The XX Factor

Elizabeth Warren, Accused Softie

Recently on Planet Money , host Adam Davidson got into a tiff with Elizabeth Warren , the Harvard professor who oversees the Treasury’s bank bailout. In the days since, their argument-which lasted all of two minutes-has ballooned into a comment war that taps into lefty passions about the economy, the future of the American family, and latent sexism.

Davidson is disappointed because he was hoping the Congressional Oversight Panel, which Warren chairs, would be something like the 9/11 Commission, a respected nonpartisan advisory board of “senior statesmen” that would sagely guide the administration on how to save the economy. “Senior statesmen” is a phrase he repeats a few times. In the clip, he raises his voice and needles her in a way that makes it clear he does not think she qualifies as one of these “senior statesman.” Warren, deeply beloved by the left, is a longtime advocate of the American middle class she believes to be “under assault” by the credit economy. In the clip, he accuses her of pushing her “narrow” pet issues instead of thinking about what’s best for the economy as a whole.

This is a reasonable exchange, as Warren is in a powerful position to influence the bailout, and she does have a very particular set of views. But NPR listeners did not hear it this way. “Acted disgracefully and should be reprimanded,” wrote one listener of Davidson. “Disrespectful.” “Calloused.” “He will inherit Sheol”-a fancy NPR way of saying Davidson should go to Hell. And then the kicker, which is probably what forced him to apologize:

“His interview was disgusting for attacking Elizabeth, a woman. I seriously doubt Adam would have done the same type of attack on Timothy Geithner or Larry Sommers.”

So is it true? Is Warren just another of those right-brain girly economists who choose to tug on heartstrings rather than crunching numbers? Or are NPR listeners all just too right brain for their own good?