Sally Jenkins not offended by Kornheiser comments

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On Tuesday, MDS posted a blurb regarding the back-and-forth between ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Colts owner Jim Irsay.  MDS mentioned that, in the same radio show in which Kornheiser threw verbal grenades at Irsay, Kornheiser also took aim at a column from Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post regarding NFL owners, calling the item “shrew-like” and “hysterical.”

MDS raised with me the question of whether Kornheiser’s comments could be regarded as sexist.  Reluctant to make it an issue without thinking it through, I did some research and obtained some opinions from male and female members of the media.  This morning, I posted a follow-up pointing out the possibility that Kornheiser could be facing a backlash, given the strong possibility that folks within ESPN could regard the comments as sexist.

The blurb was short, and relatively tame.  We didn’t take a position on whether Kornheiser should be in trouble.  Primarily, I was fascinated by the fact that a guy who in 2010 found himself suspended by ESPN for two weeks for riffing on radio about Hannah Storm’s wardrobe choices would stray while speaking extemporaneously into territory that could get him into water of a similar temperature.

Along the way, I included a quote from an unnamed male media member.  The first two sentences helped me come to the conclusion that the issue was worth flagging.  “I think the test is would Tony say that about you or me,” the source said.  “Probably not.”

The source added, “I’m guessing Sally feels the exact same way.”  I left that last line in the story, and I didn’t consider the possibility of confirming whether Sally actually was offended.  Put simply, I didn’t think her own subjective reaction to the use of the terms “shrew-like” and “hysterical” by Kornheiser regarding a female sportswriter in an inherently public medium was relevant to the question of whether the use of the terms could objectively be regarded as offensive.

This morning, after we posted the story, Sally expressed via Twitter her belief that I should have called her.  (That’s putting it as mildly as possible.)  I wasn’t able to focus on the issue at the time she raised it, given both the preparations for PFT Live and, eventually, the latest 70-minute edition of the 30-minute show.  After the show, I contacted Sally by e-mail.  We had a (mostly) cordial exchange, and the end result is that we have each other’s phone numbers and we understand each other’s positions.

In hindsight, I would have omitted the “I’m guessing Sally feels the exact same way” line from the story.  At a minimum, I would have contacted her to see if she feels that way.

Since we can’t unring the bell, here’s what Sally told me at one point via e-mail regarding her reaction to the comments.  It’s a quote she has expressly asked me to use:  “Kornheiser and I have been friends for 30 years. We talk to and about each other like this all time.  It falls under the category of ‘Jane you ignorant slut.’  Which anyone could have discovered by calling me and asking my reaction before sticking my name in print and ginning up a controversy I didn’t ask for, based [on] my presumed reaction purely because I’m a chick.  I’m on vacation. I didn’t need my blackberry blowing up over this NONSENSE.”

That said, I still think her reaction to the comments is irrelevant to the question of whether the use of “shrew-like” and “hysterical” by Kornheiser in reference to a female sportswriter will or could get Kornheiser into trouble.  Though the following example was much more extreme and clearly inappropriate, ABC surely didn’t consult with Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett before concluding that Howard Cosell had to go based on his extemporaneous — and notorious — on-air remark about Garrett.

Actually, Garrett wasn’t offended, either.  “I liked Howard Cosell,” Garrett said in the 1990s. “I didn’t feel that it was a demeaning statement.”

It didn’t matter then, and as far as we’re concerned it doesn’t matter now.  Though Jane Curtain never complained about being called an “ignorant slut,” it was always obvious that Dan Aykroyd was joking.  In Kornheiser’s case, it was an inside joke, at best.  And if it was a joke, well, we’re still searching for the punchline.

31 responses to “Sally Jenkins not offended by Kornheiser comments

  1. I hate Kornheiser with a passion. How this idiot has a well paying job talking about something he doesn’t have a clue about, is beyond me.

    That being said, I really don’t think the guy intended to offend her. Lets just move on.

  2. Saying it in private and saying it in a broadcast are two different things.

    If Kornheiser said “Sally Jenkins won’t do anything about this because Sally Jenkins is my BITCH!” would that still be OK?

    Kornheiser can call her whatever derogatory and foul names he wants in private as long as she is OK with it (and I guess she is) but in the public forum Sally Jenkins represents women in general and he should be respectful.

  3. If you’ve listened to Kornheiser ove rthe years, you;d know that he and Sally have been slinging arrows at each other like this constantly. They are close friends of many years and like we do with our friends, they get a little harsh with the jokes. Also, he always has female colleagues from the Post on with him who will jump to defend “sistas” in the profession, and that did not happen here. She (Jeannie McManus, i think) knew that there wasa no real animus here.

