Sunrise seems to make the headlines on a pretty regular basis and rarely for anything edifying. A most recent incident saw actress, Kristin Davis, go on the show to discuss her role as an ambassador for UNHCR. Unsurprisingly, Davis was less than impressed Samantha Armytage and her co-hosts seemed less interested in the plight of refugees than reprising memories of one of HBO’s more mindless offerings, Sex and the City, even going so far as to push Davis into an unwanted reading of a particularly embarrassing skit.
While it might be argued Davis should expect these sorts of questions since this show contributed to her celebrity status, she had come on the show with the specific understanding that discussion would be limited to the cause which is important to her.
As I don’t watch Sunrise myself, it is hard to comment too much from the still shots and second hand commentary I have seen, although the silly Sex and the City wigs certainly appear to trivialise anything else the UNHCR ambassador would have wanted But I don’t need to make much judgement from that. The fact that the UNHCR felt strongly enough dump Armytage as host of a high profile UNHCR lunch pretty much tells all the story I need. Some may take a more generous interpretation that it was ‘just a bit of fun,’ and that the UNHCR were overly sensitive, but I disagree. When you are the one making that ‘bit of fun,’ the onus is on you to make sure that is all it is; and you are largely responsible for the impact it has on others. Quite clearly, Armytage and friends pissed off both their guest and the UNHCR Journalist, Virginia Haussegger, went further, publishing a withering assessment of the Sunrise panel’s performance, pointing out the kind of gender stereotypes they perpetuated.
Armytage could have let this lie. It wouldn’t have been hard to admit she had made an error of judgement and copped it on the chin, but she decided to pour further oxygen into the (let’s be honest) already overblown incident, by publishing a response to Haussegger’s criticism. The quite persuasive prose of the lengthy response almost blinded me to the fact that she spent very little time actually giving any contrary evidence to Haussegger’s argument. Instead she chose to devote a good deal of the article presenting her version of herself and the other half pushing a thesis that feminist journalists should not criticise other female journalists. I thought about this argument for a few minutes (probably longer than it deserved) but there is no way to make it stack up. To suggest you should be immune from public criticism from feminists because you are a women sounds ridiculous, when it is reduced to a single sentence, but that was Armytage’s main defence.