What Did Mike Tyson Say about Sarah Palin?

6 years ago

I never thought I’d be defending Sarah Palin. On the other hand, I never thought I’d be quoting former boxer and convicted rapist Mike Tyson in connection with the lightweight, self-aggrandizing political gadfly. Whose ability to command attention and endorsements appears to be second only to Snooki’s. But there you go.

Last week, in an interview with a Las Vegas radio station, Tyson was asked about an affair Palin had years ago with basketball star Glen Rice, as reported in Joe McGinniss’s gossipy new book The Rogue.

First, why anyone would ask Tyson anything about women or assume that he’d read a political biography is beyond me. But there you go. (I have a feeling I’m going to be using that phrase again.)

Tyson, unsurprisingly, responded with a particularly crass remark, describing Palin’s sexual encounter as a “wombshifter”--a term, which until recently, I was blissfully unaware of--and other offensive comments about interracial sex.

That might have been the end of it. This is Vegas, after all, hardly a hotbed of radical feminism. But then Tucker Carlson posted a story on The Daily Caller headlined “Mike Tyson: Sarah Palin met the wombshifter.” Which then incited his “friend,” Fox news anchor and Palin apologist Greta van Sustern, to go on her blog and accuse Carlson of poor news judgment and insensitivity toward violence to women. Thereby, of course, drawing even more curiosity about the post and Tyson’s foul remarks, while also remaining primly above the fray.

As van Sustern wrote, “I am deliberately not putting the link up since I am not going to help Tucker be a pig…he apparently can do it all himself without my help.”

She then asked him to take down the post. Which he did not. Though he did insert an editor’s note conceding Tyson’s comments were “indeed repulsive, and not suitable for younger readers or those who are easily shocked.” Carlson also defended the newsworthy value of the post by arguing that it was a public service of sorts. Why, you’d never see this kind of story in the New York Times!


Without getting into the weeds too much, I do think the controversy raises some interesting questions. For instance, should a public figure’s comments, no matter how cringingly anti-female and disgusting, always be reported? If they are, is it incumbent upon the writer to offer a perspective on how outrageous they are—which The Daily Caller initially failed to do? (We used to call this reporting.) Or to remind readers that the author of said misogynistic remarks is a felon who served time in prison for rape and has a history of beating up women? (See previous parenthetical.)

As for van Sustern, if she was so disturbed that Carlson ran the post, why didn’t she just complain to him about it on the phone and spare us the drama? She says she emailed him, but when she didn’t hear back from him after a day she decided to go public. Why the ruse of withholding the link? Is van Sustern standing up for women, as she says, by refusing to link to the post? Or is she being a tad self-righteous given that most readers will probably immediately search for it out of curiosity? Should we run the link?

Finally, if you call another journalist a pig, can you still be friends?

Here’s my take: I think van Sustern should have shared the link, then let women decide if they wanted to read it. I don’t think we do women--or men, for that matter--any favors when men publicly denigrate women by censoring or ignoring the language they specifically use. Yes, Tyson’s words were disgusting. Although I hate Palin’s politics, his remarks about her were especially nauseating. (Note to conservatives: See, liberals don’t just defend liberals against sexism!) But that’s precisely why we need to hear them, so we know what we’re up against and can fight back.

Take that, Mike Tyson.

Credit Image: © Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara News-Press/ZUMAPRESS.com/

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