I never thought I would have to apologize for this but here goes.
Yes, I have, indeed, asked my wife to make a salad. And not just any salad. This was a salad that fed a large family. It had two kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and those little red and yellow peppers, served in a hand-carved salad bowl. And even worse, I asked her to do it more than once.
I was inspired to come clean after apoplectic CNN hosts lambasted President Donald Trump earlier this week for joking that he would serve salads to the Clemson University football team, which was visiting the White House after winning the national championship.
“So, I had a choice,” Trump said. “Do we have no food for you? Because we have a shutdown? Or do we give you some little quick salads that the first lady will make, along with, the second lady. They’ll make some salads.”
Here’s what CNN host, Erin Burnett, said about Trump’s joke.
“Sometimes what people say when they’re being funny exposes exactly who they are and what they think. Not that there was any question, but this is pretty clear.”
Liberal CNN pundit Joan Walsh called Trump’s comments “appalling.”
“It seems to me like the president will not be happy until there is not one single female Republican voter in the country,” she said. “It’s incredibly sexist… . We are not all here to make salads for men. It’s disgusting.”
Scott Jennings, who happened to be serving as CNN’s conservative punching bag for the day, disagreed.
“I certainly didn’t take his comments to be sexist,” he said. “I think that if somebody took them that way, you know, that’s fine. Probably they want to take everything that Donald Trump says as being evil.”
“How in the world can you not perceive that as sexist,” Burnett shot back, “to make the assumption that his wife will go make salads for a bunch of football players? What is she, like, the cook?”
I don’t know everything, which isn’t breaking news to some of you who email me on a regular basis.
But I have to admit that I don’t know if what Trump said about the first lady making salads is sexist or not.
It wasn’t really funny and it was definitely awkward, but it didn’t seem particularly sexist. I thought words like “appalling” and “disgusting” were over the top. But hey, that’s just me.
And I’m not taking Trump’s history or any past statements into account. I’m just trying to get some clarity on the salad reference.
Perhaps Melania Trump makes a lot of salads. Maybe she likes making salads. Maybe she makes enough salads to feed the Seventh Fleet. Again, I don’t know.
My wife assumes that I am always going to open a door for her and I do. Is that chivalrous on my part or sexist on hers? How dare she assume I’m going to open the door, or move the refrigerator, or grill the hamburgers?
Now that I think of it, if we broadly extend the definition of sexism to the suggestion of salad preparation by women, I might have a lot more free time very soon.
“Honey, can you take out the trash?”
“Oh! Just because I’m a man, does that automatically make me the house trash hauler?”
These are not easy questions for any man and when I don’t know answers, I ask someone smarter than me.
So, I began with my salad-making, physician wife. Keep in mind that she is someone who has, on more than one occasion, walked into a patient’s hospital room only to hear, “You must be the nurse. Is the doctor coming?”
When I told her of CNN’s outrage over Trump’s salad quip, she responded, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you were offended by what Trump said about Melania making salads.
But it occurs to me that we might want to reserve adjectives such as “appalling” and “disgusting” to behavior that legitimately deserves them.
Unless, of course, we just can’t wait to be outraged and offended, so we seize what looks like an opportunity based on a dumb comment about salads and attempt to make it a topic of national discussion and debate to stoke more outrage and generate more clicks on a website.
I’m trying to come up with a word for an international news organization that would do such a thing.
“Appalling” will do nicely.
Copyright 2019 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at [email protected]