Olivia Chow defends the women of "Skank TV"
New Democrat Olivia Chow decided to show a little skin when she appeared alongside her leader – and husband – Jack Layton on a morning show for the newly launched Sun News Network in Toronto on Thursday morning.
Chow, the incumbent NDP candidate in the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina, began the hour-long live broadcast wearing a blazer over her sleeveless dress, but something had changed when the show returned from a commercial break.
Chow and co-host Alex Pierson had both ditched the jackets that had been concealing their bare shoulders and arms.
The national media travelling with the NDP campaign noticed the summery wardrobe change right away. After all, what female anchors wear at the controversial new network has been the subject of gossip since it launched on Monday.
Pierson noticed too.
“A curious thing happened on the break. You took your jacket off because you saw that I wasn’t wearing a jacket and I thought this is a funny kind of thing, because the women here of this network, have been – how do I say it? – well, we’ve been beaten up quite a lot about our appearance,” Pierson said.
The morning show host then mentioned a tweet – since deleted – from Maclean’s Washington, D.C. bureau chief Luiza Ch. Savage in which she referred to Sun News as “Skank TV” when expressing her agreement with a column by Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post.
“I want to know, as a woman, what do you think of a comment like this?” Pierson asked Chow. “You are in the spotlight and apparently if you, I guess present yourself like this… Are you a ‘skank’ if you dress like this?”
“Hang on a minute. This is my member of Parliament!” Layton cried out, adding that she was also gorgeous.
Pierson said that was the point she was trying to make.
“Exactly,” she said. “I would think if they were saying it to me, they might as well be saying it to you.”
Chow started laughing and then said it reminded her of when Megan Leslie, the NDP incumbent for Halifax, was scolded (by Conservative Diane Finley) for wearing capped sleeves in the House of Commons, to which she organized a protest among her female colleagues on Parliament Hill.
“This (was) in the middle of summer,” Chow said. “It was quite warm, so she rallied all her female colleagues with the ‘right to bare arms’ and what’s wrong with it? This whole emphasis on peoples’ appearance rather than looking at what we believe in, what we stand for, no wonder the House of Commons only have 22 per cent female MPs.”
Chow later told reporters she intentionally removed her jacket to make the point.
“I did it deliberately to talk about the importance of getting more women in the House of Commons,” she said in the lobby of the Sun News headquarters in Toronto on Thursday.
Another curious thing also happened during this portion of the interview. As Chow was saying that she spent some time on Wednesday with Equal Voice, a non-partisan advocacy group calling for more female representation in politics, Layton cut her off to boast about the NDP setting a Canadian record because 40 per cent of its candidates this election are women.
“That’s still not good enough, but it’s the best ever in Canadian history, and we’re going to keep working until we have 50 per cent plus in the House of Commons,” Layton said.
I later asked Layton why he didn’t just let Chow continue answering the question – especially since it was about women’s issues – the married couple both joked about cutting each other off.
“We sometimes finish each other’s sentences. Olivia’s made that point a lot,” Layton said.
“No, usually I’m the one jumping in,” Chow jumped in from the sidelines, which got a big laugh from Layton.
“Yeah, that was a bit of a switch,” he said.