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Fox News Belittles Most Powerful Woman in Politics

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January 4th, 2007

By Guest Blogger JudyDaubenmier

Reacting to the idea of a powerful woman, Fox News Thursday (January 4, 2007) marked the occasion of the swearing in of the first woman as Speaker of the House with coverage that mocked her authority and depicted her policy disagreements with other members of Congress as petty jealousies typical of women. Click here to see the video.

“Fox and Friends” began its coverage not with a story about the history-making aspects of Nancy Pelosi’s swearing in as speaker, but with a story about Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, still being upset after Pelosi failed to reappoint her as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Fox and Friends” co-hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Andrew Napolitano blamed Pelosi’s dumping of Harman on Harman’s willingness to work with Republicans, Foxspeak for failure to challenge Bush administration’s intelligence abuses.

As the trio discussed the story, Fox News displayed a banner reading “Congress Catfight.” The term “catfight” is a belittling term often used to ridicule disagreements among women, casting them as fights among animals (especially an animal that is often seen as fickle and hard to understand like a cat). Saying a disagreement among women is a “catfight” is akin to saying that the women are less than human and their disagreement is based on something other than rationallity, intellect or principle. Men do battle. Women have catfights.

This subtle swipe was not the end of Fox News’ efforts to belittle the new speaker.

In a segment on Pelosi’s comments that by becoming speaker, she was now the most powerful woman in America, Doocy read her quote about breaking through a “marble ceiling” and then mocked her by saying, “All rise, Nancy Pelosi takes control” as the music of “Pomp and Circumstance” played in the background. When Doocy mentioned her name again later in the program, Fox News played the same music.

At one point, Fox News also displayed a banner beneath video of Pelosi which read, “Stepping Down.” And in the second hour of the program, the Fox and Friends trio repeated their discussion of the Harman-Pelosi disagreement, complete with the “Congress Catfight” banner.

Later, going into a break, Napolitano teased, “Is the new Speaker of the House really the most powerful woman in America?” “She says so,” answered Doocy, suggesting there was reason to doubt it.

After the break, the co-hosts interviewed Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report about Pelosi’s power. He confirmed that her political power is considerable: third in line for the presidency behind the president and vice president, with the power to set the agenda in the House. Hard to argue that any woman right now possesses more actual political power.

During the two-hour show, Fox News also tried to further undermine Pelosi by repeatedly rehashing Republican complaints about being shut out of offering amendments for the first 100 hours, while downplaying any memory of how Republicans had shut out Democrats for 12 years.

Carlson did mention Pelosi’s achievement, saying, “You either like her or you don’t, but it is historic in the sense that she is assuming this position, and I think for women in general this shows that any door is open for you, no matter what.”

The tone of the two hours, however, undercut that theme.

Pelosi does not fit the mold of “fair and balanced” femininity espoused on Fox News: women are either innocent victims, like Natalee Holloway, or they are whores, as they consider the accuser in the Duke lacrosse rape case. Pelosi threatens to upset Fox News’ entire world view. For them, that’s worse that repealing Bush’s tax cuts.

Cross posted from NewsHounds.us.

Guest Blogger JudyDaubenmier is one of the News Houndswho watch Fox so you don’t have to, as well as the author of a book on the media titled, Project Rewire: New Media from the Inside Out.

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