Many of any president's detractors like to joke about his supposed flaws, such as, say...stupidity,but other than people like Jack Cafferty, Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann and William Arkin, when the media are on the record, they are usually able to keep blatant bashing largely under wraps, although sometimes, the ugliness shines through. CNN's weekend business-related show, In The Money is no exception, and indulged a bit and belittled an unnamed president. Normally the curmudgeonly Cafferty, the In The Money's headliner, is the one voicing his displeasure with a certain president, but that weekend, the show managed to uphold tradition without him. February 18th, CNN ran a special edition of In The Money without Cafferty called "Uncovering America," which was instead hosted by Carol Costello, Allen Wastler and Jennifer Westhoven and covered workplace diversity and why "diversity in business is taking so long to sink in."
Correspondent Jennifer Rogers focused on recent studies which state that certain physical attributes, such as height, lighter skin-tone, beauty or a slender body shape correlate to higher salaries. Steven Landsburg, from the University of Rochester, said that taller people make more money than shorter Americans in the same jobs with similar qualification, education and experience, and that height is worth about $1000 per inch. At the end of the segment, the hosts and panelists were wrapping up and participating in the standard, “Wow! What amazing information we brought you! Here’s a little joke about it” banter that all news shows engage in between segments. When reporter Rogers replied to Costello questioning the theory about height and success, she unintentionally gave the viewers a peek into her psyche and her opinion of one or more of the presidents. To further explain the theory, and validate the premise, Rogers referred to “multiple studies” and loweres the mask:
Costello: I kinda understand all you are saying except for
the tall thing. How can they possibly prove that?
Rogers: Well, you know, they’ve gone back—these have been multiple studies looking at
that. Even just anecdotally, just look at the Presidents of the United States,
for the most part--well, I mean, that’s up for debate, I guess--but (little
laugh), some people think they’re pretty smart and successful guys, so they
have been, for the most part, above average height.
Rogers intention was to use presidential officeholders as examples of tall men who are smart and successful to back up
the professor’s claims, but ran into a stumbling block with at least one of them. She was trying to say that, for the most part, US presidents are smart and successful, but, for some reason, corrected herself, laughed ruefully and said "that’s up for debate, I guess.” She couldn’t let the statement that presidents are smart and successful go, even with the qualification of “for the most part.” She had to get in the kind of jab that people make when they are sure they are in a room full of others who share their opinion.
This was not an opinion piece or an editorial; this was supposedly a presentation of business-related news, by a presumably unbiased CNN reporter who made a derogatory on-camera joke, about this unnamed president’s intelligence, and there was no negative response from the other members of the panel. No one chastised her or flinched, and there were even some smiles, although not from Wastler. I think this “slip up” is a small window to the kinds of conversations that take place behind the scenes in many newsrooms.
In The Money’s audience should probably consider themselves lucky; usually the public doesn’t get to see reporters' personal views outright and has to determine it from their reporting. In this case, Jen Rogers made her opinion known loud and clear about.
*Note: I transcribed this portion of the program directly from video and did not use the CNN transcript.