I'm talking about Jeff Rossen, of NBC News in New York City (no, we're not talking about the local anchor in a farming town of 2,000 in the middle of the bible belt, not that there's anything wrong with that), and more notably, of the Today Show. Now, lest you think this has been a long-brewing rant, let me assure you that I've never heard of this guy before today, when he said something on the Today show that went way past what I don't get, straight into what-I-thought-had-quietly-passed-from-this-earth.
Maybe I've been living in a bubble. I'm pretty sure I have. I mean, I live in the first state in the U.S. where same-sex marriage was legalized, and I'm originally from the other coast--the part of the other coast where they went ahead and conducted same sex marriages whether they're legal or not. I live in a school district and work for a company where discrimination based on sexual orientation is not allowed. I've been thinkin' we're gettin' somewhere. I mean...not to be too coast-centric, but...IOWA? The ball is rolling, methinks. But you know what else methinks?
We've reached a point in our cultural evolution in which it just would not happen that a newscaster would use the word "faggot" on the air. It would simply not be allowed. There would be an outcry, followed by an apology, and likely a resignation. But the subtle--and not so subtle--cues remain. And it's a good thing, because it reminds us that ignorance remains. We've still got plenty of work to do, so don't put away your rainbow flag just yet.
Today's example? It was just unbelievable.
I'm sure you have heard the story of the "craigslist" murderer. It's playing out right here in our fair city of Boston, and it's got all of the appropriately lurid elements that keep people glued to their televisions. My primary reaction to this case is that I wish they would stop calling it that, and I hope it doesn't hurt craigslist, because I think craigslist is great, and not only because I found my furniture, current home, some fantabulous possessions, and former babysitters and jobs there. I just think it's a little glimmer of what community is supposed to be in a sea of self-absorbed people who get away with talking to themselves as they walk down the sidewalk simply because they have a little bullet shaped device in their ears (me, I don't buy it).
So today, as you may know, shocker of all shockers, the news reports that this man, Phil Markoff (in case you don't know, he is accused of killing one woman and assaulting two others, after contacting them on craigslist, where they were advertising "massage" and "escort" services) was also contacting men for sexual liaisons via craigslist. [insert gasp here if absolutely necessary]. It's a scandal because, well, it's murder. But it's MORE of a scandal because he's blond, tall, stereotypically good looking, engaged, and a graduate student. You know as well as I do that people like that don't do bad things. It's the other people who do bad things! Come on!
Well, anyhow, this story was reported on the Today Show today, anchored by our very own Mr. Rossen. You can watch the segment here, if you'd like. I don't have the stomach to embed it here. It's a big news story, I get that. But I'd like to call your attention to the following section of dialogue, between Mr. Rossen and a man that claims to have been solicited by Mr. Markoff.
Rossen: "This will be very difficult for his fiancee to hear."
Man: "It would be tough for anyone to hear, to hear that your fiance is saying that he's single and looking for sex online anonymously--"
Rossen: "With MEN!"
Man: "With men, with men dressing as women......" (the rest doesn't matter)
Yeah. I bet that will be the toughest thing yet. Never mind that her intended is accused of murder and assault. He was having sex with MEN! Give me an effin' break.
Don't get me wrong. His fiancee has all my sympathy. All of it. She must be in terrible shock, wondering if this is all true, destroyed by the rapidly growing body of evidence, questioning who she thought she was engaged to, overwhelmed at the prospect of an envisioned future destroyed, maybe even fearful of the vulnerability she exposed to this man she was about to marry. She has every right to feel absolutely anything that she feels. What a terrible experience for her. But to suggest that finding out that there were men involved as sexual partners is among the most disastrous news just seems ludicrous. Sure, it's another thing to add to the pile. But he may have killed someone! Shouldn't having sex with men fall just a wee bit below that on the "shock and awe" scale?
So, as I say, I looked him up. I had to. (I like to know things.) And I found this clip from another news show, in which another anchor calls him a "drag king" (which is probably a good thing, because god knows what might happen if you used that "queen" word), and he responds by speaking in an effeminate lisping voice.
Who is this guy? I've been reading more about him for awhile now. He's pretty successful in broadcasting. Lots of credits under his belt (so to speak).
I live in a blue-state bubble, and every once in a while, I realize that. This is a successful guy in a huge city. I know there are still plenty of people who behave like this, but I honestly didn't think they held high level reporting jobs for major networks. And the saddest part is that I bet that hardly anyone noticed.
On the other hand, he does have perfectly coiffed hair and a bit of an affected voice in his own right. So maybe there's more to this than meet the eye. Yeah, I can do stereotypes with the best of 'em.