Hitchens Calls Sully ‘Lesbian’
On the April 5 edition of MSNBC’s Tim Russert, Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens debated the significance for Sen. Barack Obama of comments made by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright about a trip Wright took with Louis Farrakhan to Libya in 1984. When Sullivan said, “And now you’ve made me forget my second point,” Hitchens interjected: “Oh, well, don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it.”
As Media Matters for America noted, during a subsequent segment on the same show, Hitchens asserted of certain of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s actions: “I just think that if she knew how it made her look, sort of alternately soppy and bitchy, she’d stop it. But she can’t help herself, can she? She just can’t.”
Hitch had interrupted Sullivan in mid-sentence, which led to the exchange in question:
SULLIVAN: Again, you keep playing with that quote. We’re happy to have it on the record. And now you’ve made me forget my second point, which is —
HITCHENS: Oh, well, don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it.
SULLIVAN: I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten my second point. But I do think that’s important. And I don’t think Wright is Farrakhan. And I don’t think Obama, in any conceivable way, represents anything but racial inclusion and integration. And anybody that looks at any part of his career and can be in any doubt about that is beyond me.
The reason he went to that church, clearly, if you read his biography, is he wanted to understand what it was to be black in America. He didn’t understand. He’s a very polyglot person. He grew up in Hawaii, he had some time in Indonesia.
Pam Spaulding is apoplectic, seeing this as an indication of intolerable misogyny and homophobia and calling for the removal of Hitchens and his ilk from the national debate.
An anonymous cog at Gawker (likely toiling away in great stress) observes that, “The great fun of Christopher Hitchens is that the commentator so often says things in formal settings you’d expect to hear around the dinner table after many hours of wine and whisky.”
Quite. It’s worth noting that among those apparently not offended by Hitchens is one Andrew Sullivan. Watch the video. Rather clearly, Sully is having a great time with it. Later, he makes two posts about his joint appearance, “The Wright Stuff” and “Hitch, Russert, Me,” and makes not a single reference to the incident.
Why? My guess is that the two men know each other quite well and respect each other as professional colleagues. It’s also important to keep in mind that both are trained in the “Oxbridge” debating style which is rather sharper than its American counterpart. (Contrast “Prime Minister’s Question Time” with your average Senate debate.) Employing personal barbs, especially clever ones, is part and parcel of the game. Sully himself has been known to score debating points by going personal.