In what can only be described as ABC's attempt to show endless shots of large breasts, Nightline on Wednesday investigated the growing number of women in Venezuela who are having surgery to become more well endowed. In fact, it was the outcry of the country's socialist leader who brought the story to their attention.
Reporter Matt Gutman explained, "Five years ago yesterday, he called President George W Bush the devil in an appearance at the United Nations. But now [Hugo] Chavez has managed to say something that's got him in real hot water on his own turf, in his own country."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Earlier this year, Chavez gave a speech in which he declared, "If [women] don't have large breasts, they feel bad."
Gutman, who traveled to Venezuela to explore the controversy, sympathetically explained, "Still, some people think President Chavez has a point. Nearly 40,000 women in this country undergo breast augmentation each year and many sacrifice to do so."
He even touted a Chavez representative: "Eva Golinger is one of Hugo Chavez's advisers. He sympathized, "Especially in a country where, you know, I guess implants cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, and that's what people are spending. That's a lot of money."
The journalist did manage to refer to Chavez as "socialist," but clearly seemed more interested in cleavage than Chavez's repressive government. One wonders what Ted Koppel would think?
A partial transcript of the September 21 segment can be found below:
MATT GUTMAN: And so growing up, Corina Gonzalez imagined she would one day be a model. We first met her at one of Caracas' premiere beauty schools. There, some of Caracas' well and high heeled, pay tuition just to learn how to walk like a Miss Universe. The 23-year-old Corina always wanted to enhance her beauty. For her mother, Esther, Corina's new implants had little to do with beauty and a lot to do with necessity. Do you feel that no matter what happens, whether or not Corina becomes a model, this investment will pay off?
ESTHER GONZALEZ (mother) Still, it's an investment, because no matter what you do, she's getting prepared for life, for any kind of job. All the courses she does and the beauty stuff is directed to her own growth. It's an investment, no matter where she will use it.
GUTMAN: Which means whether beauty contestant or professional, they'll come in handy. Everybody seems to be obsessed with breasts.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, it's really funny. In every street you see woman with big boobs and it's like, oh, my gosh.
GUTMAN: And then, earlier this year, out of the blue, the country's socialist president staked a claim against breast implants. The self-proclaimed feminist president criticized poor women who bought costly breast implants they couldn't nearly afford. But he saved his special venom for doctors he claims rake in cash by convincing women that if they don't have big bosoms, they're not beautiful. Do you think that the president should be telling people what to do with their money?
ROMER: I don't think so.
ROMER: Everyone is free. We have a free country.
GUTMAN: Still, some people think President Chavez has a point. Nearly 40,000 women in this country undergo breast augmentation each year and many sacrifice to do so. You saved for six months. Was it worth it?
PEDESTRIAN (FEMALE): Si.
GUTMAN: Wow. You stopped your studies in order to do these implants. And was it worth it?
SECOND PEDESTRIAN: Wow. Si.
GUTMAN: They take out loans, borrow from parents and boyfriends and generally spend money they don't have.
EVA GOLINGER (presidential adviser): There's actually commercials on television from pharmacies that are offering a type of credit card that's just for financing breast implants.
GUTMAN: Eva Golinger is one of Hugo Chavez's advisers. Especially in a country where, you know, I guess implants cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, and that's what people are spending. That's a lot of money.
GOLINGER: It's a lot of money. Of course it well beyond the means of most Venezuelans. And so, right, I mean, that's the major criticism and especially what President Chavez was saying, is this is not where your money should be invested in.
GUTMAN: Still, Venezuelan women do not want their president telling them how to spend their money. Did you hear that President Chavez, a few weeks ago, came out and said, enough with this madness about plastic surgery?
PEDESTRIAN (Female– through a translator): No, I didn't hear. But it's a silly thing. It's a personal choice.
GUTMAN: Everybody and everybody has their own theories.
GONZALEZ: He's crazy. I mean - I think he needs to get a woman or something, yeah. I mean, I think he's frustrated or something, I don't know.
GUTMAN: Jokes aside, in the epic battle of president versus the Venezuelan version of beauty, there is one clear victor. For "Nightline," I'm Matt Gutman, ABC News, Caracas.