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Katie: The Real Story
By Edward Klein
Crown
HC, 288 pgs. US$25.95
ISBN: 0-3073-5350-8

Katie Couric: Profile of female privilege

By Bernard Chapin
web posted October 1, 2007
           
Katie: The Real StoryThat women are oppressed is one of our nation's greatest, and most cherished, beliefs. It also happens to be a myth. In contemporary America, to be a female is to live like a Spartan among helots. Edward Klein's new biography, Katie: The Real Story, elucidates the nature of CBS's grand dame of journalism, Katie Couric, while also documenting the way in which being a woman in our society opens widely the door of privilege.

Of course, the text itself tells only half the story. The media's bizarre reaction to this work is the other half, and provides compelling proof of our culture's bias in favor of the fairer sex. In light of the heated journalistic response, the first thing that struck me about this work was the sobriety of Mr. Klein's narrative. The author's interjections and opinions are seldom heard. The biographer allows, for the most part, those who know Ms. Couric to describe her and to reveal her psychology…which is how it should be.

In fact, the narrator impressed this reviewer as being apolitical. He outlined his subject's well-known leftist inclinations, but never once refuted her assumptions. Mr. Klein was previously employed by Newsweek and The New York Times which suggests that he may well share Ms. Couric's leftward perspective, but that no partisan viewpoint was discernible in these pages is a testament to his fairness and objectivity.
           
It is baffling why so many commentators were offended by Mr. Klein's depiction of Ms. Couric. Do we actually expect celebrities to be a mirror image of their PR polished personas? 

I grant that the Katie we meet in The Real Story is not an admirable person, yet Klein's portrayal of her is logically sound. Ms. Couric displays personality traits which accurately correlate with the course of her development. A former colleague noted that she was "one of the most ambitious women I've ever met." In the context of her history, the assessment seems indisputable.

Destiny paired Ms. Couric's first rate ambitions with second rate talent. That is not so uncommon, but, despite marginal looks and an unserious mind, she managed to reach the top of journalism's status hierarchy. Without a reckless drive to succeed such an ascent would have been impossible.

Unfortunately, victorious outcomes do not mean the end of anxiety for insecure individuals. Their sense of inadequacy heightens when they get what they want. The famous anchor has hid her insecurities within a princess-like shell of entitlement. That too is not so uncommon. Ms. Couric's flaws are evident in the personality characteristics she showcases. The true Katie is aggressive, dominant, manipulative, charming, calculating, obsessed with money, vindictive, egotistical, narcissistic, and fiercely competitive.

Out of these attributes the ones which have served her best are charm and empathy, but, in all likelihood, they are but a facade. The events of her life belie their existence. As her husband lay dying of cancer—and during the same month in which he passed away—Ms. Couric left for the Bahamas to go on a—girlfriends only—celebration of her fortieth birthday. When she returned she had Judy Collins sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at his funeral; even though her departed husband was a Virginian devoted to the Confederacy. [1] A week after his death she had already removed his ring and began wearing it round her neck.

While on The Today Show she duped millions of American women into thinking she was just like them even though her displays of perkiness and empathy were probably just an act. In one sense, however, Ms. Couric is just like them as her life was imbued with privileges known to few men. She termed her early position as a desk assistant at ABC as "the most humiliating job I ever had." The reason? She had to answer phones, make coffee, and create ham sandwiches. The horror! Only the word privilege can describe a person who regards the performance of mundane tasks as being acts of oppression.
           
On another occasion, she felt debased after a network executive made comments about her breasts. What is left unsaid in the account is whether she intentionally displayed them on that day. Her reaction to his statement is far from unique as being a woman in America means that you can wear whatever you want but maintain the right to become offended should a male make mention of your bared body parts.

During her first few Today Show episodes she tossed "zingers" at co-host Bryant Gumbel. The aggression was unanticipated and without cause. When Gumbel returned fire by saying something about her appearance, she cried foul and said, "I don't want too much attention paid to my looks—it's sexist."

Is it sexist to make fun of someone's physical features? Of course not. Everyone has an appearance, and if one is sensitive about the way they look then they should refrain from verbally aggressing against others. Ms. Couric's condition is a classic condition of dishing it out but not being able to take it. Political correctness, along with the elevation of women in our society, results in their being able to get away with this unjust posturing …forever.

Ironically, Ms. Couric appears to be obsessed with her appearance. She dresses many years younger than her age, has contracted the services of a personal trainer named "High Voltage" to sculpt her body, wears clothes that are a size too small, reportedly had Botox treatments, and allegedly had collagen injected into her lips. She changes her hairstyles constantly and attributes it to boredom rather than what it probably is—a reflection of psychological instability.

She also wears skirts with a high hemline, but when the media reported this fact she dubbed them [you guessed it] sexist. It is unknown whether the stage hands on The Tonight Show saw sexism in Ms. Couric's request to cut away the front of Jay Leno's desk so that the audience could better see her legs. The uber-sensitive Ms. Couric, perhaps in an attempt to prove that every negative word written about her was true, then addressed the crowd by telling them her breasts were "actually real" and that she intentionally wore an outfit "a littler sexier" for the occasion.

Should the reader doubt my statements about female privilege they would be wise to ask themselves what comments about men are deemed "sexist" by our society. Can't think of any? Neither can I. Sexism is a one-way street in our country. It's verboten to call a woman certain names like a "b" or a "c" or an "h," [2] but there are no forbidden words when it comes to describing men. The inequities between the sexes have never been greater than they are today.

The real misogynist in our story may well be Ms. Couric. At this point in her reign at CBS, female reporters are estimated to receive "40 percent fewer assignments" than they did when Bob Schieffer was in charge. While at NBC, it was said that "she sends assistants running to the ladies room in tears." This is to be expected as a 50-year-old diva cannot stay a diva for long if they fail to purge superior specimens from the landscape.

That Ms. Couric puts the "v" in vile is a given, but not in the eyes of the mainstream media. They embrace every tenet of political correctness and regard women as being more in need of celebration than factual depiction.

Salon described Mr. Klein's biography as being consistent with his oeuvre because he paints celebrities "matching shades of b**ch." Well, one reason for this may be the figures he chooses to write about. His last book concerned Hillary Rodham Clinton, and no work could do our future president's personality justice if it did not at least imply the b word. Also apt is the term's use in reference to Ms. Couric. The network anchor brings innumerable conflicts to work with her and they cannot all be stored neatly into an overpriced Louis Vuitton bag.

As I noted earlier, her constant reading of sexism into non-sexist situations could be due to a variety of factors such as a need to project her own failings upon others, a lack of intellectual depth on her part or flaming narcissism. Every celebrity who signs a 65 million dollar contract gets ridiculed by someone, but Ms. Couric seems to think the general public's lack of sympathy for rich folks is a conspiracy directed at women alone. She would be wise to ask Eli Manning and Carlos Zambrano for their opinions on this subject.   

There has been little positive in the media's response to The Real Katie. The Washington Post's Louis Bayard wondered if a similar book would be written about a man, but there is no reason to wonder about that as one is currently out. Marvin Kitman's The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O'Reilly [3] was unauthorized and reveals all sorts of things about which the Irish blowhard cannot be pleased. Of course, O'Reilly does not have the luxury of hiding behind PC non-sequiturs as a means to dispel criticism; so, without a link to an ism The Post felt safe to disregard Kitman's account.

Mr. Bayard also argued, "Klein has made a second career of leaving knuckle prints on famous women." So what? What's vital when it comes to reporting is whether or not one has told the truth. The genitals of the people involved should be superfluous to the process. One can see from the positions put forth by The Post that merely depicting a woman in a negative light has become a crime in itself.

When all else fails, as it did with Mr. Bayard's weak review, leftists personalize their objections. After all, no political movement built solely upon precepts so empty and vacuous that they fit neatly onto protest placards could last for long. The Post concludes that "Maybe it's time, too, for Edward Klein to find an ambitious woman he likes." Maybe it's time for the mainstream media to embrace substance over style, meaning over minutia, and discover the inherent joys of simply telling the truth. Any book that does that is one to be championed.

Let justice be done though the heavens [and PC relics] fall. The Real Katie rankles because it depicts…the real Katie. ESR

Footnotes:

[1] That's not to imply that he was in favor of slavery as he clearly was not.

[2] An "h" is what they call it where I live but I think it should really be a "w."

[3] For the record, I read Kitman's book and thought it was fair…and balanced.

Bernard Chapin is the author of the recently released Women: Theory and Practice and Escape from Gangsta Island.

Buy Katie: The Real Story at Amazon.com for only $17.13 (34%)

 

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