CBS ‘Early Show’ Celebrates the ‘Dixie Chicks of Bridge’

Apparently bridge has officially become edgy and provocative. I must not have gotten the memo.

On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Hannah Storm interviewed a championship bridge team that held up a sign that read "We didn’t vote for Bush," at the World Bridge Championship in China last month. As a result of this dissent, many in the mainstream media have dubbed the women the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge."

Co-host Julie Chen teased the segment at the top of the show by portraying the bridge players as victims: "Four previously mild-mannered bridge champions facing backlash and a ban for criticizing President Bush." Later, co-host Harry Smith made the Dixie Chicks comparison, lamenting:

Remember when the Dixie Chicks caused a firestorm of controversy back in 2003? Natalie Maines said she was ashamed of our foreign -- of U.S. foreign policy, criticizing President Bush. It was just ten days before the beginning of the war in Iraq. Radio stations burned their CDs. No one would play their songs. Now a much quieter group, some call the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge" is caught up in a somewhat similar storm of controversy. They had just won an international bridge tournament in China when one of them held up a sign. See what the sign says? "We didn't vote for Bush." We're going to talk to them in this half hour.

The segment later began with reporter Debbye Turner describing the details of the injustice, "Now, these women, who have won several awards, are facing a backlash and could face tough sanctions, including a year long ban from competition... Now we'll see how the bridge ladies play this hand. But the cards may be stacked against them." Bad puns aside, it sounds like the U.S. Bridge Federation ( yes, there really is such an organization) operates like a police state, no wait, China is a police state. How ironic that the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge" chose to exercise their free speech against Bush while in an oppressive Communist dictatorship.

As the interview began, Hannah Storm eagerly asked team member Jill Levin about the reaction of people to the anti-Bush sentiment:

STORM: And Jill, what was the response?

JILL LEVIN: From the international community it was --

STORM: By the people there. When you held up your sign, what did -- how did people respond?

JILL LEVIN: From the international community, it was extremely positive. They enjoyed it, specifically, I the can tell you the French team came over, [in a bad French accent] Jill, we loved you before, we love you even more now."

STORM: The French team. Well, there you go. Right, right.

Isn’t being anti-American fun?

At the end of the segment, Storm returned to the theme of the bridge team as victims of oppression and pushed them to agree with that assessment:

STORM: Let me ask a question. Do you guys -- you guys have agreed now that you're not going to speak out against the president. Is that the terms of this, I mean?

ROSENBERG: Certainly not. I mean, I don't think anybody's trying to tell us that here at home -- and, in fact, I don't think that was really the agenda of the U.S. Bridge Federation in the first place. They just thought it was an inappropriate venue. They didn't ask us to agree --

STORM: So you're not giving up your right to free speech here?

ROSENBERG: Absolutely not.

STORM: In any way?

ROSENBERG: In no way whatsoever.

STORM: Would you continue to criticize the president?

The courage it must take to speak out against President Bush on Chinese soil in the company of the French.

Here is the full transcript:

7:01AM TEASER:

JULIE CHEN: Also coming up this morning, are they the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge"? Four previously mild-mannered bridge champions facing backlash and a ban for criticizing President Bush. They are live here today.

7:21AM

HANNAH STORM: Coming up in our next half hour, the champion bridge players who, like the Dixie Chicks, aren't ready to make nice.

7:30AM

HARRY SMITH: Remember when the Dixie Chicks caused a firestorm of controversy back in 2003? Natalie Maines said she was ashamed of our foreign -- of U.S. foreign policy, criticizing President Bush. It was just ten days before the beginning of the war in Iraq. Radio stations burned their CDs. No one would play their songs. Now a much quieter group, some call the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge" is caught up in a somewhat similar storm of controversy. They had just won an international bridge tournament in China when one of them held up a sign. See what the sign says? "We didn't vote for Bush." We're going to talk to them in this half hour."

7:31AM SEGMENT:

HANNAH STORM: A group of American bridge players set off a political storm that could get at least one of them suspended for a year or more. As Early Show Correspondent Debbye Turner reports, these women are now being called the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge."

DIXIE CHICKS SONG: I'm not ready to make nice. I'm not ready to back down.

DEBBYE TURNER: The Dixie Chicks made history as the highest-selling female band of all time. In 2003, the Texas trio made headlines not for their voices, but for voicing their opinion.

NATALIE MAINES: I said that I don't like that the president is from my state.

TURNER: It was the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq when lead singer Natalie Maines made this provocative statement. Many thought she should apologize.

MAINES: Sorry about what? Sorry about not wanting to go to war?

