The Erik Wemple Blog has spent decades marveling at the mediocrity of local TV news. The cheesy profile pieces, the non-investigative investigations, the run-of-the-mill crime stories, the stand-ups at the site of a robbery that went down hours and hours previously.
However: We’d never sampled anything so putrid as the Fox 2 Detroit story headlined “Social media focuses on Whitmer’s dress — not her address.” The outrage is barely capable of abridgment, but we shall try: While Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was giving her first State of the State address, Fox2 observed some concerning comments pouring in on social media. People, it seemed, were commenting on her dress, her body and topics unrelated to the substance of her remarks.
Perhaps because Fox 2 had never before noticed that people on Facebook could be crude and sexist, the station decided that this all was news. So it highlighted the fact that one Facebook commenter wrote, “I’d hit it.” So it highlighted the fact that one Facebook commenter wrote, “Push up bra, clearly."
So it included this real-life paragraph:
Some Facebook users also asked if her breasts are real with posts asking what size they are. One man said “nice rack,” and another saying “She’s showing off her cans. Why not? You got it? Share it.”
That wasn’t all, however. No sociological story on local TV news can ever conclude without the input of the vaunted “expert.” “The blessing is that there’s many different options,” said Annmarie Cano, a professor at Wayne State University. “From suits to dresses, at the same time it means there is no particular uniform people are used to seeing when they see a woman leader like they see with a male leader. And so when there’s something to critique, it’s a way of diminishing women’s accomplishments.”
There was something of a self-own in the TV report, as the reporter Erika Erickson said, “Social media exploding with comments on Whitmer’s boat neck blue dress … as it streamed live on Fox 2′s Facebook page Tuesday night, some of them reading, ‘Dress is looking a little tight,’ ‘I’d hit it.’…" In a sense, then, Fox2 was covering the cesspool of its own Facebook presence.
Whitmer commented on the comments on Thursday:
And Erickson appeared miffed by the backlash:
At the top of the story, Fox 2 News Director Kevin Roseborough posted a statement on the matter:
On Tuesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address discussed many issues of importance to our state. FOX 2 broadcast and streamed the speech live. We were taken aback by the number and nature of many inappropriate Facebook comments on the governor’s physical appearance.
We chose not to ignore the comments, and to instead examine them through person-on-the-street interviews and an expert’s opinion on the double standard faced by female leaders. This is not a subject that should be turned away from, and we have extended an invitation to the governor to talk to us about this further.
Thanks so much, Mr. Roseborough and your colleagues, for excavating offensive muck from the lugubrious seams of the Internet and presenting it on television news, the better to elevate these sexist voices. And heck, why not try to parlay unapologetic sexism into an interview opportunity?
Fox 2 is a station owned and operated by the New York-based Fox Television Stations. We’ve asked its publicist for a comment.