Poll: Oprah Winfrey Most Admired Woman In America
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News.
Later, we'll hear about some happenings in the world of film. This weekend, we'll hear about how black and Asian filmmakers are trying to get their films in front of audiences.
But first, we're heading to the Beauty Shop. That's where we get a women's perspective on things happening in the news and in pop culture. And today, we're talking about how women are perceived in America: who's admired, who's not really admired. And joining us today is Anna Holmes. She's a writer and the founder of Jezebel.com. She's with us from our bureau in New York.
Also with us, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, co-host of CNBC's "Power Lunch." She joins us from the studios of CNBC in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
And here with us in our Washington, D.C. studio is Natalie Hopkinson, contributing editor for TheRoot.com. It's an online publication that focuses on issues of particular interest to African-Americans.
Ladies, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.
Ms. ANNA HOLMES (Founder, Jezebel.com): Thanks.
Ms. MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA (Co-host, "Power Lunch"): Thanks for having us.
Ms. NATALIE HOPKINSON (Contributing Editor, TheRoot.com): Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So, first, let's look at the women Americans most admire. Recently, Newsweek recently asked American women which women they admire the most, and the answer varied, actually, depending on which political party you were from. Now, Oprah Winfrey was the most admired woman overall, followed by Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, with Sarah Palin placing seventh after Condoleezza Rice. But there was a big partisan divide here, which was interesting.
Republican women picked Oprah as the most admired woman, followed by Sarah Palin. Democratic women said Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman, followed by Oprah Winfrey. Independents also picked Oprah Winfrey, followed by Diane Sawyer. So, I'm just - what do we think about that, Natalie? Why don't you start?
Ms. HOPKINSON: Well, I - looking at the coverage in Newsweek, I was very surprised that they - Sarah Palin was presented so prominently in the listing because she didn't - she actually wasn't in the top five. And it, really, it sort of shows our fixation in the media on Sarah Palin, that she's mentioned ahead of the people who she actually placed behind in the poll.
MARTIN: Anna, what do you think? That's interesting. Anna?
Ms. HOLMES: I agree. I mean, Sarah Palin is kind of a gold mine in terms of page views, ratings, et cetera. What I found interesting about the listing was that there were so many political women on the list, and there weren't actually really entertainment industry women. I think Oprah does fit under the entertainment industry subject header, but she's much more than just an entertainer. And, you know, she's a force of nature. I don't really know that she can be put into any sort of category.
But I was very heartened that there were so many political women on that list. Even women that we might think of as being somewhat apolitical, like first ladies, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush.
MARTIN: That's true. And just to tell you, let's see, Laura Bush was - one, two, three, four, five - number five overall. Michelle, what do you think?
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: I was disheartened to see as many political women as there were. I wish there were more entrepreneurial women. And I love the fact that Oprah Winfrey comes out number one, regardless of who you are, because she has achieved so much in the business world. And she - it's incredible. And I think Republicans, for example, when Republican women rate her higher than Hillary Clinton, they obviously don't care that she supported Barack Obama. What they see is somebody who overcame incredible odds, is extremely wealthy and has turned around an industry in a way that I don't think anybody would've expected 30 years ago.
MARTIN: Well, she is an entrepreneurial woman, don't you think?
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: Yeah, absolutely. (unintelligible)
MARTIN: That's partly why she's on that list. But you're right. It's interesting that there are 15 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and it is interesting that none of them made the list. But maybe it's that, Michelle, they just don't have the same visibility and the general audience that these other women do.
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: Yeah, and that's a possibility. We haven't seen the rock star female CEO to the same degree that we have with men so far - or thus far. You know, the Jack Welch's of the world. We haven't seen the equivalent. Probably, one will come. Oprah Winfrey gets pretty close. She's a privately-held company, of course.
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: But, let's see, Indra Nooyi, maybe, of Pepsi, could be on that list pretty soon.
