In the last couple of years the disturbing trend of teen suicides at the hands of bullying has launched the topic into the national spotlight. Since then, many sources ranging from ABC News to the Mayo Clinic have offered up strategies on avoiding and reducing the harm of emotional bullying. In celebration of Valentine's Day, schools across the country launched anti-bullying initiatives to create awareness, sensitivity and support for school age children. Based on what I saw, I think these programs are a wonderful, long overdue concept. Dare I suggest we consider expanding them beyond school gymnasiums and into the conference rooms of media outlets across the country?
Obviously Rex Reed's personal attack on comedienne Melissa McCarthy is still fresh on my mind. Despite the fact that her movie Identity Thief, which he trashed, won big at the box office, his harsh words are hard to forget. But let's not pretend that Reed is the first member of the press to unfairly criticize a successful and talented woman. Just this past summer I was reading an interview in the New Yorker with Harry Potter creator, J.K. Rowling. In the piece promoting her latest book, The Casual Vacancy, Rowling was mocked for wearing too much foundation and false eyelashes to the interview.
This brought to mind how over the last 20 years Hillary Clinton has often been criticized for her hair and more cruel comments written about her body. It was hard for me to imagine that any best-selling male author or secretary of state would ever be subject to the same scrutiny. Would a journalist dare mention a middle-aged man's paunch or his receding hairline?
Last week I was proven wrong when a former White House physician Connie Mariano made public statements about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's weight. The doctor's comments ignited a national and very public conversation about a very personal issue. Say what you will about the governor's weight, the conversation was really no different from the days when Nancy Reagan was criticized for being too thin and dubbed anorexic by the press.
It's true -- this is all part of being a public figure. Still, it's one thing to have a straight shooter like Barbara Walters ask a tough question point blank. It's a whole other thing to have something hurtful said by someone you have never met go viral.
Call it what you will -- tabloid style reporting or reform-minded muckracking journalism. At the end of the day, it hurts. For his part, Reed is pleading that he is the victim of complex public relations conspiracy masterminded by Universal Studios. His detractors claim the septuagenarian critic's reviews (prior to his attack on McCarthy), only had followers in the modest double digits. Likewise, Governor Christie accused Dr. Mariano of seeking her 15 minutes of fame.
From the looks of it, they both got it. It just may not have felt the way they thought it would.