In most instances, sexist political commentary — on Fox News and elsewhere — is simply ignored. It is accepted, excused or dismissed as unimportant. The world moves on.
Occasionally, however, the sexism on Fox News is so extreme that the perpetrator feels compelled to address it. But what happens next frequently falls far short of an apology. In fact, Fox News often blames their critics for misinterpreting the remarks or overreacting. It’s not them, it’s you.
The Fox News game plan for extreme sexism has been playing out frequently in recent days. On Thursday, two male co-hosts of Fox News’ “The Five” mocked the United Arab Emirates first female fighter pilot, who participated in strikes against ISIS.
Co-host Greg Gutfiled cracked, “The problem is after she bombed it she couldn’t park it.” Co-host Eric Bolling piled on, “Would that be considered boobs on the ground or no?”
Bolling’s first “apology” was actually another sexist statement. He said “When I got home, I got the look [from my wife]. And I realize some people didn’t think it was funny at all. I said sorry to me wife and I apologize to all of you as well.”
Bolling is sorry if you do not have a sense of humor.
Gutfiled didn’t apologize at all, saying regular viewers know he “makes very hacky jokes knowing that they are hacky.”
Bolling followed up his non-apology with a second apology. He said this one was “sincere.”
The responses from Bolling and Gutfiled this week are nearly identical to the responses from two other male Fox News hosts earlier this month. Following the release of a video showing former Ravens player Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend unconscious in an elevator, Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade provided mocking advice to the victim, saying “I think the message is, take the stairs.” Co-host Steve Doocey joined in, advising potential domestic abusers that “When you are in an elevator, there’s a camera.”
The following day, Doocey and Kilmeade spent 13 seconds addressing their comments. The pair essentially blamed anyone who was offended for misinterpreting their comments. “Comments that were made during this story made some feel like we are taking the situation too lightly,” Kilmead said. “We are not, we were not. Domestic violence is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.”
Doocey took a similar tack in February 2013 when he suggested that a new photo on Hillary Clinton’s website was proof she had a facelift. “Is this the face of presidential ambition? Days after retiring as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, somebody has launched a new website for her showing off this glamorous new face,” Doocey said at the time. “Facelift, perhaps?”
Right on queue, Doocey blamed the lefty blogs for misinterpreting his comments on Twitter:
Saw some lefty blogs thought I said Hillary had a facelift, nope, I was saying the Hillary WEBSITE had a new pic, a facelift for site
— Steve Doocy (@sdoocy) February 6, 2013
Indeed, for Fox News, sexism is not really a bug, it’s a feature. As Eric Wemple noted in the Washington Post, the network regularly features commentary from Dr. Keith Ablow, who says something worthy of an apology on virtually every appearance.
The model seems to be working for Fox News. It continues to crush its cable news competitors. It somewhat neutralizes its repentantly sexist male hosts by giving a platform to strong women like Megyn Kelly. As long as the ratings stay high, what does Fox News really have to apologize for?