The Oxford Dictionaries defines hypocrisy as “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.” A trustworthy means of testing for hypocrisy is to observe the extent to which a person, or some entity, consistently responds the same way to similar occurrences. Without doubt, hypocrisy has been present across the ages. However, it seems we have reached a point in America where hypocrisy is totally routine, even expected. Consequently, it is allowed to, without effective challenge, influence our societal attitudes and actions in detrimental ways. Beyond the negative impact on society, there is the damage and the unfairness visited upon individuals and groups.
For example, I see all of the above happening in the response to a video by T.I., a rapper, whose recent music video features a Melania Trump lookalike dancing without clothes in a fake Oval Office.
A CNN Wires article titled “First lady’s office calls out rapper for ‘disgusting’ video depicting Melania Trump” describes the video as follows. “T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, stars in the video as himself, seated at a fake Resolute Desk in a setting made to look like the Oval Office. Video footage of President Donald Trump taking off from the White House in Marine One plays, and shortly afterward, a woman enters the ‘Oval Office.’ The woman is wearing only a jacket, which reads: ‘I really don’t care do u?’ a clear nod to the controversial Zara jacket the first lady wore during a June trip to Texas.
“The woman in the video, who has a clear resemblance to Melania Trump, then proceeds to strip off the jacket and dance atop the desk.”
In this age of rightfully heightened attention to protecting women from abuse of any kind – whether verbal, physical or any other form – one would expect overwhelming condemnation of T.I.’s video. Instead, as best as I can determine, there has been complete silence from people who are normally extremely vocal in speaking out against this kind of treatment.
The glaring difference here is that Melania Trump is the wife of Donald Trump. I can only conclude that this means disrespect of her is acceptable to those who, otherwise, would speak vociferously against this kind of treatment of a woman.
Google “T.I.’s video on Melania Trump” and you will, with two exceptions, only find reports on the content of the video.
The first exception is that Canadian model Melanie Marden, who appears as the Melania Trump lookalike, reports that she has received death threats. Clearly, this response is unacceptable. Roisin O’Connor writes the following in an article titled “Melania Trump lookalike who strips in TI video speaks out after White House criticism.”
“Marden has now shared a message on Instagram detailing the backlash she has faced since appearing in the video, and following Melania Trump’s response. ‘I was hired (as an actress) not a stripper to portray Melania Trump,’ she wrote. ‘It was a creative choice for me, and also an opportunity to empower women. I stand firmly in my decision to share all of myself in this role.’”
“She continued: ‘I wanted to be brave, be fearless and for the first time in my life do a role that required nudity. The body is nothing to be ashamed of.’”
The second exception is the White House response to the video, which prompted Marden’s comment above. This is also from O’Connor’s article. “The First Lady’s spokeswoman responded to the video calling it ‘disrespectful and disgusting.’”
“Like it or not, she is the First Lady and this is the White House,” communications director Stephanie Grisham said. “It’s disrespectful and disgusting to portray her this way simply because of politics. These kinds of vulgar attacks only further the divisiveness and bias in our country – it needs to stop.”
Grisham is absolutely right. The video is disrespectful and disgusting. However, there is no outrage from the so-called protectors of women. Further, the woman who appears as the Melania lookalike sees what she did as “an opportunity to empower women.”
Contrast the response to the Melania Trump lookalike video with the response to Roseanne Barr’s tweet regarding Valerie Jarrett, former Obama White House aide. The tweet compared Jarrett to an ape. In May 2018, ABC cancelled Roseanne Barr’s show, “Rosanne.” An article by Andrea Park titled “ABC cancels ‘Roseanne’ after Barr’s racist tweet” reports that Barr’s tweet said, “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”
Park writes the following regarding the response of Channing Dungy, ABC Entertainment president, and that of Robert “Bob” Iger. “Dungey said in a statement, ‘Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.’ In 2016, Dungey made headlines when she became the first African-American to run the entertainment division of a major broadcast television network.
“Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC, shared Dungey’s statement on Twitter and added the comment, ‘There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.’”
ICM Partners, the talent agency that represents Barr, also dropped her as a client.
Roseanne Barr repeatedly apologized for her tweet. From Park’s article, here are some of the tweets reflecting Barr’s apologies, regret and acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of her action:
• “Don’t feel sorry for me, guys!!-I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people, and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.”
• “@ValerieJarrett I want to apologize to you. I am very sorry to have hurt you. I hope you can accept this sincere apology!”
• “guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but...don’t defend it please.”
• “hey guys, don’t defend me, it’s sweet of you 2 try, but...losing my show is 0 compared 2 being labelled a racist over one tweet-that I regret even more.”
• “’I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste’.”
Despite all of her apologies and expressions of regret, the show was cancelled within hours of the initial tweet being made public. ICM Partners, the talent agency that represented Barr, also dropped her as a client. Even further, as Barr tweeted, many people lost their jobs because of the cancellation.
On the other hand, T.I. does a video that is rightly described as “disrespectful and disgusting.” His disrespect and disgust are directed at the wife of the president of the United States. His action is not challenged by the “protectors of women,” but Roseanne was punished unmercifully for her offense.
Why the difference in treatment? Roseanne is a bold Trump supporter, while T.I. is at the other end of the spectrum. There it is – a clear manifestation of the hypocrisy that is alive and well in America like never before in my lifetime.
Against the backdrop of Roseanne’s apologies, Andrea Park writes, “But she also retweeted tweets from her supporters that seemed to contradict the earlier statements, including comments that ‘leftist’ celebrities wouldn’t have gotten the same treatment.”
Park seems to indicate Barr’s claim of different treatment for “leftist” lessens the sincerity or her apologies. I say no … she spoke truth regarding the hypocrisy that has been unleashed in this country. Even though the cost of doing so is high and unfair we must forthrightly call out this life-destroying, society-contaminating hypocrisy.