Fox News’s Kurtz discusses the ‘Fox News blonde’ with the women of ‘Outnumbered’

If Howard Kurtz keeps this up, we’ll have to change his title at Fox News from “Media Buzz” host to Fox News ombudsman. A week ago, he ripped his own network for being slow-footed to report the news that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had uttered some racist comments.

Now he shows up on the set of Fox News’s new show “Outnumbered” with a couple of slightly awkward-but-important questions. For those who don’t tune in to Fox News all day long, “Outnumbered” is the network’s noon program featuring four women surrounding a single man on a classic TV couch. The dynamic of women dominating the conversation against the backdrop of an industry in which men generally call the shots — a conceit that reportedly came right from Fox News chief Roger Ailes — is rather brilliant.

Of course, a cynical viewer may just suppose that Ailes & Co. wants to array a bunch of attractive women, the better to drive good ratings. Last week, this blog asked when one of the female hosts of “Outnumbered” would show up wearing pants.

And Kurtz raised the same issue! After Harris Faulkner made a comment that mentioned pants, Kurtz looked around himself and declared, “I don’t see any pants on this set.”

After Kurtz brought up the issue of women in the media, co-host Andrea Tantaros, veteran of roundtable wars on the fun afternoon show “The Five,” went off, saying that Fox News gets a “bad rap by others in the media who critique Fox News for maybe not having enough women on the set, or they say it’s all legs and lip gloss.” Yet Ailes, continued Tantaros, “lets the women at his network … actually talk. And he makes sure they have a brain. You watch some of these other morning show: I don’t have to tell you which one, Howie, a lot of the women don’t have a lot to say. They’re outnumbered by men who speak over them and they just go ummm hmmm, mmmm. Ummm hmmm, mmm. We all know who we’re talking about.”

Faulkner followed with a clarification: “I do want to say, though, that there are a lot of legs and some lip gloss” on “Outnumbered,” and other panelists agreed that was fine.

Kurtz stayed on point, asking about the “stereotype of the Fox blonde.” “That’s out there. I think we can all acknowledge that,” said co-host Sandra Smith.

“And the unfair thing about that,” says Kurtz, “is that you do have a lot to say and you’re not here because you’re good-looking.”

On second thought, maybe this Kurtz outing featured a little less Fox News ombudding and a bit more promoting “Outnumbered.” Not that it’ll need it.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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