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Did Lolo Jones Offer Up Too Much Information?


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for the Beauty Shop. That's where we get a fresh cut at the week's news with a panel of women writers, journalists and commentators.

Today we thought we'd talk about the politics of courting women voters, and part of the reason we wanted to talk about that is on Tuesday, Republican Mitt Romney won the Texas primary and so many media outlets say that he now has secured enough delegates to win the nomination, but both parties seem to believe that women voters hold the key to victory in November, so we wanted to take a closer look at one of the issues that one of our guests says thinks - she thinks may influence women voters, and that is objections to the Obama administration's call for employers to cover contraception in health plans. She's going to tell us more about why she thinks that in a minute.

We'll also talk about chastity in the news. Olympic athlete Lolo Jones took to Twitter to announce that, at the age of 29 she remains a virgin, and so we thought to ourselves, TMI, or maybe that's just part of being a role model. We wanted to talk about that, and we also want to talk about a new series that former "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria hoped to launch that starred Latina women as maids. It was about the lives of maids in Los Angeles, and we want to find out why that series was dead before arrival.

So sitting in the chairs for a new do this week are Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief of the website the Wise Latina Club. She was here with us in Washington, D.C., along with Mary Kate Cary. She's a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush and a columnist and blogger for U.S. News and World Report. Danielle Belton is the author of the pop culture and politics blog the Black Snob. She's with us from St. Louis today. And from NPR West in California, Makeisha Madden Toby. She's the TV critic for the Detroit News.

Ladies, welcome back.

VIVIANA HURTADO: Great to be here.

MARY KATE CARY: Thanks for having us.



MARTIN: So, Mary Kate, let's just start with you, because you recently wrote about, and you've actually said on this program, that you think that this whole issue around the mandate that Catholic-affiliated organizations must - unless they're explicitly religious organizations, like churches, per se - have to cover contraception in their health care plans, and you wrote that you think that this is an issue, a particular issue for women voters. That's counterintuitive to me because I think a lot of people would argue that, yeah, it's a good issue for women Democrats...

CARY: Right.

MARTIN: give them good reason to vote Democratic. You say you think it goes the other way. Why is that?

CARY: Yeah. I don't think it's a slam dunk for the administration. Briefly, the health care ruling was that all employers in the United States must provide, free of charge, to their employees contraception, morning after pills and sterilizations. The only exemption is for churches that serve people of the same faith.

What used to be covered was also religious organizations, such as colleges, hospitals, things like that. Now, in order to qualify for the exemption, a place like Notre Dame University would have to turn away non-Catholics as students or as patients at the hospital or whatever.

So that is unacceptable. Their mandate is to serve all people, not just all Catholic people. So that puts the church in a very difficult situation where they don't want to have to turn people away. They also don't want to have to provide morning after pills and sterilizations and things like that that they disagree with religiously.

So this narrowing of the exemption is now the most narrow exemption of the conscience clause ever under federal law. So that's what's got the right completely energized. This is not about women or contraception to these people. This is about religious liberty.

The Gallup and Pew polls since this began are now showing that majorities of Americans agree with the religious leaders and not with President Obama. Six in 10 Americans are watching this very closely, and I believe the lawsuits will go through the fall and are extremely energizing to people on the right, but especially women like me, who are active Catholics, who believe in the social justice mission of the Catholic church and are concerned about this broad, one-size-fits-all mandate from the Obama administration.

MARTIN: Viviana, I'd like to hear from you on this because you are also a practicing Catholic, and I just want to mention, for folks who may wonder why are we talking about this, more women are registered to vote than men, and women also turn out to vote - or in 2008, at least, they turned out to vote at higher rates. So that's one reason why we're talking about this as a women's issue.

So, Viviana, what's your take on this?

HURTADO: My take is that this is an option that insurers - the insurance plans have to offer. It is not forcing people who buy that insurance plan to have a lot of sex, use a lot of birth control and not procreate. And I think it's also really important to note that - how different the Catholic vote is and how different women voters are.

And so, for example, Mary Kate brought up a really good point about her belief in the social justice mission of the Catholic church, and one of the things that I've been wondering is, if the Catholic church wants to - and really, when we talk about the Catholic church, we're talking about the hierarchy and the leadership of the Catholic Church, which is male - will they embrace issues of social justice, such as poverty and immigration, with the same fervor that they are embracing the ACA and the birth control mandate? And I think the answer is no, and I think that's a turn-off for a lot of Catholics and a lot of women voters. Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, you were making the argument earlier, Viviana, that when we were talking about this earlier, that one of the things that's kind of gotten Catholics on your - with your world view kind of upset is there was a kind of a criticism of some of the - of an order of nuns in the United States...


