Politics & Policy

Why Couldn’t ‘Feminist’ Rachel Maddow Stop Apologizing for Doing Her Job as a Moderator?

She had nothing to be sorry for — except for being so sorry.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow bills herself as a strong, feminist woman — someone unafraid to break a few eggs to make an equal-rights-for-women omelette.

So why did she keep apologizing any time she acted as a forceful moderator during the Democratic Forum on Friday?

The idea that women are too quick to say they’re sorry has become common topic of discussion in the feminist community. Comedian Amy Schumer recently tackled it with a sketch on her show about a panel of women who could not stop apologizing to each other — with one of them even continuing to apologize as she started dying on the stage due to burns from hot coffee that someone else had spilled on her.

Now, as a “feminist” herself, you’d think that Maddow would have used her opportunity as moderator to fight this stereotype. Watching her performance, however, all I could think of was how much she was acting like those women in Schumer’s sketch.

It began right away: Maddow chose to open the forum by apologetically explaining that she might have to interrupt the candidates in order to get answers to the questions:

“I need to get information from these folks, we’ve only got a specific amount of time to get it from them and I don’t want you to dislike me or think that I’m being rude I don’t mean it in a rude way. But with all respect I will probably interject a little more than you might have expected or that have seen before… so… don’t hate me.”

Yep. This accomplished female journalist, someone who has herself described feminism as “by definition an oppositional movement,” was given the powerful, prestigious role of moderating a presidential forum — and decided to handle it by beginning with preemptive apology and a plea for the audience’s love.  

#share#In fact, not only did she begin the forum with an apology, but she also continued to re-apologize throughout it. For example, before asking Martin O’Malley a question about how he was planning to address his low ranking in the polls, she said “I’m going to ask you a down-and-dirty politics question, so forgive me in advance.”

Um, what? She felt the need to forgiveness to ask a presidential candidate about his position in the presidential polls during a presidential forum?

#related#Yes, she did. She also felt the need to criticize the segment of the forum when she asked each candidate non-political questions — questions that she herself and her own staff had developed — by referring to them as “this stupid thing.” She apologized for saying “viewers” instead of “voters” before correcting herself. She apologized for interjecting during Hillary Clinton’s answer on gay marriage to ask for clarification — even though the only thing that she should have been sorry for was not having interjected enough, a mistake which allowed Hillary to get away with dodging most of her questions.

It’s always sad to watch someone apologize when she’s done nothing wrong — and even more so when she’s apologizing for doing her job.

Every other female moderator in this election cycle has seemed able to question the candidates with confidence — even standing by her questions if they sparked controversy. As a female journalist myself, I do wish that famously feminist Maddow had been able to do the same. 

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