The first edition of this hilarious joke occurred in Matt Labash's inaugural advice-ish column on the site. Labash wrote,
I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention. I didn't choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I'd have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil' Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.
Then, the Daily Caller ran a gallery of the women of MSNBC. The gallery was supposedly in response to Keith Olbermann's insinuation that Fox News hires female commentators for their appearance, and its dig at "members of the MSNBC Brain Trust" suggests that the women of MSNBC are mere eye candy (because the proper response to insults about women's ability is to insult other women's ability — everybody wins!). Except: at the bottom there's Rachel Maddow, with the caption "Whoops, how did that one get in there? Sorry, man. I mean dude. I mean Rachel! Sorry, Rachel."
While it's not not surprising that a site run by Carlson would take cheap shots at Maddow, it's kind of interesting that they try to claim they're not cheap shots. The knee-slapping "Sorry, man" line links back to a second column by Labash, in which he responds to the question "You called Rachel Maddow a man? How dare you, sir? How dare you?", posed by one Jim Treacher (a blogger for the Daily Caller, who in a bizarre turn of events was apparently run down yesterday by what may have been a Secret Service van). Labash responds, in part,
[W]ho do I think I am, implying that Rachel Maddow has a somewhat mannish appearance? What kind of frat-boy mouth-breather would say that in public? Where would I get such an idea? I honestly don't know. I can't imagine anybody else saying such a thing. Wait a second. Actually, I can:
"I am what I am, I look like a dude." – Rachel Maddow, as quoted by The New Yorker, October 17, 2009
"I'm a big lesbian who looks like a man. I am not, like, Anchor Babe, and I'm never gonna be." – Rachel Maddow as quoted in GQ magazine, November 2008
Now, my first thought at reading the "man" comments was that they weren't particularly effective as insults, precisely because Rachel Maddow consciously chooses to dress and style herself in a masculine way. Given that she's openly made statements to that effect, she's probably not all that offended when someone suggests that she looks butch. But that doesn't mean the suggestions weren't intended as insults. In fact, Labash's explanation reads as a little disingenuous. Making fun of women for looking or acting mannish is a time-honored way of belittling them, of trying to keep women out of both men's clothes and men's roles, and just because the woman in question is an out lesbian doesn't mean jokes about her aren't part of this misogynist tradition. Still, I might have given Labash a pass had he not said this:
The beautiful and talented Rachel Maddow has lots of fans. And those fans were hurt by what I said. And when they hurt, I hurt. Though I think some of them willfully misinterpreted that I was somehow disparaging Ms. Maddow because she is a lesbian. Which couldn't be more false, since I am perpetually and eternally enthusiastic about lesbians. I embrace Maddow's lesbianism. In fact, any woman who wants to explore lesbianism has both my applause and encouragement.
Presumably Labash also loves walking behind the women's movement.