April 19th, 2007 12:58 EST
Talk Show Hosts Didn't Call Anna Nicole Smith a 'Ho'
In the around-the-clock media coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, I don't recall one shock jock calling her a ho or a slut. Yet, Don Imus felt emboldened enough to describe the Rutgers basketball team as a bunch of "nappy-headed ho's." Never mind that the young women are not whores. Never mind that, courtesy of modern chemicals, they weren't even nappy-headed. Never mind that more than half of the predominantly Black team had a grade point average of 3.0 (B) or higher. To Imus, they were simply whores.
If they are ho's - shorthand for whores - then what in the world was Anna Nicole Smith? The high school drop-out was performing at Gigi's, a Houston strip club, in October 1991 when she met oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall. Though married since the age of 17, she reportedly began an affair with Marshall. Two years later, she dumped her husband. On June 27, 1994, Smith, then 26 years old, married Marshall, 89. She denied that she was a gold digger and professed her love for her new husband, reportedly with whom she never lived. Just 13 months after the marriage, Marshall died, touching off a furious fight for his estate, valued at $1.6 billion. The fight over the state continues to this day.
The other fight - the one ignored by the shock jocks - involved a dispute over who was the biological father of Smith's daughter, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern, born September 7, 2006. This is where you need a program to keep track of the baby's purported fathers.
The New York Daily News reported that Anna Nicole's younger half-sister said the former Playboy model had used the frozen sperm of Marshall to conceive the baby, a charge that was later discredited. Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole Smith's "personal" attorney, admitted on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he had been in a secret relationship with his client for "a very long time" and believed he was the father of the baby. Then, ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead stepped forward to say, surprise, surprise, it was he who was the father. In perhaps the biggest surprise, Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, came forward to say he had been there and done that. Former Smith bodyguard Alexander Smith said he had tapped his former employer and could be the father. Mark "Hollywood" Hatten threw his hat into the fatherhood ring. And those are just the ones who came forward to admit they had slept with Anna Nicole Smith. DNA tests confirmed that Birkhead, the former boyfriend, is the father of Dannielynn.
With that record, it seems that if anyone would have been called a ho -- and I am not saying she should have been described as such -- it would have been Anna Nicole Smith, whose photo was used on the cover of a New York magazine issue titled "White Trash Nation."
Society has a double-standard when it comes to labels. Men who sleep around are described as spreading their oats. But women who do the same thing are called sluts and hos.
Let's not forget that the Rutgers women are not the only women who have been grossly maligned. After Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) had a run-in with Capitol Hill police, conservative talk show host Neal Boortz said on a Match 31, 2006 broadcast, "She looks like a ghetto slut." Referring to McKinney's hair, he said, "It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory." At another point, he said, "She looks like Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence."
The sexist remarks are not limited to African-American women.
According to the Web site mediamatters. org, Glenn Beck, a regular commentator on ABC's "Good Morning America," has referred to Hillary Clinton as "the stereotypical bitch." Michael Savage recently called Barbara Walters a "double-talking slut." Chris Matthews refered to Clinton as an "uppity" woman. Even so-called liberal columnists, such as Maureen Dowd of the New York Times have sought to besmirch former Senator John Edwards by calling him the "Breck Girl."
Rather than addressing these issues, supporters of Don Imus have resorted to attacking Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. We should not be confused by clever effort to switch the focus of this debate. Pat Buchanan calls the firing, "The Imus Lynch Party" and Rush Limbaugh proclaims that "minorities never do anything for which they have to apologize." Buchanan forgets who were the real lynching victims in America and I could write a separate column chronicling the numerous instances of African-Americans making public apologies.
Let's stick to the point: Talk radio is dominated by Right-wingers who enjoy hurling racist and sexist barbs. They should follow Imus out of the door.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.