MARTIN: But while we're on the topic of powerful women, I have to mention there's a sensitive - something that's kind of sensitive to those of us here at NPR. But I do feel it's something that needs to be mentioned. Our CEO and president, Vivian Schiller, who's one of the, I think, top women in the media business - owing to her position as CEO of NPR, which is a major media organization - stepped down yesterday after a number of controversies happened under her watch.
The latest was this sting video in which a different executive, the - Ron Schiller, no relation to her, but he was not an editorial person, but a person in charge of fundraising and development, was stung by the same group that had set up these stings of - the undercover stings of, you know, the anti-poverty group ACORN and other groups. And he was depicted on this video, you know, slamming conservatives and the Tea Party and other groups and questioning the company's need for federal funding, which is not the position that the company has taken.
And then before that, there was also the fallout over the firing of Juan Williams. Before that, another top-ranked female executive here, the vice president for news, also was pressured to resign. And I'm just - I'm interested if you feel there is any sort of gender aspect to his, or not.
Ms. HOPKINSON: This is one of the areas where...
MARTIN: This is Anna?
Ms. HOPKINSON: This is Natalie.
MARTIN: Oh, Natalie.
Ms. HOPKINSON: This is one of the areas where I do - I don't know that it's necessarily gender-related, because there is so much tumult in the media industry right now. And if you're in one of these top positions, you better be prepared to have your head roll over - increasingly over foolishness. And, you know, Hillary Clinton also had to fight back a lot of fallout from the WikiLeaks case. And pretty much everyone has to be on guard if you're in a position of leadership, regardless of what gender you're in.
MARTIN: Hmm. Michelle, what do you think?
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: You know, at CNBC, we see men getting canned all the time when they run companies. So women getting fired is part of the - you know, you can't get fired for the job unless you get the job. So we're thrilled that they're getting the jobs, right?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: And firing is part of the hazards.
MARTIN: You think it's indicative of the pinnacles that women have actually accomplished, that they actually are in the same - they're in the same pool and subject to the same issues that, you know, a male executive would be.
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: Yup, exactly. Exactly. Carly Fiorina, et cetera, you can see. But, you know, they get pushed out all the time. Being a CEO used to be something you did for 15 years. Now you do it for five, maybe. The lifespan is getting shorter and shorter, regardless if you are a man or a woman.
MARTIN: Anna, what do you think?
Ms. HOLMES: Well, I'm going to echo what Michelle and what Natalie said, just that, you know, Vivian got pushed out, but that's because she was in a powerful position. And people in powerful positions come under scrutiny, and sometimes they get in trouble for things that their underlings did. So I'm not sure that there's a gendered aspect to it. I do think that if someone had discussed her management style, you know, and compared it, perhaps, to someone underneath her and described her as maybe more emotional or social or something, then maybe we would have something a little more obvious in terms of a gender aspect.
But I just don't - I don't see one there. I think it's just because she was the top person, and she had to take the fall. But what's interesting, I think, is that a lot of times, women in powerful positions, when they do get critiqued, when they do get criticized, it often revolves around their appearance, their sexuality, their fertility, et cetera. And I'm not seeing any of that here.
MARTIN: So there's kind of a silver lining to the sad part of it. If you know the ranks of female executives in the media is diminished, that there is a silver lining effect that we haven't heard any of the garbage that sometimes attaches, right?
Ms. HOLMES: Right. That's a good point.
MARTIN: So, if you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
We're having a visit to the Beauty Shop. With us are Anna Holmes, founder of Jezebel.com, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, co-host of CNBC's "Power Lunch," and Natalie Hopkinson, contributing editor for TheRoot.
Now, you know what? I kind of almost hate to bring it up, because I think a lot of us are suffering from Sheen fatigue. There's been a news story just about every day about actor Charlie Sheen, who was recently fired from the hit show "Two and a Half Men." But for all the coverage, Anna, you feel that, you know, there should've been some more discussion - or at least you want to raise the whole question of Sheen's behavior involving women. And you recently wrote about this for The New York Times. And you mention this exchange Charlie Sheen had in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN. Let's just play a short clip. Here it is.
