Today Show Cares More about “Bad Hair” Days than Rape in Congo

Offender: Meredith Vieira and Andrea Mitchell on the Today Show

Media Outlet: NBC, airing on 8/11 and 8/12/09

Offense: Two mornings in a row the Today show focused on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s feisty response to a question about President Obama that reportedly was mis-translated into an inquiry about her husband’s opinion on a policy matter. Anchor Meredith Vieira claimed that “some” were speculating that Clinton was either jetlagged or “jealous” of her husband, while correspondent Andrea Mitchell added that Clinton was “having a bad hair day.”

NOW’s Analysis: Ok, so we gave the guys at The Washington Post a hard time for their stupid beer video. Which means the folks at the Today show really deserve to be called out for their coverage of Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa. Rather than focus on the serious issues that Clinton was addressing on her trip — including the use of rape as a weapon of war in Congo — the Today show chose instead to concentrate on Clinton’s response that she would be happy to speak for herself, thank you very much, because Bill Clinton isn’t secretary of state.

Leave it to the mainstream media to emphasize this trivial drama and Clinton’s hair over an important subject such as the ongoing epidemic of sexual violence against women in eastern Congo. Instead of doing their viewers a service by informing them about this critical issue, the powers that be at Today preferred to distract them with empty chatter.

The sad thing is, Andrea Mitchell even acknowledged that Clinton was going to be meeting with rape survivors later that day, and that she had already traveled to seven countries and given 22 speeches — yet Mitchell just couldn’t resist that “bad hair day” dig. Why exactly was it crucial to comment on Clinton’s hair? We’d love to hear the reason. Vieira wrapped up the segment by saying that Clinton’s response represented a “big bump in the road.” Seriously?!

Plus, on the second day of trying to turn this misunderstanding into a political crisis, NBC’s Ann Curry and Vieira admitted it was sad that the media were focusing on this angle of this story. Wait a minute . . . These women must have some decision-making clout at the Today show, right? Vieira is co-anchor and Curry’s been there forever. They don’t just do the segments the producers tell them to and read the words the writers draft, or do they? These women must have some power to help determine the news they report, and they should be capable of doing a far better job.

Take Action: Write to Meredith Vieira and urge her to cover some real news instead of jumping on any chance to bash Hillary. We’ve heard that other media, not surprisingly, also chose not to focus on the reason for Clinton’s trip to Africa. Please write or call any media outlet you observe demonstrating sexism in its coverage of women while refusing to cover women’s rights issues in depth. You can look up individual media contact info  here. Finally, read about the crisis in Congo — the story that many media outlets are ignoring in favor of meaningless “controversy” coverage.

Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director

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