Yesterday I wrote a piece about reporter Mika Brzezinski's handling of a story that reflected a political double standard on her part. While hosting MSNBC's "Morning Joe" for the vacationing Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski aired a video of a female reporter chasing after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Before she could catch up with the mayor however, the reporter was intercepted by a very large security guard and sent barreling into the side of what appeared to be a nearby dumpster. At the time Brzezinski brushed off the incident as "not that pressing," in stark contrast to the seemingly endless attention the David Vitter scandal received on "Morning Joe" throughout July. This morning however, Brzezinski seems to have changed her mind and now believes "That story's important."
For a little context, Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has been under scrutiny since he confessed to an affair with Spanish language reporter, Mirthala Salinas. Not surprisingly, Salinas received special access to the mayor during their affair.
Yesterday, after airing the video, Brzezinski gave her opinion as to the newsworthiness of the story. Here is her quote from the August 7 show:
That's an aggressive reporter. Yeah, you know, the problem I have with this is that, eh, it's just the whole topic is probably not that pressing in terms of the state of our society but let's role it again, why not?
On today's "Morning Joe" it seems that Brzezinski has arrived at virtually the same conclusions I outlined yesterday. After today's guest host Willie Geist played the same video tape, Brzezinski and Geist had this exchange:
Willie Geist: "...[The reporter] went on to ask her question so give her credit for that."
Mika Brzezinski: "I do give her credit for that. And actually that story, unlike some of the other stories that we debate over - whether we should cover or not. That story's important.
Geist: "Like..like what?"
Brzezinski: "Uh, well for example, in this case, this is a mayor who had an affair with a news anchor. Several people were suspended at the TV station. And there's some conflict of interest questions. And I guess, I wouldn't love to have to cover that story but you know what? Sometimes these stories have to be covered. And [the reporter] was doing a very good job."
Yesterday, Brzezinski's downplaying of the story concerned me for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, her comments revealed a much more nonchalant attitude toward the Villaraigosa affair than last month's David Vitter prostitution scandal. "Morning Joe" viewers will recall the hours of discussion centering on the disgraced Republican senator and his alleged hypocrisy (for being politically pro-family as well as a frequenter of prostitutes).
While "Morning Joe" guest and Hollywood screenwriter John Ridley was the harshest in his attacks on Vitter, Brzezinski did not seem to object to the newsworthiness of the story and was not above commenting on it herself.
Yesterday I argued that the Villaraigosa scandal as well as the incident with the shoved reporter should be considered newsworthy for a number of reasons. First, it is alarming when reporters are denied access to elected officials, especially by physical intimidation or force. Secondly, we ought to be concerned whenever a journalist, a supposedly impartial source, is having a sexual relationship with a public figure he or she is supposed to be covering.
One cannot help but admire Brzezinski for revisiting the issue and reevaluating her comments. Personally, I am very glad to hear Brzezinski's clarified position on the Villaraigosa affair as I believe it more accurately reflects her caliber of journalism.