Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Banfield's too good for them. Let me see if I've got this straight. Right-wing homophobic talk-show host Michael Savage, in his "book," The Savage Nation, jokes that MSNBC stands for "More Snotty Nonsense By Creeps," and refers to MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield as "the mind-slut with a big pair of glasses that they sent to Afghanistan."

So how did MSNBC executives respond? Why, they hired him, of course. And when he called Banfield a "slut" on the air for daring to interview loyalists to Saddam Hussein, his bosses reacted with silence.

Now Banfield has chosen to speak out, criticizing the networks -- not just her own -- for portraying the war as a glorious romp for democracy rather than the more complex and bloody conflict that it was.

"You did not see where those bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortars landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me," Banfield said at a speech at Kansas State University last week.

She also dared to take on Savage, saying:

He was so taken aback by my daring to speak to martyrs ... for being prepared to sacrifice themselves, he chose to label me a slut on the air, and that's not all, as a porn star and an accessory to the murder of Jewish children. These are the ramifications for simply bringing the message in the Arab world.

A rational response might be to cheer Banfield for stating some obvious truths that few mainstream-media people want to say. But, noooo. Instead, NBC News released a statement saying:

Ms. Banfield does not speak for NBC News. We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her remarks, and will review her comments with her. In the meantime, we want to emphasize how proud we are of the journalism produced by NBC News and of the men and women who worked around the clock, even risking their lives, to bring this story to the American public.

Unfortunately, what's going on is very simple. Banfield is absolutely right about the war coverage, and besides, she's simply defending herself from someone who has attacked her twice in grotesquely sexist terms. But MSNBC's past attempts to turn her into its hot-babe marquee ratings star failed, so she's not allowed to speak out.

She'll be gone -- soon. So will Savage, after it becomes clear that his hate-filled, lower-than-public-access-quality talk show is a ratings loser. And MSNBC will continue its long, unwatched march into oblivion.

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