Ana Marie Cox on Couric Middle-East Trip: 'Maybe She Needs Rugs'

Update 15:34 (see bottom of post): Cox explains her rug joke.

I had great expectations when Ana Marie Cox turned up on the "Morning Joe" panel, confident the tart-tongued former Wonkette would produce plenty of grist for our NB mill. But over the course of the week, Cox has been disappointingly subdued, leaving it to the congenial Tamron Hall to produce our headlines. Perhaps Ana Marie's new gig at staid "Time" magazine has caused her to hide her acerbic light under a barrel.

But the strain of being restrained was maybe too much for Ana Marie, for she began this morning's show with a catty swipe at Katie Couric.

Host Joe Scarborough began the opening chit-chat by noting that CBS Evening News anchor Couric has announced her plans to visit Iraq and Syria. That's when Ana Marie pounced.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So Katie's going off to the war zone. Did you read that? Katie Couric.

ANA MARIE COX: Needs some rugs, maybe. I don't know.

R-e-o-o-w-w-w!

View video here.

Cox packed a double-jab in that one short burst. Can you imagine the outraged cries of "sexism" and "ethnic stereotyping" if a conservative had been caught out suggesting Middle Easterners were a bunch of rug merchants and interior decorating a woman news anchor's main conern?

Bonus Coverage: Cox later gave a clue into the roots of her unusual persona. During the course of the news summary, Tamron Hall mentioned that a vandal had set fire four days early to the huge wooden effigy at the Burning Man festival [described by its creators as "an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance"] held out in the Nevada desert. That's when Cox made this odd and coincidental disclosure.

COX: My father is at Burning Man.

SCARBOROUGH: So what's up with your dad?

COX: Don't know. He maybe kind of missed the 60s.

SCARBOROUGH: Could you let him know that the Age of Aquarius is over?

Paging the GEICO psychotherapist. "It's my father. I'll put him on speaker."

Update (Ken Shepherd, 15:34): Cox, writing at Time magazine's "Swampland" blog, insists that her joke about Couric buying rugs was not an ethnic swipe at Middle Easterners or a swipe at Couric's respectability as a serious journalist:

...For instance, my crack about Couric going to Iraq to buy rugs was a reference to the Graham/Spence/McCain marketplace stroll, not a joke about women and interior design or Mid-East stereotypes. But media critics are not known for their appreciation of topical humor. My dad really is at Burning Man, though.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.