Hugo Chavez's Outrage
Thomas Lifson and A.M. Mora y Leon
A prominent president, one who commands
enormous resources and can influence the lives of many women,
has recently made disgusting sexist comments.
No, not Lawrence Summers of Harvard, who
merely had the temerity to suggest as a possible hypothesis,
and in a non-public academic seminar, that women might not
go into hard sciences in large numbers because, on average,
their brains might not be quite wired for it, and because
many women choose to focus their energies on raising children
rather than on their careers. And for doing what academics
are supposed to do – freely entertaining hypotheses
and investigating their limits, implications, and consequences
– Summers has been forced to grovel in the public
The comments we reference are really sexist
and disgusting. Nasty and vulgar words about the sex life
of a prominent and highly distinguished woman, and her need
for what he could readily supply but won’t. For this
kind of deliberate and malevolent sexism, no public outrage
has erupted, and no apologies have been forthcoming.
If none of this rings a bell, you have plenty
of company. The American media have imposed a near-total
blackout on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s televised
crude and rude sexual verbal assault on Dr. Condoleeza Rice
last Sunday, during the period that her nomination for Secretary
of State was being held in limbo by ex-Kleagle Senator Robert
Byrd and his merry mini-Klaven of Senate Democrats.
The kinds of things Chavez said in his weekly television
show "Alo Presidente," speculating about sexual
intercourse with her like a lowlife on his jail bunk, showed
decisively that he's a man deeply beneath his office.
But there has been no U.S. media scrutiny.
It was broadcast right out loud on Venezuelan radio and
television; there are full transcripts in the Venezuelan
press, and the U.S. media paid no attention. And this is
not about some internal politics in a faraway country but
an attack on our own Secretary of State designate!
It hasn't helped that the wimps at the State
Department, in a briefing recently, replied to a reporter's
question about the matter by saying 'we're big boys now,
we can handle insults.' Not one word, and not one retort
from the U.S. government.
All that has appeared in the U.S. press so far is a footnote
in a watered-down story in the Miami Herald about deteriorating
U.S.-Venezuelan relations. Not one word appeared in the
two newspapers which claim to offer the best coverage of
fireign affairs and diplomacy. And not even in the New York
Post, which surely could have sold a few newspapers with
a well-chosen banner headline, has taken up the story. All
of this during a period where the victim of the slur was
the focus of intense national attention.
Why is it that the American media has ignored
such a brazen, egregious insult to the most prominent and
powerful American woman, who, incidentally, happens to be
black, from a sitting head of state?
Editors who were quizzed about why they
ignored the story told one of us that the comments were
simply too disgusting to present to their readers, and that
Chavez is frankly regarded as a loony. Of course, if these
criteria were seriously applied to other stories, Michael
Jackson’s trial in Santa Barbara County would not
be attracting any press coverage.
Another reason cited by some editors is
that Americans just don’t perceive Latin America as
important. Maybe so. But isn’t it the job of editors
to tell the public about important matters they don’t
yet know about? And aren’t Spanish-speaking Americans
the largest single minority group, as well as the fastest-growing
demographic component of the population?
But all of this is beside the point. Condoleeza
Rice’s ascent to the head of most prestigious cabinet
office is history-in-the-making, and not just because she
is the first African-American woman to hold the job. She
is one of the most brilliant and highly-accomplished officials
ever to take a seat in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
A champion figure skater and highly accomplished pianist
(she has accompanied Yo-Yo Ma in concert), the youngest
provost of a major American university (Stanford) in history,
Dr, Rice is the very embodiment of hard work and achievement.
She embodies the American dream, and is powerful symbol
not just for African-Americans but for all Americans who
dream big dreams. She is a heroine.
She is also the focus of intense political
controversy. And, she was the target of an effort by one
political faction to discredit her in the eyes of the world,
before she even assumed office, thereby damaging her ability
to discharge her official duties, and ultimately damaging
her further career prospects, such as, for instance, as
a candidate for Vice President or even President someday.
There is, to put it bluntly, a political war is underway,
and this news would have negatively affected one side. The
side which provides 80% of the members of the national press.
To report that a foreign head of state,
a close friend and ally of Communist Fidel Castro, was picking
up the ball thrown out by Democrats, and attacking the Secretary-designate
in even more vile terms, could definitely affect the American
public mood. As a people, we do not like to see our officials
slandered by foreign despots. We also do not react favorably
when African-American women, in particular, are subjected
to disgusting sexually-degrading verbiage.
In other words, reporting Chavez’s
comments would create sympathy for Dr. Rice. And it would
make the left wing faction of Senate Democrats who slandered
her as a “liar” look worse than they already
There is no question about it. Our news
diet has been managed, in order to avoid reporting highly
significant and vivid news, partly because it would arouse
sympathy for a target of the left wingers in the Democrats
and the media.
Chavez has gotten away with this outrage,
and the message to the Venezuelans is clear. fire away.
The Venezuelan press is already taking the ball and running
with it. A cartoon far too vile to reprint, with even worse
explicit sexual insults to the Secretary of State, was just
published in the Venezuelan press. Venezuelan women and
girls are now on notice that they, too, will be subjected
to the worst kind of verbal assault (or worse) if they get
out of line.
And like it or not, this officious tyrant, as a head of
state in a neighboring state, sets the standard for political
discourse, demonstrating what the press will tolerate. Somehow
the U.S. media seems to think it's okay for a black women
to be attacked with racist, sexist epithets by a tinpot
dictator, who supplies every sixth tank of gas you put in
your car, so long as she's a Republican. Somehow, an insult
directed at a black woman is not quite as newsworthy as
a perceived insult directed at the largely white women who
are present in U.S. sciences. This is simply an outrage.
And a failure on the part of the free press to report the
news. And now Chavez knows he can talk like this as often
as he likes, because apparently, it's an acceptable standard.
Larry Summers was only expressing a hypothesis that was
opposed by liberal dogmatism rampant in academia. Hugo Chavez
was expressing outright filth. The word is out that so long
as your target is black, female and Republican, no trash
talk is too low in the minds of the U.S media.
Lifson and A.M. Mora y Leon write for The
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