Mika Brzezinski, often the Lone Lady at MSNBC’s Morning Joe round table, will usually speak out when one of the network’s knight errants—Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan, Mike Barnicle, Willie Geist, David Shuster, Chris Matthews—says something out of line in her company. In a late-February Morning Joe episode, for example, Buchanan mocked Clinton’s voice, explaining the “difficulty” she has producing soaring oratory when compared to Obama: “It’s very difficult for women to reach those kinds of levels effectively, as it is to make them sort of a rally speech. They’re not good at that.”
To which Brzezinski shot back:
There is something so wrong with what you’re saying, and what I fear is that the effect may be exactly what you’re saying because of this double standard that people can’t hear strength from a woman without using the B-word, and quite frankly, if that is what people are going to take away from this, it just seems to me as, well, everything that the Clinton campaign is arguing then.”
On yesterday’s Morning Joe, though (hat tip, Media Matters), Brzezinski seemed to have had a change of heart. Interviewing Buchanan and Barnicle about whether sexism played a role in Clinton’s (probable) loss of the Democratic nomination, Brzezinski argued, “You can’t say you want to fight to the convention and that you can win the big states if you say sexism has played a bad role along the way.”
(Got that, Gloria Steinem? Society can still sometimes be sexist; clearly, there’s no point in trying to overcome it. Back to the kitchen, missy!)
The conversation continued from there, with Pat Buchanan bringing it home. Note Brzezinski’s contribution to it, emphasis ours:
BUCHANAN: I think there’s resistance—there’s resistance to a woman being the nominee, but by and large, I think the fact that she’s a woman has helped her here. I mean, they rallied to her in New Hampshire—
BUCHANAN: —those women came out when she got upset by Barack Obama, who ran a phenomenal campaign—
BUCHANAN: —and so they rallied to her. So, I think on balance, it’s been very positive, just like being an African-American—
BUCHANAN: —has on balance been positive for Barack.
This is precisely the same line of argumentation used by Geraldine Ferraro back in March: the affirmative action-ing of candidates. (Hey, being black makes life easier! So does being a woman!) Leaving aside the latent sexism/racism one might read in that logic, it’s also just plain wrong. It glosses over nuance, reducing the candidates’ successes or failures to their race and their gender. Brzezinski had been a voice of dissent against this kind of reductive thinking, but do things seem to have changed? Sure. Yeah. Absolutely.Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.