Christiane Amanpour, Vaughn Walker, and the objectivity double-standard
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has done a characteristically badass job of ripping apart this insulting Tom Shales column questioning Christiane Amanpour’s fitness to become the new host of “This Week,” suggesting, unreasonably, that being accused of “liberal bias” (a charge leveled at anyone outside of Fox News) and that being of Iranian descent means she couldn’t possibly be objective.
Most journalists found the choice of Amanpour refreshing – and after initially wondering what middle-aged white man would inevitably get the gig, I was one of them. So was Adam Serwer, who expanded on Greenwald’s piece by comparing Shales’ take on Amanpour to the plight of Sonia Sotomayor:
As with Sonia Sotomayor no amount of personal excellence can calm certain kinds of skepticism, because the question really comes down to one of resources and tribalist rivalry. Amanpour would be the only woman hosting a Sunday morning show on one of the major three networks, just as Sotomayor became the first Latina on the court. Because of her gender and ethnic background, she is another challenger to a professional space traditionally reserved for white men.
Though this is spot-on, Greenwald’s post and the unfair skepticism surrounding Amanpour reminded me, actually, of a different judge who similarly doesn’t fit the default objectivity standard: Vaughn Walker.
While virtually anyone with legitimate knowledge of the legal system acknowledges that Walker is fair, the judge deciding the federal trial over the constitutionality of Prop. 8 is gay himself, and therefore, as Gawker points out, “If he rules against Prop. 8, the homophobes will have their big, nasty appeal primed and ready.”
The National Review has already taken Walker to task, ignoring the judge was appointed by a Republican, tends to lean conservative, and is roundly considered fair even by his opponents. Instead, NR writes inexplicably: “From the outset, Walker’s entire course of conduct in the anti-Prop 8 case has reflected a manifest design to turn the lawsuit into a high-profile, culture-transforming, history-making, Scopes-style show trial of Prop 8’s sponsors.”
There you have it: If you’re not, male, white and straight, you simply cannot judge things fairly. Or report on them.