David Shuster Suspended for Chelsea ‘Pimped Out’ Remark
MSNBC’s David Shuster has been suspended for his on-air musing, “Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?”
I saw the news yesterday evening and didn’t find it particularly interesting but apparently I’m alone, in that it’s getting the mega treatment at Memeorandum.
Howie Kurtz, the media critics’ media critic, gets page C1 for the story.
In case there was any doubt, using a prostitution metaphor for the daughter of a presidential candidate is not a good career move.
MSNBC suspended correspondent David Shuster yesterday for an undetermined period for making a disparaging on-air remark about Chelsea Clinton. Meanwhile, officials in her mother’s campaign raised the possibility of punishing the news channel by boycotting future debates.
While filling in as a host Thursday, Shuster was discussing the 27-year-old’s role in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign with two guests when he asked: “Doesn’t it seem as if Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?”
Howard Wolfson, the campaign’s communications director, called Shuster’s remark “disgusting,” “beneath contempt” and “the kind of thing that should never be said on a national news network.” Wolfson appeared to suggest that Clinton is reconsidering an agreement this week to participate in an MSNBC debate Feb. 26 in Cleveland, saying: “I at this point can’t envision doing another debate on that network.”
Shuster, who plays a prominent role in MSNBC’s political coverage, told viewers last night that his words were “inappropriate. . . . I apologize to the Clinton family, the Clinton campaign, and all of you who were justifiably offended. . . . I am particularly sorry that my language diminished the regard and respect she has earned from all of us and the respect her parents have earned in how they raised her.”
Wolfson noted that MSNBC’s Chris Matthews expressed regret last month for suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s political success can be traced to sympathy stemming from her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. “At some point you have to question whether there is a pattern at this particular network,” Wolfson said.
I’m no fan of Shuster. Indeed, he’s a total and utter hack and MSNBC should be ashamed they can’t find a more serious journalist to put on their air.
But these remarks aren’t worthy of tut-tutting, let alone firing. Ace, who shares my view of Shuster but more colorfully, gets it right: “It’s a common expression now. We know it doesn’t literally mean ‘turning out as a whore.'” Quite so.
Shuster’s analysis is rather silly — it’s pretty common for adult children of candidates to be trotted around during the campaign — but his word choice is completely unobjectionable unless one’s campaign is imploding and desperate to make political hay. TPM’s Greg Sargent seems to agree that this is precisely what’s happening.
And, frankly, Matthews was exactly right in his remarks. Hillary Clinton got a huge bounce in public sympathy after the Lewinsky affair, without which her successful Senate bid and multi-million dollar book deal simply wouldn’t have happened.
Digby, though, feels the Clintons are right to be offended.
My suspicion is that the bigger questions about all this have been lost on the MSNBC crew as they circle their wagons and get more and more defensive. They’ve sublimated their own discomfort(shame?)with this discussion by making it into a political/journalistic turf battle, when in fact, it’s something much more psychological/sociological.
Matthews is somewhat deranged on this subject, because he sees the entire political system through some sort of gender prism, so he’s a special case, but the other offenders could be caught up in this out of a sort of collegian loyalty which has morphed into outright hostility toward people who are “making” them feel uncomfortable with their own behavior. It snowballs to the point where nobody knows what’s true anymore.
The defensiveness doesn’t surprise me. Journalists think it’s their role to criticize politicians but don’t think it’s fair game for the politicians to fire back.
Maybe she’s right that, “it behooves all of us to be skeptical of news organizations that behave like adolescents, no matter where your political allegiances lie.” Certainly, you wouldn’t have caught Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley or John Chancellor or any of the biggies from a generation ago using this kind of language. (Although, come to think of it, there was an open mic incident late in Brinkley’s career.)
But the business has changed. These channels are on 24/7/365, trotting about people to fill the time with what amounts to idle speculation. It’s only natural that they’re going to say some really stupid things or even phrase some smart observations in inappropriate ways. That’s even more likely when there are three of them competing for a rather limited set of eyeballs. Rather than go Walter Cronkite on us, they’re trying to be hip and fresh with yahoos like Shuster.
UPDATE: Olbermann Watch wonders why Keith Olbermann felt the need to apologize for his MSNBC roster-mate’s using the phrase “pimp out” in relation to the Clintons but not his own use of “pimping General David Petraeus.” Cox has a very special video remix.