On Friday, in one of the more nutty moments in recent television history, Fox Sports analyst Clay Travis dropped an elephant-sized non sequitur in the middle of a CNN interview about besieged ESPN analyst Jemele Hill. Hill, you’ll recall, called President Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter, and the White House responded by calling her comments a “fireable offense.”
Travis was on CNN to respond to the controversy. There, he announced his life philosophy: “I only believe in two things completely: the First Amendment and boobs.”
This, of course, was gauche and dumb. It had nothing to do with anything. It’s not surprising that CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin looked utterly flustered. The comment was inappropriate, particularly in a news context.
But the blowback in the media was truly overwhelming. The comment wasn’t just vulgar and stupid — it was deeply offensive to women everywhere. Clay Travis had sinned. How could Travis be so sexist? Or, according to full-fledged loon Tariq Nasheed, racist?
Here are a few things you should know about the overheated response.
1. Travis Has Said This Exact Thing Before. Bookers often don’t do their research. If they had read his column on this exact issue at his website, they would have seen this line before. This is from Thursday: “That’s because I’m a First Amendment absolutist — the only two things I 100 percent believe in are the First Amendment and boobs — who is also capable of doing something that most in modern media seem incapable of — distinguishing between a person’s public job and their private political beliefs.” And here is a column from June 2015: “absolutism on either the right or the left is scary to me — which is why I’m a radical moderate — who believes in only two things absolutely: the First Amendment and boobs.” Travis apparently drops this line routinely on his show. If Howard Stern went on CNN and said the same thing, nobody would bat an eyelash. Travis isn’t Mitt Romney. CNN should have known that.
2. CNN Has A History Of Rather Gauche Behavior. Here is some video of the late Kathy Griffin with Anderson Cooper on New Year’s Eve. Griffin cheers, “Nipple! Nipple! Nipple! Nipple!” Baldwin replies, “I love you, Kathy, I love you.”
Then, of course, there’s Griffin simulating oral sex on Cooper on camera. Now, you might say that this is all fun and games, while Travis appeared in a news segment. That’s fair enough. But where was CNN’s outrage when women decided to knit “pussyhats”? Nowhere. Here’s a laudatory video about knitting pussyhats from CNN:
3. Travis’ Comment Is Ridiculous, But Acting Seriously Offended By His “Sexism” Is Even More Ridiculous. Why can’t we just say that things are dumb, rather than immediately jumping to personal offense? Is it always necessary for dumb things to also be offensive, rather than just kinda stupid?
Straight men, it turns out, like breasts. This is a fact derived from evolutionary biology, since men are attracted to secondary sexual characteristics. That doesn’t mean that men should go around shouting about their love for boobs, but simply saying that you like breasts doesn’t make you any more of a sexist than it makes Amy Schumer a sexist to say that she likes penises. If you’re going to be offended at the low standards of public discourse, that’s fine and understandable (where have you been for the last decade?). If you’re going to fuss about Travis’ supposed sexism, you might want to talk to Darwin.
Every time we think we’ve reached peak stupid 2017, there’s another hill yet to climb.
Just wait until next week.