Want to Insult a Powerful Woman? Call Her a Prostitute

Offender: Glenn Beck on The Glenn Beck Program

Media Outlet: Aired on radio stations nationwide 11/23/09 – syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications

The Offense: Beck called Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) a “high-class prostitute” on his radio show.

NOW’s Analysis: The discussion by Beck and his co-host, Pat Grey, about the kind of “prostitute” they think Landrieu is was quite lengthy, detailed and highly offensive. First they offered the right-wing claim that Landrieu accepted a “bribe” as if it were proven fact. The conversation included these delightful nuggets: “you’re not at Motel 6 with this, no . . . this one comes to your Four Seasons hotel room and does it right . . . you might even think she’s the wife of the CEO she’s coming in on the arm of.” Rush Limbaugh followed up on his show the same day, saying that Landrieu “may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution.”

So what’s wrong with equating politicians with prostitutes? After all, it’s a quick and vivid way of accusing legislators of selling their votes (and presumably their principles) for money. Countless political cartoons have portrayed supposedly greedy and ethically-challenged politicians in fishnet stockings and garters. Since when did this amusing metaphor hurt anyone?

The problem is, the accusation conjures up an image almost exclusively of women — typically streetwalkers, but sometimes high-class escorts like Beck describes. Also, the term seems to flow so easily off the tongues of men seeking to degrade successful, powerful (perhaps “uppity”?) women. Not long ago Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fl.) called Linda Robertson, an adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, a “K Street whore,” and he was rightly criticized for doing so. Whore, prostitute, hooker — it’s time to retire these sexist terms that only encourage our society to see women as commodities to be bought and sold.

Take Action: Tell Kraig T. Kitchin, President and Chief Operating Officer of Premiere Radio Networks, what you think about Glenn Beck’s and Rush Limbaugh’s sexist comments (they both gave the same syndicator–shocker).

Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director

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