Let’s talk Mommy Wars, double standards and the media elite. Last Friday, Howard Gutman, a member of the Obama campaign’s National Finance Committee, attacked Sarah Palin’s ability to be a good parent and have a high-powered public life at the same time. In a finger-wagging appearance on the Laura Ingraham radio show, Obama’s operative scolded the Republican mother of five children for not putting her professional career on hold.
"Your responsibility is to put your family first," Gutman lectured as he singled out Palin’s Down Syndrome baby and pregnant teenage daughter. "The proper attack is not that a woman shouldn’t run for vice president with five kids, it’s that a parent, when they have a family in need…" should get out of the public sphere and stay home.
The Gutman standard has now been proffered by countless Obama hacks and water-carrying commentators. Damningly, it’s high-powered working mothers in the journalism business who are helping to broadcast the anti-Palin slams or doing nothing to defend her.
How would Katie Couric like the Gutman standard applied to her? Her husband died at 42 when her daughters were 6 and 2 years old. With two young children devastated by the loss of a father, she opted not to quit journalism. She anchored NBC’s "Today Show" through his illness and death, continued working an intensive, time-consuming schedule as one of America’s most visible broadcast journalists while a single mother with two fatherless children at home, and then jumped to CBS News, where she maintains a rigorous on-air schedule, travel plans and an off-air social calendar. Where are the finger-waggers?
How about CNN’s Soldedad O’Brien? She’s been working overtime covering the presidential campaign season, anchoring daily coverage and nighttime conventions, and producing documentaries that require large chunks of time away from home. Disney’s Family Parenting website lauds her as "a modern mom balancing a thriving career as one of America’s top news anchors along with her four children" — two daughters now ages 7 and 6 and twin boys who are 4. Where are the Palin-bashers to lambaste O’Brien’s professional pursuits?
Also at CNN, Campbell Brown flew to Las Vegas last year to moderate a political debate while 8 and a half months pregnant. Fox News host and left-wing blogger Alan Colmes, last seen questioning Palin’s commitment to prenatal care because she worked and traveled late in her pregnancy, had no comment. When Brown initially left the "Today Show" in 2007, she said she was stepping down to devote more time to family and baby. She immediately turned around and jumped ship to CNN, where she has anchored wall-to-wall CNN Election Center coverage and will launch a new nightly show in November.
At NBC, famous balancer of work and motherhood Meredith Viera replaced Couric on the "Today Show." She has three children at home and a husband who has battled multiple sclerosis and two bouts of colon cancer. By the Gutman standard, Viera should have left the business years ago to tend to her family in need.
As a working woman in the media for 16 years and a working mother in the media for the last eight, I know the commitment and energy it took for these women to get to the top. I’ve filed columns from hospital beds, written books while nursing, brought my toddlers to TV studios, and told bedtime stories on the cell phone while boarding planes. I’ve worked hard to strike the "balance" we all seek. I’ve made good choices and bad choices, and have no regrets about the opportunities I’ve taken or the opportunities I’ve rejected. I couldn’t have done it without a supportive husband willing to forego his own career goals — the kind of spouse the media has ignored in Todd Palin and the kind of spouse I’m sure the Sisterhood of the Protected Female Journalists all have.
I don’t challenge the commitment these fellow working mothers in the media have to their home lives. What I challenge is their silence and complicity as the Palin-bashers impose a "Family First" double standard on conservatives. The sorority is closed to the Right.