Upon learning that Fox News host Tucker Carlson and CNN host Don Lemon were both fired on consecutive Mondays, my first thought was: This is a great opportunity for the prominent TV networks, which reach millions of viewers, to finally elevate the voices and profiles of people who don’t find it normal to utter misogynistic comments without a second thought.
Lemon was let go by CNN approximately two months after he questioned whether Republican former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, 51, was fit to run for president. The reasons for Carlson and Lemon’s sudden resignation have not yet been made public, but Lemon was let go because he questioned whether Haley was qualified to run for president. In an episode of “CNN This Morning” that aired in February, Don Lemon stated that Haley is not “in her prime.” He went on to explain that a woman is considered to be in her prime “in her 20s, 30s, and 40s,” and he told his female co-hosts not to “shoot the messenger — I’m just saying what the facts are.” (Lemon went on to say that he found all of this information by using Google.)
It’s outrageous that Lemon, who is 57, could make those comments with a straight face, and it highlights how deeply ingrained and acceptable misogyny is in our culture. This week, President Biden, who at the age of 80 is the oldest president in the history of the United States, is anticipated to announce his intention to run for re-election. His predecessor, Donald Trump, who is 76 years old and has already begun his campaign for the 2024 election, will be succeeded by him.
After some time had passed, Lemon voiced his “regret” for his previous remarks, describing them as “inartful and irrelevant.”
They may be lacking in artistic merit, but there is no denying their significance.
Indeed, Lemon’s remarks are part of a long tradition of male TV hosts making sexist comments about women, particularly women who pursue political power. This specific trend has been going strong for quite some time.
Chris Matthews, a commentator on MSNBC, claimed in 2008 that Hillary Clinton, who had just begun her first run for the presidency, had only advanced politically due to the fact that her husband had “messed around” with Monica Lewinsky, an intern working in the White House. In 2014, Bill O’Reilly, who hosted Fox News at the time, pondered, “There’s got to be some negative to having a woman president, right? anything — anything that perhaps would not be appropriate for that office, right? (Later on, O’Reilly was fired as a result of a scandal involving sexual harassment.)
In 2015, anchor Sean Hannity of Fox News put his own twist on Clinton’s candidacy for president of the United States. He said, “What, are we going to call the president of the United States ‘Grandma’?” It’s great that she can change the baby’s diaper and feed her… It’s not exactly the kind of thing that makes someone qualified to have their finger on the nuclear button.
In the meantime, Donald Trump has become a grandfather multiple times over.
And then there’s Carlson, whose litany of sexist statements considerably outnumbers Lemon’s and certainly could be put into a book-length document. Carlson’s comments are far more offensive to women than Lemon’s.
On the other hand, it does not appear that these statements were the cause of his departure from Fox News; rather, it appears to have been a tangle of legal issues: Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for disseminating unsubstantiated accusations that its devices permitted significant voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Fox News has resolved a defamation case with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million.
Dominion Voting Systems sued the network for spreading these claims. Carlson was supposed to testify in the case, and she is also listed in a separate lawsuit that was filed by a former Fox News producer. In that lawsuit, the producer claims that the network attempted to lay the blame for its coverage of the Dominion scandal on her and another female coworker. Carlson is named in both lawsuits. (Fox has referred to the case as being “baseless.”)
In a rather ironic turn of events, Carlson came to Lemon’s defense after the latter faced criticism for the statements he made regarding Haley. Carlson remarked in a program in February, mocking Democrats’ anger at Lemon’s comments, “Shut up, Black guy, how dare you to criticize girl power (and) pretend that biology is real,” neglecting on purpose that the issue was not Haley’s ability to bear a kid but rather her ability to run for president. Lemon’s comments sparked a debate about whether or not Haley was qualified to run for president.
But what else would we expect from a man who is 2021 called it “a mockery of the U.S. military” to allow “new hairstyles and maternity flight suits” for women serving in the armed forces of the United States?
Or who in 2016 advised author Lauren Duca, who had just published an opinion piece criticizing Trump, to “stick to the thigh-high boots.” You’re better at that” appears to be a reference to Duca’s earlier coverage of pop sensation Ariana Grande, who routinely wears thigh-high boots in her public appearances.
Or who, in several of many sexist comments made during conversations on a shock jock radio program from 2006 to 2011, described women as “extremely primitive” and “like dogs,” said he felt sorry for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan because she is an “unattractive woman” and has “absolutely fundamental” physical problems, described Clinton and Oprah Winfrey as “anti-penis,” and said that Clinton would not receive “a single vote from any white male” because “you look at Hillary
After the comments were made public in 2019, Tucker Carlson referred to them as “naughty” and added that if people truly wanted to know what he thought, they should watch his show on Fox News. In other words, he invited viewers to find out what he believed by watching his show.
That choice is no longer available, which is a blessing; but, it never should have been considered in the first place.
What Carlson thinks of women was something we were well aware of. And we are aware of Lemon’s feelings regarding females. Neither of the men concealed the opinions they had; after all, why would they when we live in a world in which similar thoughts are not only accepted but frequently celebrated?
CNN and Fox News now have the option to select hosts who do not condemn women based only on their appearance and who realize that a woman’s contribution to society does not seize the moment she is any longer able to have children. These individuals should also be aware that a woman’s value to society does not end the moment she is unable to have children.