Feminist Newsweek Editor Bashes Palin, Makes Excuses for Running-Shorts Cover

Newsweek deputy editor Julia Baird only arrived in America in 2007 from Australia, but she knows how to play a good corporate soldier. In the wake of Newsweek’s Sarah Palin cover fiasco, she wrote a column for the November 30 issue loyally dedicated to making excuses for her editor Jon Meacham’s bratty cover theatrics, like he was the editor of Spy magazine for a week. Palin’s complaints of sexism are lame, declared Baird:

And now Palin thinks she has been Palinized by NEWSWEEK, for last week’s cover image of her looking fit and posing in running shorts, even though she has been photographed and filmed more than once in aerobic gear (most recently on Oprah just a few days ago.)

Baird knows that Barack Obama has been photographed topless in a swimming suit, too, and that didn’t make the cover of Newsweek. (A few pages before Baird’s column in the November 30 issue is a photograph of Obama topless in the surf, illustrating the Palin quote that her Newsweek cover was "sexist and a wee bit degrading.")

Perhaps Baird should consider how she would feel if her columns were illustrated regularly by pictures of her in say, a sparkly gown she was "photographed and filmed in more than once." She’d call it an attempt to degrade her seriousness. Ahem.

Baird, the author of a feminist book on how the Australian media manhandled female politicians called "Media Tarts," wanted to declare that sexism in politics is a serious, bipartisan affliction. But then she insisted that Palin was a dangerous lightweight: "she has made a stunning number of errors, and her claim to celebrity outshines her claim to authority. She has not proved her ability to run a campaign or a country, and she quit her job as governor of Alaska before her time was up, with a lame excuse about being a lame duck."

Palin’s book is "light on ideas" and "self-serving" (as if Hillary Clinton’s memoir wasn’t):

When Palin writes tenderly about her family and her love for Alaska, she seems sincere. The rest of her new book is self-serving, preoccupied with revenge, light on ideas, and full of contradictions. President Obama may tell us "the American system is broken," she writes, but what about Facebook, "which sprang up out of nowhere"? She glosses over the reasons for our economic collapse, just cheering that even though she disagrees with all bailouts, we can get through it.

She simply advocates cutting taxes and controlling federal spending, "and then [that we] step aside and watch this economy roar back to life." Right, then. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, she says we should just "complete our missions in these countries." Good-o. Once we stop being distracted by fluffy Palin stories and start concentrating on what she says, you realize why we are so easily distracted.

"Good-o"? Is that Australian slang, or just odd? That last sentence was the pull quote for the column: Palin’s "fluffy."

Baird really goes after Palin for complaining about the Katie Couric interview, organized by Nicolle Wallace, who had worked for CBS after leaving the Bush White House:

Palin also does not shy from "Palinizing" other women, notably Katie Couric, whom she calls "The Perky One" and "the lowest-rated news anchor in network television." While she writes that her "blond, pretty" McCain campaign adviser, Nicolle Wallace, possesses charm she thinks some other women in politics lack, she blasts Wallace for leading her to believe that her gaffe-laden interview with Couric was going to be a homey chat between women. It is offensive to assume that someone seeking serious political power should not be asked hard questions or critically scrutinized — that it's OK to think an interview with a serious journalist like Couric would simply be a girly chat between working moms. This is embarrassing for women. And working moms.

Baird, the scourge of sexism, makes no attempt to figure out whether or why Couric would badger Palin with nasty questions designed to make her look like a lightweight "media tart," like asking what she read, while she went easy and fluffy with Joe Biden. (CBS's own summation of that alleged newsmaker interview: "He's the close-talking, free-wheeling, ice-cream-loving Democratic nominee for vice president.")

Baird concluded: "I admire Palin's pluck and steel. She has some legitimate grievances about the way she has been treated. (But apparently not by Newsweek.) But unless she articulates a coherent vision for America, the most staggering incidence of sexism in this fiasco will be the fact that someone chronically underqualified and unprepared was chosen to run as McCain's VP ahead of the throngs of women who could nail that job."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis