James O'Keefe's alleged "stunt" exposes the misogynist dark side of the right-wing media

Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

One thing shouldn't get lost in the coverage of James O'Keefe and his cohorts' alleged plot to "punk" CNN reporter Abbie Bourdreau by luring her onto a boat filled with sex toys and porno, in order to stage a secretly videotaped seduction which they would then allegedly use to "embarrass" Bourdreau and "make CNN look bad." And that is, if the reports are true, their deluded and sexist motivation for wanting to do this.

According to Bourdreau, O'Keefe and his buddies concocted this scheme because the believed "Abbie has been trying to seduce" O'Keefe into doing an interview for a documentary CNN is doing on "the young conservative movement." They apparently believed that "this bubble-headed-bleach-blonde" was using her sexuality to convince O'Keefe to do the interview so that she could turn around and make him look bad in the documentary. So, the alleged plan, was to turn the table on her, and according to documents obtained by CNN, O'Keefe was to record an introduction to the video, saying, in part, "This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath." O'Keefe denies that he had anything to do with the plan and says he "did not consider them for one minute following it." However, Bourdreau says that O'Keefe's denial "does not appear to be true," according to emails CNN received.

Earth to O'Keefe. Just because a reporter is female does not mean that the reporter is trying to seduce you. And, the "bubble-headed-bleach-blonde" you and your buddies allegedly described is an award winning investigative reporter who earned her keep the hard way--by keeping her nose to the ground, working hard to find stories and eventually being rewarded for her work. According to her bio, since 2007, Boudreau's "work has earned her the Livingston Award for international reporting, a national Emmy nomination, a National Headliner Award, a national Clarion Award, and she was an IRE finalist for an investigative series called 'Hurricane Giveaway.'" That's a hell of a lot more than hacks like O'Keefe could claim.

Perhaps even more galling, is that if their plan got exposed, O'Keefe and his cohorts reportedly were going to accuse CNN of sexism. According to CNN, their "CNN Caper" document "discuss[ed] the potential fallout from the operation." One option they reportedly considered was this:

[I]f they go on the attack, you should point out the hypocrisy in CNN using the inherent sexuality of these women to sell viewers and for ratings, passing up more esteemed and respectable journalists who aren't bubble-headed bleach blondes and keep the focus on CNN.

Apparently they see no irony in calling a professional journalist a "bubble-headed bleach blonde" while accusing CNN of sexism.

Boudreau explains well how "tough" it is to be "a woman in the news industry," writing, "as a woman in the news industry you have to be tough. I have always had to work harder than my male counterparts to be taken seriously and to be treated with respect. As a woman in the news industry you have to ignore all of the silly talk from your managers about the clothes you should wear on-air or what color your hair should be. I have had my share of conversations like that, and to be honest, it stings." She goes on to express a longing for "people to pay attention to my work" and to be "respected" as a journalist, rather than be judge and dismissed solely "because of the way I look."

All of this reminds me of the recent incident involving a female sports reporter who was allegedly harassed by players on the New York Jets. As word of the story broke, almost instinctively, right-wing media figures jumped to blame the reporter for the harassment because of the way she looked. For instance, Rush Limbaugh called her a "bootylicious" reporter who is "making no attempt" to hide it "because she wants access for her job." Glenn Beck called her a "chick" and suggested her shirt may be to blame for the alleged harassment. Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller's response to the story: "Baby got back." On Hannity, the "Great American Panel" suggested that wearing "tight jeans" and "calling yourself...hot" means "[y]ou have to expect some level" of "kid[ding]" from "the guys" if "you are in a sports arena" and everyone should "lighten up." And Fox's Brian Kilmeade advised the reporter to "get a Whoopi Goldberg outfit, like a big tent."

It seems clear that despite their protestations to the contrary, many in the right-wing media have some issues with women. And rather than stand by silently, respectable journalists should rise in defense of their colleagues when they are subjected to such misogynist attacks. Let's hope they don't miss the opportunity to do so here.

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