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Category: Art and Entertainment

WMC's Open Letter to Regis Philbin on Nicki Minaj Incident

December 3, 2010

LIVE! With Regis and Kelly

NBC Studios

3000 West Alameda Ave.

Burbank, CA 91523

Dear Barbara Warren and Regis Philbin, The Women’s Media Center is reaching out to you today in regards to Regis Philbin’s sexual actions and remarks to singer Nicki Minaj on Monday’s edition of LIVE! With Regis and Kelly. We were troubled by the objectifying and offensive nature of Regis’s comments and inappropriate actions, and we encourage you to consider the broader impact and implications of such behavior.

Regis’s remarks contribute to the sexualization and objectification of women and girls in media (especially women of color), which has shown to have a very adverse effect on girls, according to a study conducted by the APA on this very topic. His joke about arousal treats Minaj as a sex object, rather than a young talented musician, and modeled inappropriate access to the body of a young woman of color by and older white, powerful man. His inappropriate touching of Minaj, which included stroking her waist and touching her bottom, was not only a problematic act in and of itself, but when aired on national television, legitimizes this behavior for millions of male and female viewers.

In 2009, 12,696 incidences of sexual harassment were reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and 84% percent were experienced by women. Sexual harassment can include sexual remarks, comments on looks and attire, and touching – all of which took place on LIVE! on Monday night. Philbin’s actions, committed by a public figure on a popular program, contribute to this culture of harassment by perpetuating the idea that men have unqualified access to women and women’s bodies.

In 2009, a study conducted by the Global Media Monitoring Project found that only 24% of people interviewed, heard, seen, or read about in the mainstream media are female. This lack of representation, and negative portrayals and treatment of women when they are visible, contributes to women’s political inequality and to the sexualization and negative self-image of young girls.

A highly toxic media environment and sexual harassment in workplaces, streets, and public spaces is a daily reality for women in the United States. Sexual objectification and harassment in the media injures individual women and perpetuates this climate.

We ask that Regis Philbin issue a public apology for his actions, and refrain from such treatment of women in the future. We sincerely hope that, following this dialogue, we can move forward together in the spirit of equality and work toward a safer and more respectful media landscape.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this pressing issue.


The Board and Staff of the Women's Media Center

Women’s Media Center (WMC) was founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem to positively impact the visibility of women in the media, amplify women's voices on key issues in the national dialogue, fight sexism and bias against women in the media, and increase professional opportunities for women across all forms of media. Through training, advocacy, and the development of original content, WMC is changing the conversation in the media so that media more accurately represents the perspectives, positions, and priorities of women.