The XX Factor

Brit Hume and Bill O’Reilly Think America’s Too “Feminized” to Appreciate Chris Christie

On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume took the “women ruin everything” narrative that’s so popular on the right to a new level of absurdity, blaming Chris Christie’s political problems on the ladies. “I have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today,” Hume said to his panel, “guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct and are kind of old-fashioned tough guys run some risks.” Fox contributor Lauren Ashburn pushed back, but Hume was so in love with his theory that he went on to Bill O’Reilly’s show Monday to complain that the world just doesn’t love a belligerent ass the way they supposedly used to. O’Reilly agreed, and then bragged about how manly a man he is because he’s a shouter:

O’REILLY: So, I thought your analysis of the tough guy factor in politics was right on Hume. Of course I would say that because I’m a big target as well, but you’re onto something here. That milquetoast politician, you know, if you’re larger than life and we go back through history, and you can see, Andrew Jackson and people like this, they could never make it today.

HUME: Too rough around the edges, right?

O’REILLY: Yeah, they’re too blunt.

HUME: Well, I think that it’s a fact of American contemporary life that if you have that tough guy image, you speak bluntly, even sometimes rudely, especially if you take on certain interests, teachers’ union in Chris Christie’s case, you do run the risk of being accused of being a bully.

Hume never elaborates on this “feminized atmosphere” that is ruining things for all the real men, but perhaps he is referring to the atmosphere that is currently helping things get done in Congress. The Senate negotiators on the biggest pieces of legislation to pass recently—the $88 billion budget agreement, the omnibus appropriations bill, and the farm bill—were women: Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow. This is remarkable insofar as women are only 20 percent of the Senate, but get a disproportionate amount of work done

But does that mean that women are inherently better negotiators or is it that men are being squeezed out because they’re “too rough around the edges” for our modern sensibilities? The likelier explanation is that, because of ingrained sexism, women who succeed in politics have to develop keener political and negotiating skills than men. Male politicians like Christie are given more leniency by voters and power players. It’s not that there was some halcyon past where childishly lashing out at political opponents and employing subterfuge for petty payback was admired as a robust expression of manhood. It’s just that the a priori assumption that white men are smart and authoritative means they’re judged less harshly for their political flaws. It’s hard, nearly impossible, to imagine a woman with even a fraction of Christie’s reputation for being a bully getting as far as he has in politics. 

Not that Bill O’Reilly sees it that way, of course. During the segment, he argued that women have an easy go of it in politics. “Hillary Clinton is likely to run for President and she’s a woman, so if a man chastises her, you’re going to get the ‘war on  women,’ ‘misogynistic,’ all of that,” he complained. Oh, the deep unfairness of it all.