Sonja Morgan and Dorinda Medley are embroiled in an unfortunate media spectacle. Both popular castmates on the “Real Housewives of New York City,” both in their 50s, and both ardent supporters of LGBT politics, Morgan and Medley made headlines this week for alleged transphobia. The pair is in a “Fight to Salvage [Their] Careers,” according to one such headline in The Daily Beast. That seems like an exaggeration.
The relevant comments were made in the background of an Instagram video from a Fashion Week event uploaded by Medley on Tuesday. Here’s the Beast’s report on the remarks:
‘Who is that?’ Morgan can be heard asking Medley, 54, in a video she posted to her Instagram Stories of drag queen Miz Cracker on the catwalk. ‘Oh, that’s a guy, right?’
The ‘RHONY’ cast member can be heard making similar offensive remarks in a now-deleted video of transgender model Yasmine Petty on the runway.
‘Well, with a body like that, it’s a guy,’ Medley remarked. ‘That’s a guy.’
‘Yeah, with a body like that it’s a guy, you’re absolutely right,’ Morgan commented.
Morgan and Medley have since issued a categorical apology to Page Six, saying, “We have a history as long-standing supporters of the LGBTQ community in many ways and apologize for our offensive comments at the fashion show.”
What I don’t understand is why it’s particularly newsworthy or objectionable that two women in their 50s, both of whom are legitimately “long-standing supporters of the LGBTQ community,” speculated amongst themselves (or so they thought) about whether a self-described drag queen and transgender model were “guys.”
Sure, the language is rougher around the edges than what they teach in the Oberlin women’s studies department. Morgan and Medley are fiftysomethings trying to keep up with a changing world. Of course celebrities should be corrected when they err, considering their words carry the weight of public influence. But that doesn’t warrant character-assassinating vitriol and it doesn’t warrant a full cycle of coverage. In addition to Page Six and The Daily Beast, this non-story landed in People, Yahoo, Us Weekly, Entertainment Tonight, and more.
If you believe their words need correction, we don’t need to endure a cycle of divisive media outrage—the kind that makes well-meaning people who don’t know all the rules either feel attacked—for the correction to take place. Just make your case in the comments and let the women decide for themselves whether the backlash (or lack thereof) warrants an apology.
If a serious threat to their careers emerges, more than merely a smattering of tweets, then cover it. The flurry of critical stories feeds an unhelpful tension between average consumers and coastal news outlets. (Only one of the four tweets embedded in the Daily Beast article, for instance, has more than 10 likes as of this writing. The other has 28.)
This is a case of cynical click mining and the coterie of virtue signalers who inspire it. Our media landscape is crowded with enough frivolous outrage to add mild speech transgressions from “Real Housewives” into the mix. If we’re going to incite moral panic over the conduct of reality stars, there are probably other places to start, although I’m not sure my fellow fans of the genre are willing to go there anyway.