I don’t make it a habit to watch Morning Joe because I like to start my mornings off without screaming into a sweatshirt until my throat is raw. Today was an excellent example of why I don’t: Joe Scarborough steamrolled his fiancée Mika Brzezinski and two women guests to offer his explanation of the Matt Lauer situation. This clip, which aired Thursday morning, is a perfect example of why men should cede the floor to women at this crucial time.
Like most cable news shows, the dynamic of Morning Joe seems to be reliably shout-y, as if the hosts were competing to see who could yell the loudest at any given time. This dynamic is difficult for guests to navigate successfully and seems to be par for the course when one agrees to appear on such a program. This aesthetic is tiresome at best and, in the case of this brief clip from Thursday’s episode, borderline offensive and downright frustrating.
Halfway through the clip, Scarborough says, “Let’s have a real conversation.” Guests Susan Del Percio and Zainab Salbi, as well as Brzesinski, do their best, attempting to parse how the changing culture has allowed for whispered stories of sexual predation, philandering and general inappropriateness to thrive. Del Percio and Salbi are ostensibly featured on this episode because of their credentials; the former is a conservative political strategist and talking head and the latter founded Women for Women International, a nonprofit that offers support for women survivors of war. In these few minutes, Scarborough is reluctant to cede space; as he launches into an explanation of the very issue they’ve been brought on the show to address, Del Percio tries to get a word in edgewise.
“Let me finish,” he says, cutting her off. “Because we need to have this conversation.”
The one-sided “conversation” that Scarborough so forcefully champions is nothing more than a rehash of information that both these women surely already know: not necessarily because they’ve lived through what Scarborough describes, but because they’ve likely read the news. I am loathe to refer to anything as “mansplaining” in 2017, but this feels like a textbook example, particularly evidenced by Del Percio and Salib’s expressions. The discussion around these recent issues of sexual misconduct by men in power doesn’t need to fall on the shoulders of women alone, but as ever it’s essential to pay attention to how these conversations are developing.
For Scarborough, the issue is twofold: he’s a morning talk show host, tasked with filling the airspace with his thoughts, and he’s also a blowhard who helms one of the most painful shows on television. He’s incapable of letting anyone other than himself speak for longer than 30 seconds because he’s known no other way. It’s clear that he’d love to position himself as an ally, but the trouble is that allyship is often conflated with “talking” or “sharing a thought” when truthfully, silence, deference, and respect would suffice. To say that only women should speak on the subject of sexual assault, violence, harassment and predation puts an unfair burden on their shoulders—but men should be aware that sometimes, it’s okay to be quiet and let the women speak first.