Yep, he said it.
It was Friday afternoon, and I was on live TV, in the second hour of my show on CNN. I had just introduced two guests, former ESPN Senior Editor Keith Reed and Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis, who had agreed to come on to discuss the White House call for ESPN to dismiss anchor Jemele Hill after she called the President a “white supremacist” on Twitter.
These were two men with opposing opinions. I was ready for them to present their opinions and maybe even argue.
“I believe in the First Amendment and boobs.”
Side note: I’ve been a journalist for 17 years — the past seven spent at CNN hosting a live show. I’ve seen and heard some things. But when I first heard “boobs” from a grown man on national television (in 2017!!!) my initial thought bubble was: “Did I hear that correctly?? There’s no WAY he just came on my show and said what I think he said. … DID HE?” And I let it hang.
My executive producer Eric (who has worked with me for years) knows me, read my face and quickly got in my ear from the control room and asked: “Did he say ‘booze’?” Apparently, my producers behind the scenes were all scrambling, trying to figure out the same thing. “What did he just say?”
I just couldn’t let this go.
So I jumped back in and spelled it out like a fourth-grade boy: “b-double-o-b-s?!”
Yes. “Boobs.” He eventually confirmed: “boobs.” Almost proud, smirking.
I quickly felt myself turning red — getting irritated and angry. My mind was racing. My face, I could tell, was incredulous. In the thick of it all, I could see my other guest, Keith Reed, was equally aghast.
The newsroom around me fell silent. I was staring into the camera trying to make sense of what was unfolding on live television. I even caught my cameraman Jay’s eyes in disbelief. I thought again: “It is 2017, and this grown man is on my show talking with me — a female host — about boobs. Is this seriously happening?”
And then I did something I’ve done only a handful of times in my career. I told the control room to kill his mic and said “bye.” I invite a variety people on my show with wide-ranging opinions — sometimes even my jaw hits the floor, too — but I let them speak. Whether it’s left, right or center — I want to expose my viewers to other perspectives. Agree with them or not, the nation needs to listen.
But this … was different.
I remember getting to commercial break, turning around and hearing an applause. I host my show from the middle of the fifth-floor newsroom, and my CNN colleagues — male and female — were applauding me. Then I heard my phone … Twitter, text messages. Buzzzzzzzz.
From Pat Benatar: “OMG… Nice job cutting him right off! As*hole.”
From friends and others: “Good grief. It’s effing 2017!” “I love you. Ridic.”
The thing is — this is not okay. Speaking to women like this is unacceptable. It is 2017. Why is this even happening?
Talking to young women, seeing firsthand how so many of them feel empowered and with a desire to be heard and get involved. I want to help lift women’s voices. And I realize, in doing that, I need to use my own.
As for my guest today — despite what he’s tweeting, he won’t be coming back on my show — ever. He works at Fox Sports Radio. Maybe he should learn from folks over at Fox News — being demeaning to women does have consequences.