A Colorado Springs talk-radio host and former GOP House candidate can't believe how much Sandra Fluke's birth control costs. He makes "fun" of Fluke by wondering if her "birth control" covers "booze," "hotel room," and "cigarettes afterwards."
Two days after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” Colorado Springs talk-radio host Jimmy Lakey asked his listeners if they thought Fluke spent her “birth control” money on “cigarettes afterwards,” “booze,” and a “hotel room.”
Lakey, who ran for Congress in the 2010 Republican primary for Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s seat, said he couldn’t believe that Fluke spends $3,000 per year on birth control. He did the math and calculated her monthly birth-control expenditure to be $249.
From there, Lakey went into a jag March 4 on his 740 KVOR talk show about how in the world Fluke’s birth control could cost so much?
Lakey: Two hundred and forty nine dollars a month. That’s … Does that include the booze? Does that include the cigarettes afterwards? I mean, what does that include?
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But, to be fair, Lakey told his audience he was joking, straight up, during his show. “We make fun of Ms. Fluke,” he said. Limbaugh explained later that he was joking, and he apologized.
Here’s more of Lakey’s “fun” with Fuke’s congressional testimony:
Lakey: You know, her parents, her grandparents, all of her family has just got to be really proud. (laughter in background) They’ve got to be really proud about right now… (Impersonating Sandra Fluke’s grandfather)… “Oh, Sandra! Oh, Sandra! Oh, we’re so proud of you. We’re so proud of that Congressional testimony you had. So happy! Oh, Granpa’s happy. Come give Granpa… a little hug!…
Lakey also said on the air that he thought the congressional hearing at which Fluke testified was a waste of time, a distraction from the core job of fixing the economy. He called the hearing an “embarrassment” and he scolded House Republicans for allowing the hearing to occur at all.
“And the House committees are all chaired by Republicans,” he said. “And they said we’re gonna have a hearing about this?”
Lakey: Now, I don’t know what kind of birth control the girl is using. I don’t understand… Can you imagine, in these serious times that we live in, our Congress is having hearings with a young lady who has very frequent sexual encounters in college, and this is the Congressional testimony they get. Amazing! But birth control – I thought if you’re taking the birth control pill you go like monthly, and they give you the little spindle of the pills, and you time them out and take them daily, and you’re done.
Lakey apparently thought Obama’s call to Fluke was dumb, unless he was joking.
Lakey: This girl who in Congressional testimony, saying that she is having relations of a Bill Clinton proportion on a regular basis. [Impersonating Clinton]: “I did not have sexual relations….” But she says, [still as Clinton] I did have a thousand dollars of sexual relations this year…” And she’s doing that this year. And Obama calls her to congratulate her and thank her for telling us. “Thanks for speaking out.”…Ms. Fluke gets a high five from President Obama. “Thatta girl!” It’s like a fraternity house around there.
But there’s no apology from Lakey, who describes himself on his Facebook page as an “entrepreneur,” “humanitarian,” “former candidate for U.S. Congress in Colorado’s CD7, ” and “a frequent guest host for radio talk shows across the USA.”
Lakey did not respond to an email Monday asking if he’d apologized for his comments or if he thinks an apology is warranted.
Fisk told me in a telephone interview that Lakey is currently in Africa doing charity work, which could explain his not responding to me.
Fisk is not a regular co-host of Lakey’s show. He was a guest. He told me both he and Lakey thought Limbaugh’s apology was appropriate, and said so on the air. The banter about Fluke was intended to be like a “Saturday Night Live” skit, he said, pointing out that it has been over a week since the show aired and he doesn’t remember every minute of it.
“I think it was a discussion on the radio intended to actually look at what was said and to condemn words like whore and some of the other words that were used, and to make light of parts of it the same way a Saturday Night Live sketch would, but to clearly draw a line and say there were clearly some inappropriate things that were said on national radio,” Fisk told me.
Fisk has joined the show for its “Scotch and cigar segments in the past,” Lakey said on air, but I’ve never listened. The 1950’s retro thing, in terms of cigars or 1950’s attitudes toward women, doesn’t do it for me.
Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.
In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.
Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”
“Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.
“Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”
Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”
Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.
“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”
Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.
Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”
Editor’s note: On Wednesday, the New York Times published an article, titled “Gay Talese Goes Through the Twitter Wringer,” that referenced our reporting about Gay Talese’s comments to New York Times Magazine staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones. In that article, Talese referred to Hannah-Jones as “duplicitous.” On Thursday, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet released a statement, saying the Times‘ article “was flawed and Nikole was treated unfairly.” Baquet praised Hannah-Jones as “one of the most accomplished and prominent journalists of her generation.” He also wrote: “this incident is larger than the exchange between her and Gay Talese. Too often, we are clumsy in handling issues of race and gender and this story was another unfortunate example. We have made strides in our coverage and culture, but the best solution is to continue building a more diverse, inclusive newsroom.”
Verandah Porche didn’t grasp the full significance of what she had done until later.
At the time, sitting in an auditorium at Boston University (BU) at the Power of Narrative conference, she simply felt curious about something the keynote speaker, writer Gay Talese, seemed to have left out. Talese, 84, is a giant in the world of narrative journalism, best known for his 1966 Esquire profile “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” On Saturday, dressed in one of his immaculate suits, Talese regaled the roughly 550 attendees with tales of his childhood and reporting tips, including one that became a Twitter punchline because of what came next: “Journalism is avoiding, if you can avoid it, any kind of technology.”
Then Talese took questions from the audience. Porche’s question was first.
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“In addition to Nora Ephron, who are the women who write who have inspired you most?” she asked.
Later, I felt sure the questioner was someone deeply familiar with Talese’s history of sexism—familiar, for example, with the 1964 cab ride during which he leaned over Gloria Steinem to say to Saul Bellow, “You know how every year, there’s a pretty girl who comes to New York and pretends to be a writer? Well, Gloria is this year’s pretty girl.”
Perhaps the questioner knew enough to predict that after his keynote, Talese would insult a prominent Black woman journalist by asking her if she was headed to get her nails done. But I was wrong.
“I was just authentically curious, and being a woman of my generation, I’m very sensitive to exclusion and erasure and complacency,” Porche, who is 70, told me later by phone. “I was listening for his relationship with women, unconsciously, that’s just what I do, and so I heard him talk about the great Nora Ephron … and also obviously there was his mother, and then there was nobody.”
Porche was already an outsider at the conference attended by hundreds of journalists. An accomplished poet and educator, Porche lives in rural Vermont, on a former commune called Total Loss Farm. For her workshop at the conference, she created her first-ever PowerPoint presentation. And as she raised her hand that day, her experience of sexism over the decades was, perhaps unconsciously, with her.
In the mid-1970s, Porche flew out to the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa to address a class led by poet Sandra McPherson. After the talk, McPherson confronted Porche, saying she believed Porche’s poems were actually written by men. The accusation turned out to be based on a misunderstanding; McPherson had heard a group of men scheming about releasing a book of poems under a fake woman’s persona, and mistakenly connected that to Porche. Still, the encounter was a game changer for Porche, who at the time was reeling from her father’s recent death.
“I sort of went home to Vermont and decided, there’s got to be a better way to be a poet,” Porche told me. “I developed this outsider career that was very local.”
On Saturday, Porche’s question—if not her name—entered the national spotlight, not because of what she said, but because of how Talese responded.
“I’d say Mary McCarthy was one,” Talese began. His voice tapered off, and then he paused.
“Of my generation…” A 12-second pause. “None. I’ll tell you why.” Then Talese dug the hole out of which he’d spend days trying to climb. At first, he clearly confined his answer to the past, saying when he was young, women tended not to do the kind of journalism that interested him. But then he did something my former journalism professor would have slashed in red pen: He shifted tenses.
“I think women, educated women, writerly women don’t want to—or do not feel comfortable dealing with strangers, or people that I’m attracted to, sort of offbeat characters,” he said. “I didn’t know any women journalists that I loved.”
From the balcony, Sandy Tolan, an author and professor of narrative journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, shouted “Joan Didion?”
“I’m glad you reminded me,” Talese responded. “But she doesn’t deal with antisocial people. She’s an educated, beautiful writer.”
Two men were on stage with Talese: Tom Fiedler, the moderator and BU’s dean of the College of Communication, and Mitchell Zuckoff, a BU journalism professor. Neither challenged Talese.
Sitting in the audience, I felt erased. “What is he saying?” I remember exclaiming.
I wondered for a moment if I was the only one who noticed. But, of course, I wasn’t. It quickly became clear we were in the midst of a viral moment. On Twitter, women registered their disapproval. Some walked out. We’d been encouraged to tweet ahead of the keynote. So we did. As my friend and I turned to each other in shock, an older man whipped around and shushed us.
