Scenes from the patriarchal playbook

A dust-up from Republican operatives on Twitter yesterday was a perfect example of the ingrained cultural patriarchy. Three media outlets were allowed to interview Sen. Al Franken yesterday in separate interviews and all three reporters were women.

This did not sit well with Brian McClung, a former Gov. Tim Pawlenty flack, who knows how to spin with the best of them, and claimed confusion about why political beat reporters didn’t get the task — in this case: Pat Kessler at WCCO and Brian Bakst at MPR.

“Handpicked” is a loaded term that implies Franken chose reporters who would go soft on him, a serious allegation despite McClung’s denial of intent. There was an easy way to get an answer to the question of how the interviews came to be: Pick up the phone and ask.

McClung chose to light a social media fuse instead.

McClung, whose rhetorical questions were amplified by Michael Brodkorb, was wrong, as WCCO and MPR pointed out.

Against the backdrop of a news story about sexual misconduct, the innuendo was clear: the women were a lesser choice for an important interview.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. Cathy Wurzer at MPR News and Esme Murphy at WCCO are two senior journalists in Minnesota, have extensive experience in political reporting. Their organizations’ selections to do the interviews were neither unusual nor indefensible, a fact that anyone in the business or who deals with media organizations knows.

Neither reporter has to defend their credentials to anybody. But there they were yesterday, defending themselves to a couple of men who thought they knew better. (Note: Former media reporter David Brauer wasn’t participating in the innuendo but was challenging McClung and Brodkorb)

None of the journalists deserved the not-well-veiled allegations and delegitimizing, while Sen. Al Franken certainly deserves criticism for not holding a full news conference, as the media outlets left out made clear. [Update: Franken will meet with reporters outside his Washington office this afternoon]

The Republican operatives’ fight is between their party and Franken. But they decided that the reputations of journalists — female journalists in this case — was acceptable collateral damage in their ongoing war.

It’s a bad look for the guys.