We can now all agree that throwing a foam pie at Rupert Murdoch while he and son James were getting nailed during Parliament’s phone-hacking hearings couldn’t have gone better for the moguls had Fox News staged the scene itself. As James Wolcott wrote of the too-smart-by-half activist splatter, “this guy has made Murdoch senior look vulnerable and sympathetic and Wendi heroic.”
Wendi, of course, is Rupert’s 42-year-old wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch. By walloping the pie-thrower, Deng instantly became a worldwide sensation, and is now variously known as Tiger Wife, Ninja Wendi, or, as CNN.com exuded: “It's no longer Wendi the ‘gold digger’—as some called her—who snared the aging boss of News Corp. Now she is being dubbed Crouching Wendi: Hidden Tiger.”
A stereotype is born!
But as media endlessly replayed the footage of Deng punching the pie guy, they never mentioned the obvious, that another woman was actually Rupert’s first responder rescue hero. That woman wearing a gray suit, sitting next to Wendi during the hearings—she’s the one who jumped up and blocked Murdoch from a full-frontal shaving cream assault; then Wendi reached over her to hit the guy—and in the process, she and woman #1 fell to the ground. (Wonder if they glimpsed any floor ads there?) Watch:
Who was that woman in gray, and why were most media—MSNBC, CNN, all but a handful of websites and, of course, Fox News—pretending she didn’t exist? Obviously she was on the Murdoch team. Why not sing her praises too?
Because crediting anyone but Wendi for heroics would have diluted the stereotype and botched the narrative. Which was: strong woman singlehandedly saves her man. And its auxiliary: a Murdoch woman is tougher than any bleeding-heart liberal dude. Fox.com even went all feminist for the occasion with the headline: “She Is Woman, Hear Her Roar.” Whatever the easiest, clichéd, black-and-white interpretation of a conflict is, that’s the corporate media’s first choice, and once set, it sticks.
That most media didn’t acknowledge a whole other person right before their eyes may seem a small thing, but this simple act of omission is a micro version of what much of the MSM do reflexively: if an inconvenient fact gets in the way of a good story, they blind themselves to the fact—whether it’s that tax cuts actually don’t create jobs, or that we need to increase spending to get out of the recession. Or that Rupert had two girls come to his rescue.
As it turns out, soon after the Tuesday attack, the Associated Press did name the first woman; she’s Janet Nova, one of Murdoch’s lawyers. But that piece of info was barely picked up by the rest of the press. Even on Thursday, when the New York Times spelled out Nova’s role—a caption reads, “Before a pie-thrower was ‘Wendied,’ he was ‘Janeted’ ”—most media continued to stick to the tidier and, uh, punchier story of a Solo Superwoman. CNN.com, for example, not only ignored Nova’s presence but figuratively knocked her down a second time by writing of Wendi, “nothing comes between the slap-down sister and her mister.”
And, be warned yet again, nothing comes between the mainstream media and an oversimplified, tabloid tale.