That evening, the Boston Globe hosted a cocktail party at a nearby hotel. By then, stories about Talese’s remarks had appeared in media outlets, including the New York Daily News, the Washington Post and Jezebel, all of which referenced the Twitter firestorm. But absent from that firestorm was the woman who started it all. At about 8:30 that night, Porche, aided by a BU student, finally posted a tweet identifying herself as the woman who asked the question.
Talese has since written to the Boston Globe (a sponsor for the conference) that he misunderstood Porche’s question, taking it to apply to women journalists who may have inspired him as a young man. He noted a number of “contemporary women” whom he admires but left out at the time: Susan Orlean, Larissa MacFarquhar, Lillian Ross, and Katie Roiphe.
Fiedler, the moderator, acknowledged to the Globe that he “may have been able to defuse the situation,” if he had “anticipated that [Talese’s] remark would create the stir that it did.”
It’s a twisted version of “Sorry, not sorry.”
But no clarification would have stopped what happened next. Immediately after his keynote, Talese walked over to attend a private luncheon for speakers. He met Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has won widespread acclaim for her coverage of racial segregation in schools and housing. Hannah-Jones delivered Friday’s keynote address, launching the conference. But when she was introduced to him as a New York Times Magazine staff writer, Talese was more curious about how she got her job.
“He asked again if I was actually a staff writer. And I said yes,” Hannah-Jones told me by phone on Monday. He asked her how she got hired for that job. “I said they called and offered me a job,” she recalled. “He asked me who hired me, why was I hired?”
Hannah-Jones said she was the only Black person in the room.
“I felt defensive,” Hannah-Jones recalled. “I feel like I’ve been explaining why I’m in a room where apparently people think I’m not supposed to be most of my life, so I know when someone is asking me that question.”
The conversation moved on to other topics. But at the end of the luncheon, Talese asked Hannah-Jones something else.
“I was talking with another woman journalist,” Hannah-Jones recalled. “We were trying to figure out what session we were going to go to next, and that’s when he asked me if I was going to get my nails done.”
Now, Hannah-Jones, like Talese, is an immaculate dresser, and that extends to her turquoise, baby blue, and glitter nails. But when Talese asked if she, an investigative reporter at one of the nation’s leading publications, planned to skip out on the journalism conference at which they were both keynote speakers to head to the salon, Hannah-Jones did not even know what to say.
“Part of it was, I mean, I just come from a family where respect for your elders is very ingrained, but part of it is feeling like, honestly, as a Black woman, that it would be very hard for me to say something without coming off looking like all the stereotypes that women and Black women get,” Hannah-Jones told me on Monday. “It was a hard moment for me to realize that even at this point in my career I could still be silenced.”
The conference, like many journalism gatherings, was overwhelmingly white, another reminder of how far the field of journalism has to go to address racism and sexism, not only in our coverage, but within our own ranks. For women like Porche and Hannah-Jones, Talese’s remarks cut in part because they felt familiar. Talese echoed decades of exclusion. That was what the men on stage didn’t hear, but we did.
As the conference concluded on Sunday, I approached Mitchell Zuckoff, the second man who had been on stage with Talese, to tell him I thought he had shirked a basic, journalistic responsibility: Ask a follow-up question. Zuckoff committed to asking one next time, telling me, “In the future, if I’m moderating a speaker or a panel, and something is said from the stage or the audience that I believe to be open to offense or misinterpretation, I will take a moment to seek clarity from the speaker.”
But Zuckoff has publicly defended Talese, saying he believes he was talking about his experiences as a young man.
I called Zuckoff on Monday and asked him about a particular moment in Hannah-Jones’ keynote from Friday that sticks with me. In response to a question from a white audience member, Hannah-Jones reminded us that race and segregation are not Black issues. Segregation exists because of white people. I asked Zuckoff if he thought he had failed in his responsibility, as a man, to confront Talese’s sexism.
“He answered it in a way that I understood completely at the time not as a sexist statement,” Zuckoff said. “If I had perceived it the way you did, perhaps I would have said something different. But I didn’t, and I don’t.”
For me, this conference has become one of those defining moments. It was a moment when an elderly man said something outrageous, and the men who had a platform to intervene failed to do so. It was also a moment when I banded together with other women, over pizza and in the hallways and classrooms between sessions. In slightly different words we told each other: I felt it too; I see you; I admire you; you belong.