There’s an article in USA Today by Michael Gartner, who hired Tim Russert to host Meet the Press, and there’s a long digression about how Russert was initially reluctant to host the show because he thought he was too ugly:
Finally, I told him he should be – had to be – the moderator of Meet the Press, which wasn’t doing well.
"No way," he said again.
We argued. We debated. We fought. He raised objections, I shot them down. At the end, he said, “Look, I can’t do it. I’m ugly.” “Well, I said with a laugh, I can’t argue that one (he had a chubby face that looked like it was made out of Play-Doh) but I’m not looking for a handsome guy, I’m looking for a smart one.” Finally, he agreed, and in 1991 he became moderator of the show.
I had some sweatshirts made up with his picture on the front. “Tim Russert,” they said, “Not just a pretty face.” He was, eventually, amused.
It’s an amusing and poignant story, of course, and it’s another reminder about how self-effacing Russert could be. But I can’t shake the feeling that if Tim Russert had been an ugly woman, the conversation never would’ve taken place. The double standard in network news is nothing new, but when it’s put in your face so starkly it’s a little depressing. We expect our female pundits and news anchors to be intelligent and beautiful, but men can get away with being overweight and unattractive.