MARTIN: ...for allegedly spending more effort on social justice issues than on the issue of same-sex marriage and abortion. And you're saying well, you know, what does that say about the churches' priorities? I know you were saying that that's kind of a turn-off for you.

HURTADO: Absolutely. In fact, we were talking about that...

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

HURTADO: ...that we both - Mary Kate and I went to mass on Sunday and there was no mention of ACA...

CARY: Right.

HURTADO: ...having any kind of writing. But what was interesting...

CARY: It was in the bulletin at my church.


CARY: Yeah.

HURTADO: And it wasn't in the bulletin and we go to church about a block away from each other, interestingly.


HURTADO: But the other thing that was as equally interesting is that in the sermon the priest on Sunday chose to speak about how women are welcomed at mass. And he spoke about the older women who may be feeling - nuns, for example that are investigated by the Catholic hierarchy - and then middle-age women, those, for example, like Katherine Sibelius, who were invited to Georgetown during graduation ceremonies and received a lot of criticism for her views. And then, of course, he said, and young girls, you're welcome here too. Young girls, for example, who might be Girl Scouts, and this was a not so veiled criticism of how the Catholic hierarchy is investigating, you know, and has come out against Girl Scouts.

MARTIN: But you're also what's ACA, by the way? You keep referring to ACA. What is that?

HURTADO: Oh, excuse me for using that jargon. The Affordable Care Act...

MARTIN: Affordable Care Act. OK.

HURTADO: ...which some people disparagingly like to call the Obamacare.

MARTIN: Well, if he wins again, it won't be disparaging, will it? It'll be, yay.


MARTIN: You know, what I mean?


MARTIN: It's kind of where you stand or where you sit on this. You know, Danielle, do you want to weigh in on this?

BELTON: I think what I always find just kind of unsettling about this is I'm not Catholic. A lot of people in America aren't, but a lot of them, you know, I was born in a Catholic hospital. I've gone to medical centers that have been run by the Catholic Church. I've benefited from various Catholic charities. But I'm still an American citizen. I care about what my government does. It concerns me when people seem to want to put a religious decision on non-religious people. Like if I'm not Catholic, I say why do I have to deal with Catholic dogma on whether I get birth control or not if I work for an organization that's run by the Catholic Church? I just - that's kind of what I struggle with 'cause it's whose rights are worth more? Is it the people who are trying to follow or adhere to a very strict doctrine that's anti-birth control, or is it my rights as a voting citizen who wants birth control? It's like whose rights are more important here?

CARY: Well, I don't think there's any question about...

MARTIN: Mary Kate?

CARY: ...denying access. I think it's just a matter of who pays for it, is my understanding. You can still get birth control if you worked for Georgetown University or something. You just have to pay for it out of pocket.

HURTADO: You have to pay a co - Mm-hmm.

CARY: Yeah.

MARTIN: Mekeisha, I know you don't want to, this is not, you don't have a dog in this fight per se.


TOBY: Not really.

MARTIN: But you know what I did want to ask you about, though, is that we were talking about just the whole broader question of the outrage toward voters in general, now that we really have moved into general election phase. You know, Donald Trump, which is, you know, he's also a TV...


MARTIN: in addition to a real estate developer.


MARTIN: In fact, some people might argue he's actually more of a TV star then he is a real estate developer.

HURTADO: Yes. Mm-hmm.

TOBY: That's pretty accurate, Michel.

HURTADO: Donald Trump and his comb over, Michel?

MARTIN: So now...


MARTIN: OK. I didn't go there.

CARY: (Unintelligible)

MARTIN: Letters to Viviana, not me.

TOBY: Since we're in the Beauty Shop.


MARTIN: But he's now again casting doubt on president Obama's citizenship. He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer yesterday that a lot of - that he says a lot of people still question the authenticity of the president's birth certificate. I'll just play that.


DONALD TRUMP: His own publisher, as you know, using his words, said he was born in Kenya, and he lived in Indonesia.

MARTIN: Now he was referring to Obama's former literary agent who since said this was a fact checking error. And I just, I don't know, Mekeisha, what do you make of that? I'm it's just, how should we view this? It's just kind of more entertainment?

