WaPo TV Critic Tom Shales Has A Lady Problem


Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales isn’t done hating on Christiane Amanpour: His follow-up is trashing her haircut. Actually, a retrospective suggests Shales’ assessment of female journalists often hinges on whether or not he wants to sleep with them.

Alas for Amanpour, he is immune to her charms. “Neither you nor I has stooped to mentioning that hair of hers — yipe. What’s the deal with that, as David Letterman might say,” Shales told a WashingtonPost.com chatter Tuesday. What is the deal with that? No one else gives a shit about Amanpour’s hair. In fact, plenty of commentators have managed to discuss her appointment as the host of This Week without resorting either to unsubstantiated attacks or reviewing her appearance.

But this is unsurprising if you’ve read Shales’ other articles about women journalists. Sure, when it comes to an actress in a television drama, it may be creative license to say, as Shales did, that Geena Davis can “veto my legislation anytime. Starring as the first woman to hold the highest office in the land, Davis reminds us what we have missed in most of our past, real-life presidents: cuteness.” Or to write of Kirstie Alley’s Fat Actress that her body has “grown in size like one of those voracious radioactive monsters in sci-fi films of the ’50s…And it’s not just that she’s fat; her face has taken on threatening, demonic features, and she’s always pushing her sloppy hair out of her eyes. She’s a Disney cartoon villain in three, or four, dimensions.” Or even to opine of the Roman Polanski case, “There is, apparently, more to this crime than it would seem, and it may sound like a hollow defense, but in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.”

But what about TV journalists? Sure, lots of it is schlock read aloud by pretty people. But there is a lot more at stake with TV news, and Shales himself takes it more seriously — unless, of course, there’s a chick involved.

There’s his embarrassing hard-on for Diane Sawyer:

Ideally, the gorgeousness of Diane Sawyer should not be a factor in assessing her performance as anchor of ABC’s nightly news, which she now is. But television, though it’s sometimes forgotten, remains a visual medium, and appearance indeed counts.

And in Shales’ world of visual stimulation, Diane Sawyer’s “gorgeousness” reigns supreme. Shales would later tell a chatter, “As for my Sawyer infatuation – well I hope it isn’t merely chemical or whatever. I feel good when she is on the air; she bolsters my spirits and my confidence in the network news business, which always seems to be having hard times.”

Diane Sawyer: So hot, she can turn around the news economy! Pity the man who tries to replace her on Good Morning America:

Is [George Stephanopoulous], then, a big enough man to fill Diane Sawyer’s shoes? There probably is no such creature; the sweet solace of seeing Sawyer early in the morning is over, and no one is likely to bring that kind of glamour and gorgeousness to “GMA,” or to morning television, ever again.

Clearly, Amanpour’s hair and foreign-policy focus are both lacking in “sweet solace.”

When Shales wanted to cheer on Katie Couric for her broadcast getting on track (his first review had lamented that her blazer “was buttoned in such a way as to make her look chubby, bursting at the button, which we know she isn’t”), this was his opener:

How about a big hand for the little lady?

So to a list that already includes an obsession with women’s looks and whether or not Shales likes them, let’s add paternalism! No wonder that in that same chat Tuesday, he wondered whether ABC News would turn Amanpour into “Little Ms. Politics.”

But let’s be fair. He also said that George Stephanopolous is short. And he wanted Barbara Walters for the This Week. That makes up for it, right?

Yeah, not really.

Shales is a critic, paid for his opinions, not his evenhandedness. He won a Pulitzer for it in 1988. But if he’s going to review female journalists with his dick, I’m going to vote with my eyes — and direct them elsewhere.

No News Not The Best News For Katie Couric’s Debut [WP]
He’s No Diane Sawyer, But Stephanopoulos Holds His Own In ‘GMA’ Debut [WP]
By George, She’s Good [WP]
Katie Couric’s Ease As CBS News Anchor Grows, Along With Her Audience [WP]
Good News At Last [WP]
More About Letterman [WP]
Shales On TV Live: Discovery’s ‘Life’ Series, Amanpour To ABC, More [WP]
Geena Davis Sweeps Up the Oval Office [WP]
‘Fat Actress’: Jolly-Unsaturated [WP]
A Few Bumps, But Diane Sawyer Has Solid Debut As ABC ‘World News’ Anchor [WP]

Related: Shales Vs. Amanpour [Daily Dish]
Hating On Amanpour [Paul Krugman/NYT]
Shales On “Little Ms. Politics” [TAPPED]

Earlier: The Not-Very-Convincing Case Against Christiane Amanpour

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