Early MSNBC Pundits Defend Spitzer, Lash Out at Prudish America

In the 3 pm hour, in the first blush of the prostitution revelations against liberal Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York, MSNBC’s experts quickly described the scandal as a nothing-burger. Alan Dershowitz attacked America for being a "pandering society and hypocritical society," since this wouldn’t even make the back pages of a newspaper in sophisticated Europe. "Big deal, married man goes to prostitute!" Dershowitz also blamed "men" (as a group) for thinking with their private parts. Tucker Carlson agreed with that line, and said that Spitzer is sleazy, but this is "one of the least sleazy things he’s done." About 13 minutes into the hour, Contessa Brewer brought on Dershowitz for his reaction, explaining at one point that Dershowitz taught Spitzer at Harvard. He sounded quivering and emotional:

I have two reactions. One, I feel terrible for Eliot and his family. But I feel that this is a America-only story that we have to put in perspective. You know, big deal, married man goes to prostitute! In Europe, this wouldn't even make the back pages of the newspaper. It's a uniquely American story. We’re a uniquely, you know, pandering society and hypocritical society, when it comes to sex.

Brewer brought the charge back around: Alan, you have Eliot Spitzer himself back in 2004 when he busted a prostitution ring and he, he expressed disgust, he expressed revulsion. Dershowitz: I know. And that's part of the cycle of hypocrisy that we live in.They broke in for audio of Spitzer’s brief statement to the media. Brewer also asked:

"How is it that someone – and you have called him brilliant. How does someone brilliant get caught in something like this? Dershowitz: Well, because men don't use their brain when it comes to something like this. They think with a different part of their body, and that part of the body, the level of brains, there are no relationship to the level of brains in the skull, unfortunately. And when people think with that organ of the body, they make these kind of really, really terrible mistakes.

Then Dershowitz turned to attacking the media for overplaying the story:

Brewer: One more thing to ask you, Alan, you point out and rightly so that in other countries, there's a completely different view of having mistresses or visiting prostitutes, and even whether that activity is legal or illegal, but the fact of the matter is the people were arrested last week on charges of running this emperors club vip, their not only accused of prostitution, they're also accused of funneling profits and laundering money. Dershowitz: Yeah, he has nothing to do with that. That's why I didn't approve of The New York Times headline, involved in prostitution ring. I mean, at worst, he's a john, he's a customer. And a customer can't be held responsible for whether or not the ring pays their taxes or launders money. I mean, let’s not take him beyond what his level of accountability is.

Tucker agreed with Dershowitz’s line about men being stupid:

You shouldn't be going to hookers on the road, whether you're working for the state of New York or anyone else. it's wrong. I'm not defending it. I will say Spitzer, the one thing people always said about him, he's abrasive, he's arrogant, he's annoying, he's power-mad, whatever, but he's smart. Not so smart to use your pager to communicate with a hooker! Again, to quote Alan Dershowitz, men are pretty dumb when it comes to stuff like that. It's kind of who they are. They're dumb.

If these men said something this crude in an overgeneralizing way against women, it would be seen as a sexist smear of the whole gender. In fact, Brewer ends up being the one to defend the notion of marital fidelity to women. Tucker also suggested Spitzer could stay in office, like Bill Clinton:

I would argue, if you're against Eliot Spitzer, and I think his public career has been shameful, this is not the way to get him. Spitzer's true sins, in my view, are the ones that he commits in public, crushing other people for the sake of his own political career, for instance, which has been the hallmark of his time in public life, not going to a hooker! That's no way to get, in my opinion, at your political enemies. And to see the press, a group that you know, frankly, has pretty unconventional personal lives, by and large, getting all high-handed about the fact that a grown man went to a prostitute is nauseating. [Laughs]Brewer: Wait, wait, wait, not just a prostitute, not just he's a governor who went to a prostitute, but that he himself had busted prostitution rings, and when he did so, got up and made a big show of how angry he was. Carlson, in full sneer: Okay, I’m sorry I didn’t get that news flash. I missed that. So he's a hypocrite unlike the rest of us. I mean -- Of course, of course he's a hypocrite! But the point is, that's not the problem with Eliot Spitzer. The problem with Eliot Spitzer is the way he hauled his political enemies into court abusing the power of the state, again, so he could become elected governor. I just think it’s a shame – and here I am defending someone I detest and disapprove of – but I think it’s a shame when we go into these spasms of self-righteousness, when we all beat our chests, and say, look at the bad guy, we're nothing like him, when in fact a lot of us are like him, frankly. Brewer, with a dramatic pause: Really? Carlson, suddenly protesting that might cut too close to home: I'm not! I’m just saying I don’t like, there's something, that I believe is unattractive about public displays of self-righteousness of this kind. And you're going to see it over the next 24 hours, analysts going on TV and saying, "That’s repulsive!" You know, where were they when Spitzer was crushing his enemies using public tax dollars and the threat of prison. They didn’t say anything about it. They cheered him on like some kind of Robin Hood, when in fact he's the opposite, and now just because he goes to a hooker, they're beating up on him. Brewer: As I said, he said he was going in to clean up Albany, he said that it was ethics reform. Talk about unethical, he's got a wife he's been married to for more than 20 years and three daughters and the public trustCarlson: I'm in no way defending Eliot Spitzer or defending adultery. I think Eliot Spitzer's a deeply sleazy person. I've always thought that and I’ve said that out loud for many years. I just think this is one of the least sleazy things he's done.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis