Having determined that “in the public square … the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan has chosen, as his stand-in, a woman who seems the very model of a modern media messenger from the political right. Head of the conservative Catholic Voices USA, Kim Daniels looks good on camera and speaks well. And her resume seems a perfect fit for a political action group determined to exert the power of the church in debates over affairs of the state.
An attorney with topflight credentials, Daniels has served as a key advisor to Sarah Palin and was long affiliated with the Thomas More Law Center. The center has taken-up many notorious causes including a failed defense of so-called “intelligent design” and a losing effort to force Planned Parenthood to tell patients that abortion is linked to breast cancer, which is a specious claim. Under Daniels’ leadership, Catholic Voices has vigorously opposed laws that require health care plans to provide contraception and fought against marriage equality for gays and lesbians.
In her new post Daniels will serve the cardinal in his role as head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dolan already has an official spokesman and press office serving him as cardinal archbishop of the church in New York City, and the conference will continue to employ its current communications staff in Washington, D.C. In other words, the cardinal is adding yet another layer to the official media bureaucracy. This seeming redundancy has already caused insiders to wonder if there is room enough in the organization to accommodate one office dedicated to Dolan and a second to his fellow bishops who make up the conference.
Perhaps the only way to make sense of Daniel’s hiring is to accept Cardinal Dolan’s own words on the status of fat, balding clerics. This view, which elevates style over substance, does focus attention of a very real problem for anyone who wants to sell a product, service, idea or belief. In today’s world the competition for the public’s attention is fierce and marketing experts will tell you that imagery matters. If it didn’t, then we wouldn’t see so much glamour on billboards and beauty on TV.
However, as Sarah Palin herself demonstrated, packaging can only take you so far. Eventually, people will examine the message, and if it is found wanting, they will reject it. And here lies Dolan’s problem. He is burdened with a message of religiously inspired policies that is impossible to sell in a pluralistic nation that values the separation of church and state. A majority of Americans — and, indeed, a majority of Catholic Americans — don’t want much of what he is selling, and a new wrapping won’t change their views.
If Americans were predisposed to favor what Dolan is selling in the public square, he wouldn’t need a spokesperson in the first place. Chris Christie, Rush Limbaugh, Barney Frank, Fred Thompson, Jesse Ventura and a host of other prove you don’t have to be slim or hirsute to be heard. Within the church one of the most popular figures is Boston’s bald cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is beloved for his humility and humanity. Clearly, it’s the message, not the messenger. If Dolan had more confidence in his, he wouldn’t need yet another stand-in.
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Jessica Simpson is taking the high road.
The Fashion Star mentor, 31, took to Twitter recently to urge her followers to pick up her much talked-about, nude Elle cover before it leaves newsstands.
“Last chance to see me ‘fat’ aka PREGNANT on the cover of Elle,” Simpson tweeted. “I loved this shoot, [and it's] only on stands for a few more days!”
Those quotation marks are the closest Simpson has come to acknowledging The View cohost Joy Behar‘s comments last Tuesday about the Texas native’s pregnancy weight gain.
“Remember the time that Jessica Simpson was criticized because she didn’t know the difference between chicken and tuna? That kind of thing is more fun to criticize than the fact that the girl is fat,” Behar, 69, told her fellow morning show hosts last Tuesday. “Most women who are pregnant are not supposed to gain more than 25 pounds. She looks like she gained a lot more than that.”
Aside from the subtle allusion to the incident via Twitter, Simpson has yet to engage with Behar about her remarks. Other stars, however, weren’t quite so willing to let the comedian get away with it.
“When women are pregnant, people need to lay off,” Tori Spelling told Celebuzz during an interview last week. “It’s a really special time and you should be able to deal with it in your own terms.”
During her gig as a cohost on the Today show with Matt Lauer, Sarah Palin took an even more aggressive approach. “I would have wanted to punch [Jessica's critics] in the neck,” Palin shared last week. “It’s none of anybody else’s business how much weight I would gain.”
Simpson is currently expecting her first child with fiance Eric Johnson; sources tell Us Weekly the singer is due later this spring.
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When Today Show professionals Donny Deutsch, Star Jones, Nancy Snyderman and guest Sarah Palin took on hot topics of the day on April 3, Matt Lauer said, “A discussion surrounding Jessica Simpson, who is very pregnant right now, I think expecting her child at the end of next month, and pictures have surfaced online. In some magazines, she has gained a lot of weight. But she is pregnant. And some people are criticizing her, saying she has gotten too heavy.”
Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News chief medical editor blurted out, “She’s pretty fat.” Even Donny Deutsch looked surprised and said, “Imagine if I said that.” Just in case we missed it the first time, Dr. Snyderman repeated, “She’s pretty fat.”
Then Sarah Palin added fuel to the “what are they thinking?” flame:
Matt Lauer to Sarah Palin: “Governor I don’t know how much weight you gained during your pregnancies, but how would you have felt if someone would have criticized you for gaining too much weight?”
Sarah Palin: “I would have wanted to punch them in the neck because it’s none of anybody’s business…”
Two professional women on the Today Show stage. One calls a pregnant woman “pretty fat” and the other says her response to an inappropriate personal question is “to punch them in the neck.”
I have major problems with both of these statements.
We tell girls to love themselves and love their bodies. Girls come in different sizes and shapes. We don’t say, “Honey, you know those pictures in magazines that are Photoshopped? They’re not natural, but that’s the standard you need to live up to. It’s never going to go away so get used to it. And if you’re lucky, when you are pregnant, I won’t call you ‘pretty fat.” But if I do slip and call you names, you can punch me in the neck.”
It’s not OK to call people fat or pretty fat (I’m not sure which is worse). Yes, Jessica Simpson is a celebrity and she puts herself in the limelight for commercial gain. She posed pregnant and nude on the cover of Elle. She says she’s eating pop tarts and mac and cheese during her pregnancy. We can debate her judgment regarding healthy food choices. But we can’t call her fat. Name-calling is bullying.
It’s not OK to punch people in the neck when you don’t like their questions. We teach our children to “not hit” others. (I do agree with Sarah Palin that it’s none of their business, but that should not result in physical assault).
Adults need to lead the way and set a good example, especially adults who have the Today Show stage.
During another Today Show discussion regarding EnemyGraph, the new Facebook app that encourages people to “go make some enemies,” Snyderman called on Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO: “Sheryl Sandberg, who is an extraordinary leader and a mom – I hope she stops this. She’s smart and she’s a mom, she’ll do the right thing.”
Dr. Snyderman and Governor Palin, you’re moms and leaders. I hope you will stop this.