TURNER: The women couldn't escape the criticism. Country radio stations refused to play their songs, but they refused to apologize. Time Magazine dubbed them The Radical Chicks. Now there may be a new group of radical chicks, the bridge chicks. Last month, these professional bridge players were at the World Bridge Championships in Shanghai when one of them spontaneously held up a small sign saying We did not vote for Bush. Now, these women, who have won several awards, are facing a backlash and could face tough sanctions, including a year long ban from competition. The U.S. Bridge Federation said, It is simply not the time or place for any team to make a political statement -- and all participants should know that. The Dixie Chicks stood by their word. Now we'll see how the bridge ladies play this hand. But the cards may be stacked against them. For "The Early Show," Debbye Turner, CBS News, New York.

STORM: Team Captain Gail Greenberg, an 11-time world bridge champion is here, along with team members Debbie Rosenberg and Jill Levin. And good morning to all of you.

GAIL GREENBERG: Good morning.

DEBBIE ROSENBERG: Good morning.

JILL LEVIN: Good morning.

STORM: Debbie, you were holding that sign up, why did you choose that venue, a nonpolitical event, an awards dinner, to do something like that?

DEBBIE ROSENBERG: It seemed like the right time to tell our friends from all over the world that we didn't agree with what was going on and we thought it was going to be a very well-received message there, or those of us who thought about it thought that.

STORM: And Jill, what was the response?

JILL LEVIN: From the international community it was --

STORM: By the people there. When you held up your sign, what did -- how did people respond?

JILL LEVIN: From the international community, it was extremely positive. They enjoyed it, specifically, I the can tell you the French team came over, Jill, we loved you before, we love you even more now.

STORM: The French team. Well, there you go. Right, right. What about fellow Americans? What about the other bridge players that were there?

LEVIN: Mixed.

STORM: A mixed reaction.

LEVIN: I had some Americans that appreciated there might be some fallout from it, but appreciated what we did as being a good message to have delivered to the international community. And there were some that appreciated right away that some would think it was totally inappropriate to have done so.

STORM: Got a lot of backlash from the federation. They threatened to basically issue a year ban, right, on the team? 200 hours of community service. They wanted you to sign a letter of apology written by their lawyer, right, and issue a statement. Now, what has happened overnight? There have been some developments here. What's happened?

ROSENBERG: Well, I think it's been a great statement for democracy and a great example of the public speaking out. And we've had so many supporters --

STORM: What's happened overnight? Why don't you tell people --

ROSENBERG: Writing to the USBF and I think they've really gotten the message and I believe today they're going to be announcing that they're dropping the charges against us. And I think they really responded. And bridge players are reasonable in the end.

STORM: So you reached some sort of -- you're telling me that you've reached some sort of settlement then, with them.

ROSENBERG: We have.

STORM: But you, have, as team captain, you are not going to --

GAIL GREENBERG: I'm the black sheep here.

STORM: You are not going to agree to this. Right. Why not?

GREENBERG: Well, first of all, it's a very nice compliment about 11 world championships but that's somewhat exaggerated, we'll have to settle for six.

STORM: Six. Six world championships.

GREENBERG: Want to make sure that we clarify that.

STORM: And interestingly enough, this is also your daughter here, Jill. She has agreed to a settlement. The Bridge Federation's going to say we're not -- you guys aren't facing any sanctions, we're moving on, but you're saying no. Why?

GREENBERG: Well, I'm saying at the moment, no. This all came about at 2:00 in the morning when I got a telephone call and the letter was written to -- was read to me on the phone. I haven't even seen a copy of this yet. I haven't had a chance to run it by my sons, who've been wonderful.

STORM: Right.

GREENBERG: And my attorney, Norman Siegel, who I --

STORM: Let me ask a question. Do you guys -- you guys have agreed now that you're not going to speak out against the president. Is that the terms of this, I mean?

ROSENBERG: Certainly not. I mean, I don't think anybody's trying to tell us that here at home -- and, in fact, I don't think that was really the agenda of the U.S. Bridge Federation in the first place. They just thought it was an inappropriate venue. They didn't ask us to agree --

STORM: So you're not giving up your right to free speech here?

ROSENBERG: Absolutely not.

STORM: In any way?

ROSENBERG: In no way whatsoever.

STORM: Would you continue to criticize the president?

GREENBERG: I was not criticizing President Bush as such. I was only trying to get across, as were my teammates, that we didn't agree with some of his policies, but we were very proud to be Americans because we had the right to express that.

STORM: So this is a matter of free speech.

GREENBERG: This was a matter of free expression, yes.

STORM: Alright, and you will be facing a hearing probably in a week. So we'll keep updated on that. Gail Greenberg, Jill Levin, and Debbie Rosenberg. Thank you so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC