Amanpour Presses Pelosi, Insists On Controversial Haircut

Was Christiane Amanpour's debut on This Week a promising break from the "clubby, old-boy focus on domestic news," or is she a "globe-trotting Fancy-Pants" who might be rooting for the Taliban? Depends on which paper you're reading.

Amanpour's sit-down with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was noteworthy, given that Pelosi usually turns down almost all invitations to be on Sunday political talk shows (bookers have used it as one excuse for why they are such reliably male provinces). When Amanpour pointedly asked Pelosi about the midterm elections — more traditional territory for the Sunday shows — Pelosi almost lost her cool, which is what counts as news-making on these sorts of things.

Amanpour made the war in Afghanistan the show's implicit focus, from discussing Wikileaks with Secretary of Defense Gates to pressing Pelosi on U.S. strategy, including as it pertained to the safety and rights of Afghan women.


She did so by waving Time's controversial cover of a mutilated Afghan woman in Pelosi's face:

A longtime foreign correspondent at CNN, Amanpour was tapped to replace George Stephanopoulos at ABC's This Week in a noticeable departure from the same old formula, which was mostly older white dudes playing gotcha about mostly domestic politics. The choice was promptly met with a lot of hate, particularly from The Washington Post's Tom Shales, who promptly wrote that she didn't deserve it and then, in a WaPo chat, trashed her haircut, among other substantive critiques.

Shales is still beating that drum, accusing her of being too internationally-focused, too highly-paid, and too present. He prefers Jake Tapper, who was the interim host, and whom he calls a "'favorite son' in campaigns by fans on Facebook and the Internet generally" — that ever consensus-building Internet, so unanimous in its love of Tapper! — "even as the clock ticked his interim tenure away and the Grand Duchess Amanpour approached on her royal barge from overseas."


Shales manages to summon a litany of Fox News-esque critiques to take down Amanpour: she is both too foreign and too elitist, now too wealthy and also too sympathetic to foreign terrorists. (Thank God there is someone looking out for the beleaguered white men of America and the citadels of Washington journalism!) Shales had already cast doubts on Amanpour when she was hired, apparently based on her funny name (her father is Iranian) and the existence of a Facebook group of a few dozen members accusing her of being against Israel. In the same vein, this is the review's lowest moment:

Perhaps in keeping with the newly globalized program, the commendable "In Memoriam" segment ended with a tribute not to American men and women who died in combat during the preceding week but rather, said Amanpour in her narration, in remembrance of "all of those who died in war" in that period. Did she mean to suggest that our mourning extend to members of the Taliban?


Obviously that's what she meant! It had nothing to do with, say, the Afghan civilian casualties, 2,400 of them just last year. Why doesn't Amanpour support our troops? Sounds a little bit like our secret Muslim president. Maybe she should go abroad to apologize for America, and her haircut while she's at it.

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley took a cautiously optimistic tone in her review, specifically praising the use of the Time cover. She wrote,

Ms. Amanpour proved more direct and challenging. [David] Gregory also brought up the Time cover, but he didn't confront Admiral Mullen with the disturbing image; NBC flashed it on the screen.
And that's a noticeable, and even striking, change.


Stanley also took a markedly different stance on Amanpour's lack of Washington insider cred: She "hasn't spent her life covering Washington politics, but she is smarter than many of those who have...More important, she has panache and a no-nonsense briskness."

Surely there were all sorts of reasons why Pelosi, a consummate Washington Insider, accepted This Week's invitation, not least being the fact that Amanpour's debut was likely to be closely watched. But Pelosi also knows a thing or two about being underestimated.


A TV Host Challenges a Guest. That's News. [NYT]
Tom Shales Reviews Christiane Amanpour's Lackluster Debut On ABC's 'This Week' [WP]

Earlier: The Not-Very-Convincing Case Against Christiane Amanpour
WaPo TV Critic Tom Shales Has A Lady Problem
A Visual Introduction To An Afghan Woman's Mutilation

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Erin Gloria Ryan

Because heaven forbid that someone who appears on the news have weird looking hair.