(Soundbite of CNN interview)
Mr. PIERS MORGAN (Host, CNN): So there have been reports in the papers in the last two or three years hinting at violence by you towards - one was towards your wife, and one was towards a porn star in a hotel.
Mr. CHARLIE SHEEN (Actor): Right.
Mr. MORGAN: Were they true? Did the drugs make you violent? Do you regret what happened on those two incidents?
Mr. SHEEN: No. Those are two incidents where the scoreboard doesn't lie. And that - you know, the Aspen thing was thrown out. And then the police report in New York just didn't reflect anything. And those are the guys that are going to report the facts, and their jobs are on the line. So I just offer people those, you know.
Mr. MORGAN: Have you ever hit a woman?
Mr. SHEEN: I have not. No. No. women are not to be hit. They're to be hugged and caressed, you know.
MARTIN: Now, Anna, that set off some bells for you - alarm bells for you, even though he specifically denies that he has been violent. What - tell us more.
Ms. HOLMES: Well, first of all, the question that Piers Morgan asked Charlie: Have you ever hit a women? It was very straightforward, but it was also an easy question to dodge, which is - which I think, you know, Sheen did by answering no and then kind of throwing in that, well, no, they're to be hugged and caressed, which is so kind of patronizing in a way. I mean, I guess a nice sentiment, but, you know, not buying it.
But there are, you know, there are a number of instances over the past 10 or 15 years when Sheen has been accused of domestic violence towards women in his company. And Morgan brought up one of them. As you heard, Sheen denied it initially and then what we didn't hear is that he said, well, actually, yeah, yeah, there was that one incident and then, you know, she fell down and I offered to get her plastic surgery.
And then Morgan pressed him on - or as to whether he regretted it. Which Sheen eventually conceded he did. But there were so many other instances that Morgan didn't press him on and that Sheen was able to kind of deftly get around and make jokes about. With regards to the woman he did admit to, as he's put it, you know, throwing to the floor, he got out of the line of questioning by saying, well, you know, she was attacking me with a cocktail fork. And, you know, who puts a cocktail fork in their bag?
MARTIN: OK. But, what's the larger significance to this that you feel that still needed to be discussed?
Ms. HOLMES: Well, the fact is that it wasn't being discussed. You know, in that interview, it came three-quarters of the way through. And, you know, again, Morgan left it at that pretty much. The fact that for weeks up to that point, people were talking about Sheen's behavior and, you know, nasty things he'd said about his bosses, but they were not talking about his history of violence against women.
And, granted, some people were bringing it up. David Carr of The New York Times brought it up about two weeks ago, maybe a week and a half. I had seen other mentions of it here and there, but for the most part, people were laughing at or with Sheen and his antics and I don't think taking him seriously - both in terms of his domestic violence charges, but, you know, also in terms of his addictions and his probable mental illness.
MARTIN: So what you're saying is you feel what? That the issue of people's behavior toward women still is not a big deal. Is that it?
Ms. HOLMES: Right. Well, I don't think, you know, I'm not hearing people talk about domestic violence anyway, but certainly not in this case. And the point, you know, of the op-ed that I wrote was that it was the type of women who he'd been accused of abusing that, you know, helped us ignore the abuses in the first place. They were not, quote, unquote, "good girls." They were not, you know...
MARTIN: Well, his wife. I mean, his wife is one of the people he's accused of abusing and being violent toward.
Ms. HOLMES: Mm hmm. Well, but as I said, well, as I said in the op-ed, they kind of existed on a continuum. Even his wives - of starlets or models whose trading in or the assumption that they were trading in on their sexuality, gave a larger impression to the public that what, you know, what they get in return for that is what they deserve.
MARTIN: OK, Michelle? Briefly.
