Another morning, another opportunity to find grossly racist and sexist rhetoric spewing out of the mouths of white men. This time, Mark Steyn, a contributor and guest host for Fox News, said in an interview Monday night with Tucker Carlson that he thinks Senator Kamala Harris, of California, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a “fine looking woman.”
Because, you know, somewhere in his brain, that was remotely appropriate. And given that this happened on Fox, the exchange actually gets even more bizarre (and disgusting) as it continues.
His exact words, which have now been quoted to accompany the video clip on Twitter (and embedded in the article below), were: “Kamala Harris is a fine looking woman, to go all nonpartisan for a moment.”
In a word: Yikes.
Regular Fox News guest: “Kamala Harris is a fine looking woman, to go all nonpartisan for a moment.” pic.twitter.com/gOH9nodKcl
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) February 19, 2019
Somehow, the conversation gets worse.
“Mark Steyn was also watching, if not gushing,” says Carlson, referring to the clip of the senator trying on a jacket at a black- and women-owned small business. “Pounce Mark, if you will!”
Laughing, Steyn says, “Well, OK, I will pounce! Kamala Harris is a fine looking woman, to go all nonpartisan for a moment. But actually,” he continues, “that isn’t a good jacket on her.”
Pause here: ….What? Sexism and misogyny from a Fox favorite? Shocking!
Steyn continues, “It makes her look like a giant Rubik’s Cube.”
Yes, he literally compared a woman of color to a children’s toy.
Another jab of sexism comes next, this time aimed at the dreaded media:
“I don’t know why those female reporters would do that to her,” he adds, likely referring to the group of professional women (from CNN, CBS, and the LA Times) who seem to be smiling and laughing with Senator Harris as she briefly tries on and removes the colorful jacket.
In the extended clip, posted to his website and YouTube and embedded above, Steyn continues. “I am sort of amazed by this clip… We all know Democrats have a cozier relationship with the media than the Republicans do.” Then he proceeds to tell a bizarre story in which he recalls Senator John Kerry choosing a jock strap at a sporting goods store in a similar segment, back in 2004.
“The participation of these female reporters,” he continues over Carlson’s cackle, “in Senator Harris’s shopping expedition is taking it to a whole new level.” Imagine: Women journalists!
“It’s a little discrediting, no?” Tucker poses, to which Steyn nods affirmatively. “If your goal is to be taken seriously as a journalist, you probably wouldn’t do this, would you?” Which are strong words for someone who has a show on Fox.
“No, I don’t think you would,” agrees Steyn, the man whose work apparently involves critiquing the work of women. “It’s kind of pitiful,” he adds.
Lily Adams, Communications Director for Sen. Harris, responded to the clip on Twitter:
I don’t think “nonpartisan” is the correct descriptor here. https://t.co/mchq2h4Hqb
— Lily Adams (@adamslily) February 19, 2019
Oh, and by the way. This tweet from Harris herself perfectly sums up what she was doing:
Supporting small businesses — and Black woman-owned businesses — strengthens the backbone of our economy. It’s about investment and innovation in our communities. When they succeed, we all succeed. pic.twitter.com/zb93CDkUFW
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 17, 2019
The exchange is coded with racism, sexism, and misogyny. In a light, the ridiculousness of their exchange can be funny. But it’s also insidious; how many people tune into Fox and nod their heads in agreement, eager to discredit Harris (or any politician who happens to be a woman) for briefly trying on a jacket to highlight a small business? How many voters can be swayed that a woman of color is, in fact, unqualified, simply because she appears friendly or down to Earth? Can women smile at other women and be good at their jobs?
It almost goes without saying that literally none of this would be up for discussion if Harris were a white man. When it comes to women, it seems nothing is safe from a sexist critique.