  4. Kornheiser may have to join his brother Krusty in the children’s entertainment field. As much as they both hate it.

  5. I seriously doubt anyone cares what Kornholio has to say. He’s ignorant and boorish. The punchline is that this guy has a job in the media still.

  6. You should also have mentioned that Cosell called his grandkids little monkeys when they would run around. Let’s make sure his intent was that and not what they used to fry him because they didn’t like him. I sure hope you posted my previous comment unlike other times I disagree with writes and their motives here.

  7. The inital post says “lost” in his back and forth with Irsay were these “sexist” comments. Really? Was the issue somehow overshadowed? Or was it a non-issue in the first place? H. Storm is an ESPN employee…and TK was suspended based on internal standards of conduct regarding the appropriateness of comments made about a co-worker. He wasnt suspended for completely outlandish remarks akin to those made about the Rutgers women’s hoops team a while back which is how it’s portrayed here. If you want to be the PC police and hypohesize on whether or not someone should be reprimanded for comments that no one else has a problem with, ok…but the “reporting” comes off as petty at best and Im still waiting for the point of the story.

  8. Let me exhonorate Cosell for his comment. The receivers were calling themselves “Smurfs” because they were all short. Cosell was getting old. In his excitement, he said something like, “Look at that little monkey go.” I am sure he forgot smurf and just got confused. There was not a racist bone in Cosell’s body.

  9. Cosell grew up in an era when such remarks were not considered insensitive. The Slavery Era.

  10. Much ado about nothing. Very few of us football fans care what TK has to say let alone if he is still breathing or not. GOODNIGHT CANADA!!!

  11. Thank God for people like Garrett and Jenkins. Refreshing (even though Garrett’s comment was a while back, his attitude is needed today.)

  12. Couple quick comments –

    I do enjoy listening to Tony K, but I don’t listen to him for the sports. I listen for the banter, the discussions, … a Seinfeld-ian radio show in some respects. Just some folks hanging out and talking, and there’s some good stuff about that. ESPN980 knew what they were getting when they brought him back, and it works for his listeners.

    Does Tony K cross the line intentionally? No. If he does, should he be called out for it? Sure. The problem is, Tony’s said far worse about male colleagues before. Calling someone mean-spirited or bad-tempered? I don’t know if that cross this line that you seem to be drawing. Perhaps that’s moving the bar. Perhaps we should call out any reporter who says similar comments about male colleagues, but I suspect that PFT won’t spend time on that, because it won’t be viewed as an issue (and if PFT did try to spend time each time a reporter said someone was mean-spirited or bad tempered, well, that’s a heck of a lot of posts). It’s mean, it’s harsh, but I just don’t know if this is an issue, particularly since everyone understands that Tony K has a good relationship with Sally, who comes on the show when she can. Certainly, the relationship between the two shouldn’t reflect upon whether or not something is appropriate. I just think this was blown out of proportion a bit.

  13. Oh, one more thing, something Sally points out in Dan Steinberg’s blog, which is totally true.

    Her exact quote:

    “Fifth, nobody has helped and promoted women in sports more than Kornheiser,”

    For all his faults (for example, some of his sports commentary can be quite … lame, and well, that’s his profession), he’s been very good about promoting gender equality in the workplace. I think his bantering with women is perhaps viewed by Tony K as a way to treat women as equals – if I’ll call out a guy with far worse comments, why not say the same about women?

  14. Lord, I just read her Twitter comments…gag me. Gee Sally, PFT sticking up for women is going against “free speech”? This reminds me of the guy who sees a dude beating the daylights out of his girlfriend and when he comes over to help her, she yells at him to mind his own business.

    Mike, sometimes you just can’t win.

  15. I’m sure someone else has said or thought this, but it bears repeating.

    Kornheiser is the punchline. Every word he utters and that face of his that was made for radio.

    At one point or another he’ll make another misogynistic comment that will relegate him to the obscurity he deserves.

  16. I agree with toonster. His show is very Sienfeldian and wandering. I have always enjoyed TK on the radio as it is not your typical sports show. It provides a good alternative to the same old formulaic show format – which after you have been listening to all day – gets old. He is a doofus not a sexist. And for all you haters – He has been around as a writer, radio, and tv personality for a loooong time. That should say something.

  17. Are we living in a world where women have become so soft that they are offended by the use of word “shrew”. This thinking that women are soft by nature should be regarded as sexist in my book.

  18. I guess my feeling is when you can’t criticize one of the biggest buffoons in sports ownership because he writes your checks, how can you criticize a guy with a franchise that has been very successful over the last decade?

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