From the get-go, CNN’s show Parker Spitzer pitted Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kathleen Parker against former New York State Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer, literally. The show hoped that the strong opinions of both a high-profile conservative and liberal would prompt interesting and lively debate, buttressed by Spitzer’s colorful ousting from office. But only few months after airing, rumors of real conflict between the anchors coupled with low ratings prompted CNN to ditch Parker and keep Spitzer on in his own show, In the Arena. Because of this quick move, some are arguing that this is part of larger issue that CNN has with women.
Amy Siskind is one of them. In a Huffington Post article, she …
… claims that Parker’s leave of the show is part of a larger problem at CNN. Siskind ignores the fact that neither Parker nor Spitzer had previously hosted a show, nor even screen-tested before being hired at CNN. Instead, her argument seems to hinge on the fact that even though she and Parker have had ideological differences in the past, Siskind is still supporting Parker. One reader said to Siskind, “I’m surprised to see you defending Parker especially after her biased treatment of Clinton and Palin.” But Siskind implies that despite their different feminist beliefs in the past, she can deign to continue to support Parker. It’s as if we can’t change our minds, or agree with people in the future if we have ideological similarities.
Siskind also vilifies Spitzer, because blaming the man in this situation is helping everyone. She sarcastically describes him as “a calm-headed, easy-going, open-minded and collegial kinda guy”, later clarifying her real thoughts: he’s an “obnoxious, bellicose, petulant, know-it-all.” These comments feel particularly personal; it’s as if Siskind knows Spitzer herself, and is on some sort of vendetta. There have actually been few attacks against Spitzer on account of his character (outside of the obvious ones related to the prostitution scandal); most reports paint him as rational, exceptionally smart, and with a good record in supporting the rights of women. This is not to say there hasn’t been intense sexism in the journalism community. When Harry Reasoner became co-anchors with Barbara Walters for the ABC Evening News, she said later that he displayed his obvious dislike of her constantly, based largely on the fact that he didn’t think a woman should be anchoring network news (he reportedly said “I am trying to keep an open mind about it”).
To Siskind, the fact that Parker has left is a thing of numbers; she note that 5 out of the 7 anchors that have left CNN in the past year are women. The numbers look bad, but without context, mean nothing. Spitzer is ultimately the more interesting figure, and with his high-profile, makes more sense to shape a show around. Parker has her own journalism career to fall back on, one which she seems more suited to. All these losses seem to be part of a larger issue at CNN that is unrelated to sex, which The New York Times said indicated a “broader identity crisis” with the future of their programming. Siskind’s complaints indicate the problem with inter-feminist conflict; we’re not allowed to agree with some feminists because they once said something we didn’t agree with (see Naomi Wolf or Katie Roiphe). This type of thinking limits us from engaging in healthy, developing debate. The “bad feminism” mantra hurts women more than it helps them.