There’s some entertainment over at the ever-dreadful CNN:
“A gaffe,” Michael Kinsley once observed, “occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth.”
CNN made a terrible gaffe over the weekend and told a terrific truth.
It was refreshing to see somebody finally spit out what we all know but what the networks go to ludicrous lengths to deny: They hire and promote news stars based on looks and sex appeal.
About 10 times over the weekend, CNN ran an ad promoting Paula Zahn’s new morning show, “American Morning,” with a male announcer purring, “Where can you find a morning news anchor who’s provocative, super-smart, oh yeah, and just a little sexy?”
The word sexy then flared onto the screen, accompanied by a noise that sounded like a zipper unzipping.
The ad’s naked truth stunned television insiders. “If they’re sexy, so be it,” said Don Hewitt, executive producer of “60 Minutes.” “It ain’t necessary to say it. It’s undignified.
“Whatever Paula brings to television,” he said, “it’s despite the fact that she’s nicely put together. It diminishes a first-rate woman journalist to label her sexy. Why doesn’t CNN say that Wolf Blitzer is sexy? He must be sexy to somebody.”
On Monday the embarrassed CNN chief, Walter Isaacson, yanked the spot. “It was a bad mistake,” he said. “I’m really sorry. The promotion department didn’t get it cleared. You can say sexy about a man but not about a woman.”
A CNN spokesman explained that the noise was not supposed to be a zipper sound, but more like a needle scratching across an LP record — a sound effect sometimes used on “Ally McBeal.” …
From Maureen Dowd’s column, in yesterday’s New York Times.