So, CBS CEO Les Moonves thinks Dan Rather’s comments about Katie Couric are sexist, huh?
CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves shot back at former CBS news anchor Dan Rather today, saying remarks Rather made about his successor, Katie Couric, were “sexist.”Rather, speaking on MSNBC by phone on Monday, said CBS had made the mistake of taking the evening news broadcast and “dumbing it down, tarting it up,” and playing up topics such as celebrities over war coverage. The comments appeared in blogs and in a story published today in the New York Daily News.
While referring to Couric as a “nice person,” Rather said “the mistake was to try to bring the ‘Today’ show ethos to the ‘Evening News,’ and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience.” (Story.)
Well, here’s what I think.
Dan shouldn’t have used the term “tarting it up” because that allowed Moonves to fire back without addressing the issue – which, of course, is that Couric is a disgraceful lightweight and Moonves made one of the worst management decisions in the history of TV news. If we want to search for a better term, that’s fine. But Rather’s disparaging assessment of what CBS did is accurate. If anything, he was charitable. Maybe Les is sensitive because his hare-brained decision has driven CBS News ratings to a 20-year low?
But that aside, any sexism that actually exists in this little melodrama arguably lies with Moonves, not Rather. Moonves made a fairly transparent decision to – jeez, what words are safe to use here? – perk things up a bit. (“Perk” isn’t sexist, is it?) CBS didn’t make a move toward credible, serious journalism, it reached for an attractive woman who was a proven ratings grabber (albeit not in a news environment). Now, what kinds of rationales play into that decision? What kinds of perfectly non-gendered concerns lead a man like Moonves to hand such a job to Katie Couric? Hmmm…..
I’ve never been a Dan Rather fan, really. But pointing at sexism doesn’t make you a sexist. I’ve seen enough of CBS “news” programming to know that if you’re a female, being pretty doesn’t hurt anything. Is that a coincidence?
Maybe one day Les Moonves will preside over a non-sexist operation at CBS. Until then, he needs to shut up, step off, and sit down.