About That Michello-O Hardball Ad…

or, We'll Become Silhouettes

The HuffPost is reporting (h/t: Michael Calderone) that MSNBC has pulled, after only two airings, an ad for the Hardball episode in which Chris Matthews discusses Michelle Obama’s “reintroduction tour.”

“The artwork should not have been used, it was inappropriate,” an MSNBC rep told the HuffPost. “We pulled the spot this morning and it was re-done without those images.”

So what were those images? The Hardball ad revolves around a question, written in block letters on the screen: “POLITICAL IMAGE MAKEOVER: HER NEW OUTLOOK?” as dark silhouettes of women—two wearing short skirts, one wearing an evening gown—pop up below. Watch the long version of the spot here:

The ad is silly, to be sure, and cartoonish and sensationalized. But, um, how, exactly, is it inappropriate? How, exactly, is it (as the term “inappropriate” here implies) sexist? The women are clothed; the whole thing is red-carpet-reminiscent…which, given the way Michelle Obama has been paraded around for the media, seems an apt visual metaphor for her attempted “image makeover.” (Just because the ad depicts women doesn’t make it sexist; a woman in a short skirt does not an offensive image make.) Perhaps the sexism-accusations-plagued network is being just a smidge oversensitive here.

Besides, MSNBC is notorious for running inane-and-cartoonish-and-sensationalized ad spots; those ads, in fact, have become a kind of promotional symbol of the network’s trademark free-wheeling, not-your-father’s-newscast brand of political reportage. (Comic-book-esque graphics! Block-letter script that zooms across the screen! Synthesized soundtracks!) The Michelle-O ad, as far as I can tell, isn’t offensive to the sensibilities of the network’s female viewers; if anything, like most other MSNBC promo spots, it’s simply offensive to the intelligence of all of us, equally.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.