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: Is it the type of women or is it that, look, if you were the first person to have dated Charlie Sheen or maybe the second or maybe the third, but if you've paid attention at all for the last 10 years, you know about Charlie Sheen's relationships with women and how he reacts. And there's a history there. And if you look at these women who are clearly, he'll tell you, the 20th or the 21st, you have to say to them, what are you - they are making a choice to be there, despite all the things that we know.
So I don't know if it's that we say I never (unintelligible) and I liked it a lot, but I don't know it's that because they are porn stars or they're trading in celebrity, it's just, you got to know what you're in for at this point. And you've clearly accepted it. I mean...
MARTIN: Well, you know, it's interesting, the whole question of, like, whose behavior is interesting and important to us is another issue we wanted to talk about with the final thing we wanted to raise, which is this whole question of Mike Huckabee, you know, a Fox News host, a one-time governor of Arkansas, perhaps, you know, once again, once and perhaps future presidential candidate, who was talking about Natalie Portman, the actress who just won an Oscar, who appeared at the Academy Awards, who is expecting with her - the man who she says is her, you know, fiance. And Mike Huckabee was speaking to the conservative talk show host Mike Medved, and he was asked about Natalie Portman. This is what he said.
(Soundbite of radio talk show)
Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas): One of the things that's troubling is that people see Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, hey look, you know, we're having children. We're not married, but we are having these children and they're doing just fine. And I think it gives a distorted image that, yes, not everybody hires nannies and caretakers and nurses.
Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job. And if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that's the story that we're not seeing. And it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.
MARTIN: You know, now, Huckabee has since said that he wasn't picking on Natalie Portman. But I also have to compare that to what he said about Bristol Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign, where in an interview with Christianity Today he said, quote, "The way the media went after the daughter is the most shameful thing I've ever seen in my life. If anything, it just caused Evangelicals to run to her. Everybody understands that the basis of being a Christian is that everyone has fallen short of God's ideal. Everyone understands that. We understand is that when there's a problem or failure is the family sticks together. We saw a mother who gave her unconditional love to her daughter. That embodies what Christianity means. We all mess up. The issue now is how we respond to it. And what she showed us is exactly what we want to see in terms of a witness."
And I have to ask you guys, what do you - ladies - I mean, Natalie, what - is that a double standard here?
Ms. HOPKINSON: Well, it definitely is. I mean, it seems like he's sort of putting Natalie Portman in with the welfare queens and, you know, Bristol Palin is on some, you know, peer pedestal of, you know, basks in the warmth of the love of their political supporters. And so it really shows how these issues are racialized, they're politicized and they're gendered. Like, the men are not mentioned ever in these situations and what impact they have.
And, you know, I really just feel like this is part of the ongoing war against women. It's very - it continues to be easy for them to score political points by attacking women, by attacking organizations that support women like Planned Parenthood. And I don't understand why this resurgence in the attacks against women continue to be tolerated.
MARTIN: And who wants to give the final word here?
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: You know what we say at CNBC?
MARTIN: Go ahead, Michelle.
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: There's always a bull market in hypocrisy.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: OK. There you go. Anna, what about you? You have time for a final word.
Ms. HOLMES: I was just going to say that it was interesting 'cause I feel that Huckabee went after two people with that statement and neither of them were Natalie Portman. I read somewhere online that he was actually using Portman as a proxy for Bristol Palin in order to kind of go after Sarah, who might be, you know, a Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. But also by kind of, you know, maligning single mothers, I kept thinking of Barack Obama as well, who was raised by a single mother for the most part.
MARTIN: Well, spicy and complicated. Anna Holmes is the writer - is a writer and she is the founder of Jezebel.com. She was with us from our bureau in New York. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is co-host of CNBC's "Power Lunch." She joined us from the CNBC studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. And here with is in our Washington, D.C. studio is Natalie Hopkinson, contributing editor for TheRoot. Ladies, thank you all so much.
Ms. HOLMES: Thank you.
Ms. HOPKINSON: Thank you, Michel.
Ms. CARUSO-CABRERA: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.