Anderson Cooper recently took to his CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 to slam longtime 700 Club host Pat Robertson for his recent, outrageous and headline grabbing remarks about gays. The problem for Cooper is that he somewhat derailed the point he was trying to make before he even got started by beginning his ‘Ridiculist’ segment making an extremely tacky and distasteful ageist analogy before introducing Robertson’s nonsensical comments.
In late-August Robertson, who is 83, made headlines for his latest addition to his very long list of mind-numbingly stupid comments, claiming that gay people who are infected with AIDS wear special rings that cut people, in an effort to spread the disease.
Robertson said, “You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they’ve got the stuff, they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger. Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.”
Then Cooper responded.
Beginning the segment, Cooper, who is 46 and openly gay, said that he usually does not pay much attention to Robertson because, “he's sort of like that elderly relative who you only see at Thanksgiving. He doesn't get out of bed much and he's sitting around the table and suddenly blurts out nonsensical sentences in between chewing on soft foods.”
The inference being of course that Robertson is just hateful and crazy because he’s old, and as with all old people, he should be ignored, with which I take issue. Robertson is not hateful and crazy because he’s old, he’s hateful and crazy because he’s just hateful and crazy. That kind of behavior is not relegated to senior citizens; it’s relegated to hateful and crazy people. To somehow suggest the elderly are to be ignored because of supposed useless ramblings, as Cooper did, is absurd and only serves to perpetuate institutionalized ageism and ageist stereotypes that often lead to seniors facing to discrimination in everything from renewing their driver’s license to seeking employment.
Cooper could have simply taken Robertson to task for his silly comments and left his age out of it, unfortunately Cooper chose turn himself into a hypocrite.
To be fair, I get what Cooper was attempting. Part of Cooper’s shtick is to appear as both a serious journalist (on the ground, out in the thick of a storm) and a guy that can dole out enough sarcastic quips to keep up with John McHale à la ‘The Soup’ (doling out witty barbs nightly on his ‘Ridiculist’ segment). Cooper was attempting a one-two punch. Before he explained how stupid Robertson’s comments were (and they were pretty stupid), Cooper wanted to satirize Robertson first, so that by the time he got to his latest comments, Robertson would have no credibility capital to expend with the viewer and Coopers comments would be hailed as spot-on and incredibly clever. Cooper certainly isn’t the first pundit to use this style and it’s not necessarily a bad way to make an effective argument, especially if the target has previously been discredited as Robertson has (think Glenn Beck or Michelle Bachmann), the problem is Cooper took it a step too far.
What Anderson Cooper did was the equivalent of a male host being righteously indignant about, for example, the racist behavior from Paula Deen (that recently cost her the majority of her empire) and showing his indignation by giving Deen a warranted tongue lashing but prefacing the lashing with a sexist joke. It just kind of ruins it.
In mocking Robertson, Cooper sought to show how patently absurd and irresponsible it is for the host of a nationally watched program to make comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about a group of people of which they are not a part.
Cooper made that point, although not in the way I imagine he intended.