Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 28, 2016

One hardly knows where to begin.

There is much that could be said about the captured-on-video, made-for-the-watercooler tirade by ESPN reporter Britt McHenry that lit up social media a few days ago and earned her a one-week suspension. McHenry, livid that her car had been towed after apparently being parked illegally, vented her spleen with acid condescension upon a woman who has been identified as “Gina,” an impound clerk at a tow yard in Arlington, Virginia.

In ranting about Gina’s size (“Lose some weight, baby girl”), dental work (“Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me, huh?”), and presumed educational deficiencies (“Do you feel good about your job? So I could be a college dropout and do the same thing?”), while pontificating upon her own importance (“I’m in the news, sweetheart, and I will [expletive] sue this place”), McHenry revealed depths of classism, narcissism, entitlement, and plain old nastiness that are truly awe-inspiring.

But one of her insults was not simply nasty. It was downright insidious. Meaning the part where she taunted Gina with “I’m on television and you’re in a [expletive] trailer.”

In other words, bad enough Gina — in McHenry’s estimation — is fat and ignorant and in need of dental work, but most damning of all: Somehow, she even neglected to get on television! How can she live with herself?

McHenry is on television, but let’s be clear: She is not exactly David Letterman, Julianna Margulies, or even one of the lesser Kardashians — not, in other words, somebody you’d likely ever heard of before this. She is, rather, a rising reporter on a cable sports network — not a bad gig, to be sure, but not exactly a household name.

Yet, even given that rather tenuous toehold on fame, she seems to believe she has cracked the code, reached the apex of human potential. “I’m on television,” she snarks, like she just threw down a royal flush in the great poker game of life, while Gina is a loser because she works an honest, albeit unglamorous job. McHenry thinks herself great.

Because she interviews jocks on ESPN.

That belief is pathetic and absurd, but, in a culture where fame is more worshiped than Jesus, it is not surprising at all.

For what it’s worth, McHenry has since issued the usual soulless apology, expressing contrition without seeming to feel any. She blames her hissy fit on “an intense and stressful moment.” Because, yeah, having your car towed is just like finding out you have cancer.

Also for what it’s worth: Some observers have decried a supposed “rush to judgment” here, noting that the video the tow company provided contains only McHenry’s side of the exchange and that, for all we know, Gina gave as good as she got. Given McHenry’s behavior, let’s hope she did.

Neither the apology nor that caveat mitigates the conclusion that McHenry is a nasty piece of work. Nor do they render acceptable her apparent belief that being a little famous frees her from any duty of courtesy or simple respect toward those who are not. Like many of us, she seems to consider being on television proof of character and worth.

It is a delusion implicit in the very fabric of our culture, in its uncritical worship of the red carpet, the spotlight and the panacea of fame. But it is a delusion nevertheless.

Floating in the bubble of her own wonderfulness, McHenry has obviously had little opportunity to learn this. That failing has left her a stunted woman who believes herself a superior life form because ESPN pays her to smile prettily and talk to a camera about football. She is to be pitied.

If that’s what being on television does to you, maybe living in a trailer is not so bad.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

Screenshot: YouTube

  • Carol Clinch

    Great story

  • Kurt CPI

    Damn right! Famous? Never heard of her until she earned this 15 minutes behaving badly. People like this deserve our disdain, not our worship (as if). Apparently she thinks common courtesy ends wherever her estimation of “famous” begins. I’ve never heard of her before, but if by chance I can remember her name 15 minutes from now, I will avoid supporting anything she has a hand in.

  • palsifar

    I disagree … she is *not* to be pitied … that implies that her situation is somehow subject to forces beyond her own control … until she shows some genuine contrition and undergoes a genuine attitude adjustment, she deserves nothing but contempt for being such a nasty bit of business …

  • Justin Napolitano

    A lot of what Pitts said is correct but unless you have personally dealt with getting your car towed you do not know how unsympathetic those people are? They treat you like you are a criminal and that they are God. They have your car, which for most of us represents our freedom, out personal space, our home away from home, our pride in, many cases, and an attachment of our being. To have it towed is akin to be violated by having one of out most expensive and personal possessions in the hands of people that don’t care one bit about anything but getting money from you.
    Would I be mad? Yes I would and after dealing with someone that doesn’t care one bit about how I feel about them touching my car I would likely go on a tirade myself.

  • ‘Tis Moi

    Just another self-absorbed, self-entitled little b*tch venting her 1st-world “problems”. Not starvation, not HIV & no meds, not female genital mutilation- no– she caused her own motor vehicle to be towed-(OMG! how horrible!)- HER fault entirely.

    Might the “tow-ers” be less than sympathetic? Likely. As is my good friend who retires from the Fed. prison system this next month. In 20 years, according to her, not one guy in the place was ever guilty! Britt McHenry had exactly the very same response to being caught guilty as the “type” of people she slurs- deny, deny, deny!

    This little smart*ss woman is precisely like the ones she apparently disdaines- someone who will not accept culpability. Look up NPD- narcissistic personality disordered…she, at the least, shares much of their hallmarks.

    I’d fire her.

  • John Amado

    Pitch-perfect column. This message should be writ large. So, you appear among thousands in the vast wasteland — and at the bottom wrung, the fellatial job of interviewing athletes on cable. Get a clue: almost EVERYONE with an actual job contributes more than you do. Maybe you should try it? (and, with any luck, she’ll be fired from ESPN and actually have to get a real job.)

  • bhaggen

    Save for Pam Oliver, women NFL field “reporters” are irritating witches anyway. Thank God for the “mute” button.