Martha MacCallum: Fox Hosts aren't 'blonde Barbies' and dismissing us is sexist

Martha McCallum and Donald TrumpScreenshot/Fox NewsMartha McCallum interviewing Donald Trump
  • McCallum wrote that she is offended when she is commodified as a “blond Barbie doll” at Fox News.
  • She wrote that Fox’s lineup is stocked with “some of the sharpest, brightest women in the business.

“Much like Roger Ailes when he was stocking the Fox News lineup with blond Barbie dolls in short, tight skirts, the president has generally exhibited a preference for sleek beauties with long legs and stiletto heels to represent his interests and act as his arm candy,” David Horsey wrote in a widely criticised Los Angeles Times column. “Trump’s daughter Ivanka and wife Melania are the apotheosis of this type. By comparison, [Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mum who organizes snacks for the kids’ games.”

Of course, the first line of this quote is deeply offensive to me.

While the cartoonist and political commentator rightfully apologised to Huckabee Sanders and removed the lines from his column, the women of Fox News — commodified as “Blonde Barbie Dolls” — also deserve a public apology. (When pressed, Horsey finally expressed remorse for his comments about Fox News hosts, but did not apologise to me or any other current Fox News anchors directly.)

Mr. Horsey has no idea what it is like to be part of this network. We work hard, get our stories right and are proud of what we do and the success we’ve achieved. We’re experienced journalists and reporters, most of us have been at it a long time. Between us, we’ve worked at all the networks and most prominent newspapers and publications. We’re proud that our “lineup” is “stocked” with some of the sharpest, brightest women in the business.

I started my career at the Wall Street Journal, before moving on to CNBC and NBC. In my 13 years at Fox News, I have covered countless national and international stories, four presidential election cycles from beginning to end as a reporter, an anchor and a debate moderator. I now host “The Story,” a primetime news program, which has been number one in its time slot since it premiered. Our success is not about hair colour or skirts. It’s about elbow grease, dedication and sacrificing time with our families and friends. We are fine with that, it goes with the territory.

We live in scary times though, as evidenced by Mr. Horsey’s column. A society where divisiveness leads to crassness that seems to feel it’s justified by political bent. Is that really who we want to be? Is that what our nation was built on? Is there a level of respect we could consider the starting point for debate or judgment?

Horsey’s column lands hard in an ongoing national conversation about the treatment of women in the workplace. At Fox News, we faced our own realities about sexual harassment. For many, the stories we saw written about our workplace felt alien to us. The Fox News that I know and work in is a team of producers, technicians, photographers, truck operators and production managers who barely have time to eat lunch, much less engage in bad behaviour. Obviously, there are well-documented exceptions. Still, as I watch these stories explode across Hollywood and Capitol Hill, I believe we are at a watershed moment in the conversation.

Early in my career, I was subjected to harassment in the form of some unwelcome suggestive comments and overtures. It was ugly and if ever I felt like I was being perceived as a “Barbie Doll,” it was then. I’m grateful that I was able to shut it down and move on.

It saddens me that it still goes on in such a widespread way, long after the days of Mad Men-esque office cultures and casting couches. The country has woken up to the fact there are attitudes and levels of acceptance that can never be tolerated.

I believe that this national conversation will lead us to a better place. Let’s hope the light shed on sexual harassment and assault will disinfect the darkest of places in offices across the country. I want my daughter to live in a world where she never has to fear that this will happen to her, and, if it does, she will know that speaking out will not harm her or her career in any way.

But we do have to be careful about the broad brush. There is the inappropriate comment on one end of the spectrum and criminal acts — like assault and rape — at the other. We are living in a moment where there is a lot of bad behaviour that needs to be flushed out and exposed. But we also must remember that accusations are indictments in the current atmosphere — and that can be dangerous as well.

Martha MacCallum is the host of The Story with Martha MacCallum on Fox News. This op-ed first appeared in Motto.

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