Katy Tur on the 'sexist' feedback she received on her body image, her hair early in her career
NBC News correspondent Katy Tur is opening up about the sexism she faced as a young woman in journalism.
In an excerpt from her new memoir Rough Draft, published by Vanity Fair, the broadcaster recalled being told by a news director at one of her first jobs that her “boobs looked too big” for TV. He then told her she needed to adjust her style.
"He reached for a binder on his desk. Ladies and gentlemen, I s**t you not, it was a binder full of women. He pulled out a half dozen glossy pictures of the sort you might see in the front of a salon at the mall," she recalled. "I wasn’t sure where this was going. I thought I was ready for this kind of meeting. It’s the TV business. People were going to comment on your appearance. But I didn’t expect some sort of headshot hall of fame. The news director sighed and handed me the photos. 'If you want to appear on camera at my station,' he said, 'you need to cut your hair.'"
She questioned whether the news director was really an "authority on women's clothes and hair."
“Did telling me my boobs were too big and that I needed to cut my hair like he wanted, not strike him as a little presumptuous, not to mention sexist?" she mused.
Tur, who covered Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and was repeatedly targeted by the then-Presidential hopeful as a member of the “fake news,” shared that she also struggled with people’s perception that she was getting ahead due to her then relationship with established broadcaster Keith Olbermann, who was more than 20 years her senior.
“When media reporters found out that Keith was living with a 23-year-old, I became, in tabloid-speak, the bimbo,” she explained. “Photographers staked out the apartment. Editors dug up a photo of me at a nightclub in college. Keith’s career never suffered, but long after we broke up I was still ‘Keith Olbermann’s girlfriend’ to the industry. For years those old articles were the first thing you’d see if you searched for me online. The whole experience was bruising. So much so that I hesitate to bring it up now. I don’t want every headline about me to be about him. And I don’t want to go back to that headspace where I felt judged and belittled.”
She shared that while she “never blamed Keith,” who she has since stayed friends with, she was troubled by the reception.
“The problem was the world: sexist, misogynistic, and gross,” she noted. “Even after I was assigned to the Trump campaign, and even today, when people want to criticize my journalism, somebody will bring up Keith. It’s still the easiest, quickest way to try to diminish me.”
Tur has spoken out about sexism women in journalism face in her 2017 book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, which detailed her time covering the Trump campaign. She wrote about a campaign staffer, who was married with children and, she alleges, repeatedly acted inappropriately towards her.
"He was nice for a little while," Tur shared. "But he wasn't entirely professional. He'd call at late hours, say disparaging things about women I worked with, comment on people's looks, claim well-respected female reporters were 'f***ing' this guy or that one. He'd tell me that he could prove it because he'd seen 'text messages.'"
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