Networks Freak Out Over All Male Golf Club; Katie Couric Lectures: 'Get With the Program'

ABC and NBC could barely contain their contempt while covering the controversy over the all-male Augusta golf club. Katie Couric, guest anchoring Good Morning America on Thursday, lectured the organization hosting the Masters tournament to allow a woman in: "I mean, really. Get with the program. Seriously?"

Reporter Josh Elliott lamented that Augusta has remained "cloistered," "a secretive sanctuary for golfers and one that has never admitted a woman. On Wednesday's Nightly News, correspondent Lisa Myers wondered what Augusta Chairman Billy Payne would "tell his granddaughters about why women are excluded."

The same program featured Sports Illustrated journalist Alan Shipnuck who sneered, "It's getting unseemly. The longer this goes, the more ridiculous the club looks. You know, August National is sending a very strong message to women and girls, which is you're not welcome here."

The issue is whether IBM CEO Virginia Rometty will be made a member, a tradition for corporate club sponsors.

On Thursday's Today, panelist Donny Deutsch called for a boycott unless Rometty is allowed in.

The lone dissenting voice was fellow panelist Star Jones who reasoned, "I don't think that they should have to admit women. It's a private club, but they shouldn't have to have my money."

An incredulous Deutsch responded, "You're kidding me!" He followed up by asking if it would be okay to not allow African Americans.

At the very least, the rights of a private club to do as they please should be given some discussion by journalists who cover this issue.

A transcript of the April 5 GMA segment, which aired at 7:14am EDT, follows:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Time, now, for the controversy swirling around the Masters golf tournament which begins today. The big question, will the Augusta National Golf Club finally admit women? Josh is all over this for ABC News. He's here on the other side of the desk for the latest now. And we may be hitting a tipping point.

ABC GRAPHIC: Secretive Sanctuary: Cry to Allow Women at Golf Club

JOSH ELLIOTT: Indeed, we may. And, again, for almost 80 years now, Augusta National has been all male and resisted all pressure to go co-ed. But, today, that polarizing tradition may be all but over, because IBM is one of the tournament's major sponsors. And IBM's new CEO just happens to be a woman.

For nearly 80 years, the storied fairways and greens of Augusta National, home of the Masters, have remained cloistered, a secretive sanctuary for golfers and one that has never admitted a woman.  But Virginia Rometty isn't just any woman. The trail blazing executives, ne of Fortune's "50 powerful women in business" seven years running, is now the first female CEO of IBM. And the chief executive at IBM, a longtime Masters sponsor, has traditionally been offered a club membership. Yet, as the tournament begins this morning, Augusta Chairman Billy Payne refuses to say which tradition Rometty will alter.

REPORTER'S VOICE: One of the changes that hasn't happened to the club is the all-male membership. I am wondering if you ever foresee that changing?

BILLY PAYNE: All issues for membership are now, and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members.

ELLIOTT: Augusta National is so secretive it won't reveal the name of its members, or even how many of them there are. Reportedly there are 300, all by invitation only. And while Augusta won't admit to an official no-woman policy, the fact remains, there have been no female members.               

FEMALE REPORTER VOICE: As a grandfather, what would you say to your granddaughters, how would you explain leading a club that does not include female membership?

PAYNE: Once again, though expressed quite artfully, I think that's a question that deals with membership.

ELLIOTT: So, will Virginia Rometty break up the Augusta Nationals boys club?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN (ABC News consultant): Augusta National wants this old boys club from the 1940s or '50s and here comes the 21st century and women are in charge of companies.  And in this case, a woman happens to be in charge of a company that sponsors the Masters.

ELLIOTT: Now, Augusta National is nothing if it is not tradition-bound, but it has broken course before.  In 1990, it admitted its first black member. And while it's able to deflect such pressures before, 22 years later, those pressures, guys, were always put on them by outsiders. But now, here we are, on the inside. And the face of this issue just happens to be one of the most powerful executives in the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, even if it happens, it will not happen before the tournament ends this year.

ELLIOTT: It will not happen before the tournament ends this year. However, it will be revisited and it is hard to see how they will betray their own tradition and not give the CEO of IBM a membership.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, it sure is. Okay, Josh. Thanks very much.

KATIE COURIC: I mean, really. Get with the program. Seriously? [Laughter from Stephanopoulos. Couric shakes head.] Okay.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org