A lighter and paper shredder helped make Mika Brzezinski the “symbol of television journalism’s guilt trip” about Paris Hilton. Brzezinski used both to destroy a script calling for her to read about Hilton’s release from jail on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program recently. Part serious, part an act, it has become an Internet sensation. More than 2 million people have watched a clip of the incident on YouTube, around 10 times the number who watched it live on TV. Apparently, she’s not the only one sick of the socialite.
“Among journalists it touched a nerve because I think we’re tired of pretending this is important,” she said. “We also know that, deep down inside, our viewers know that we don’t believe this is news. They can’t. They can’t think we’re that dumb.”
Brzezinski, who left CBS News last year, has been working as a news- reader and on-air foil for Joe Scarborough on the show MSNBC is trying out to replace Don Imus in the morning.
Hours after Hilton’s June 26 catwalk to freedom, Joe Scarborough (widget) and Brzezinski discussed one of the day’s other big stories at their show’s opening: influential Republican Sen. Richard Lugar’s declaration that President Bush’s Iraq strategy wasn’t working.
It was then Brzezinski’s turn to sum up the day’s news. She looked down at her script and Hilton was the top story. She froze.
“I could not get through the first three words without crumbling,” she said. “My skin was crawling. This was our lead? On a day like this? To me, it was just the ultimate Paris Hilton out-of-control moment. We’ve gone too far and we’ve got to stop. That was all real. There was nothing planned about that, and I believe we got a little snappy.”