping-off point is jumping off a cliff if you really believe that people at these pageants have anything worthwhile to say to the rest of us. If you believe that, that’s your jumping-off point and I suggest you jump off the cliff because this is as superficial an event as you will see. It’s ridiculous. It’s crazy. Look, it’s a great sideshow and entertaining and makes a great conversation. But let’s be clear what it is.

And “what it is” is “ridiculous.”

Next up on MSNBC? Contessa Brewer’s interview with two officials from Miss California USA. And then? Additional analysis from a guy from Extra

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.