The fine journalists at Fox News have developed a certain sensitivity about their news product. When Obama gave a completely accurate rendition of the network’s habit of describing poor people as lazy moochers, Fox News went ballistic. You’re not supposed to talk about Fox News’ coverage of poor people, it seems. Apparently another subject you’re not supposed to mention is the fact that Fox News has a lot of blonde female on-air personalities.
Fox News personality Kirsten Powers has written a column entitled “The Left’s war on Fox women.” I turn out to be a soldier in this war. In 2010, at The New Republic, I wrote a short item consisting, in its entirety, of the following image and text:
Everything you need to know about Fox News is captured in this screenshot: the American flags, the fear-mongering image in the upper-right corner, the blond anchor with a facial expression that somehow combines sneering with absolute terror.
I headlined the item, “The Quintessential Fox News Image.” I find it self-explanatory. Powers finds it offensive. “Kelly wasn’t sneering or looking frightened, though she is blonde and is on Fox which to the illiberal left means she’s a nameless ‘blond anchor’ and candidate for being objectified and dehumanized,” she writes.
On Twitter, Powers continued to elucidate her belief that mentioning Kelly’s hair color is an objectifying and dehumanizing attack. A microaggression, as it were.
The point of my little item was that the screenshot seemed to capture many of the qualities people associate with Fox News. One of those qualities I listed, among several, is the presence of an anchor with blonde hair. That Fox News has a high proportion of blonde female personalities is undeniably true. More than half of Fox News’ female hosts have blonde hair. The quintessential Fox News image is going to include a blonde anchor for the same reason the quintessential fraternity image will have beer and the quintessential French image will have a guy wearing a beret. Apparently, noting this fact violates some right-wing taboo.
Now, does the disproportionate occurrence of blonde hair among female Fox News personalities have any bearing on the substance of their journalism (or journalism-esque statements)? Not to me. It does, however, matter a great deal to Fox News. Roger Ailes, as my colleague Gabriel Sherman recorded extensively in his book The Loudest Voice in the Room, pays minute attention to the appearance and attractiveness of his female on-air talent:
Anchor Bob Sellers remembered Ailes once calling the control booth. ‘I was doing the weekend show with Kiran Chetry. He called up and said, ‘Move that damn laptop, I can’t see her legs!’ …
“He had admiration for her legs,” a senior executive said. In one meeting, Ailes barked, “Tell Catherine I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits.”
Around this time, he also considered poaching CNBC star Maria Bartiromo. “Roger passed on her,” one executive involved in the talks said. “He wished she hadn’t gained so much weight. He said she went from looking like Sophia Loren to Mamma Leone.
The really comic thing here is Powers’s belief that it’s dehumanizing to mention an undeniably true fact about Fox News apparently started as some argument about victim politics taken to excess. Powers has no quarrel with the analytic methods of victim politics. She just believes it’s being used on behalf of the wrong class of victims.