TOBY: Yes.

MARTIN: Or is that? What is up with that?

TOBY: Bad entertainment is entertainment all the same.


MARTIN: Bad entertainment.

TOBY: Donald Trump is a reality star. People have to look at it like that. He's a reality star and he has an onion roll and he's funny sort of, you know, on his head and he sort of funny, but no one, no one should be taking political advice from Donald Trump in terms of how they vote and when they vote and who they vote for. That's just, that's scary...

MARTIN: But the...

TOBY: ...if people are actually listening to him.


MARTIN: But then, Mary Kate, the question is, look John McCain during the campaign, the nominee in 2008, shut down his supporters who said look, enough with this.

CARY: Right.

MARTIN: Enough with this, when there was this whole he's a Muslim, he wasn't born here. And he says enough with that. That's not the...

CARY: Right.

MARTIN: So the question I think some are arguing is why doesn't Mitt Romney do the same? I mean just hours after these comments he's having a big fundraiser with Donald Trump in Vegas. And I just have to say, a lot of people think this is just racist. I mean John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and I don't hear people questioning his citizenship. So, you know what I mean?

CARY: Yeah. Well, this one they're questioning whether he was an American saying that he was born overseas. So it's sort of the reverse of the birther issue. But nevertheless, it is a fringe topic right now. It has not gone mainstream and I think he should steer clear of The Donald at all costs...


CARY: And I would actually, he's already easily sort of said Donald and I agree to disagree. I don't think I'd keep bringing it up and disavowing it because that just keeps it going. Let it go.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're visiting the Beauty Shop with Mary Kate Cary, Mekeisha Madden Toby, Danielle Belton and Viviana Hurtado.

You know, here's another thing about the line between public and private. This is the whole question of Lolo Jones. She's a beautiful, you know, Olympic track star. It's a very compelling kind of personal story and she talked about that she's waiting until marriage to be intimate. And then she actually, and then she went and talked about this on the Bryant Gumbel's, you know, sports program on HBO, it's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel." So I'll just play a short clip. Here it is. Yeah.


LOLO JONES: There's virgins, out there and I want to let them know, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college has been to stay a virgin before marriage.

MARTIN: So I just had to ask the bloggers. Danielle, I'll start with you. What do you think?


MARTIN: What do you think?

BELTON: Well, I...

MARTIN: I mean I think she says if you look, this is part of being a role model. I'm just telling you how it is. What's up with that?

BELTON: I'm of two thoughts with it. One, I didn't know that like staying a virgin was that hard. I mean really, it's just like just avoiding being alone with men you find attractive. I mean...


TOBY: She's absolutely correct.

BELTON: So it's real easy to avoid people. You know, she's got track and train, train and track. I mean I was able to avoid boys just 'cause I had to study. I was like I had school. I have to graduate from college. And that's pretty much...

MARTIN: She's 29, honey. She's, you know...


BELTON: Well, no, she is consumed with Olympic gold so you can see how that can take over somebody's life. I think of someone like Michael Phelps, where he just got up in the morning and swam until night. I mean that's just what you do.


BELTON: The other side of it was that, that's TMI. It's like I understood that she wanted to be a role model and I, you know, I commend her with that because I feel like whatever, you know, personal choice you want to make about what you want to do with yourself is yours and you should embrace and celebrate it. I don't know necessarily I would want to invite the world to comment on it. 'Cause, you know, my concern it will turn to make a Tebow situation...

TOBY: Mm-hmm.

BELTON: ...where everybody and their grandmother is in your business. Every time you go on a date, they speculate on whether, you know, your status has changed or not. It's like I don't, I just wouldn't want people on Twitter, online, on headline news all sitting there, you know, procrast - you know, getting involved in it.

MARTIN: But, you know, stars talk about all the stuff and they, you know, even stars have been known to talk about some of their intimate habits. So, I don't know, why - I don't know, Mary Kate, well, you've got two girls and they're teenagers now. So does this, what do you think about this?

CARY: I think I can speak safely as a mother. On behalf of all mothers of teenage girls, thank you Lolo...


CARY: This is very helpful for the mothers of teenage girls. I have to tell you I - Michel, I know that Lolo has a new nickname. Do you know what it is?


BELTON: No-no.



CARY: And you know how she - yeah, I got another one for you. And you know how she feels about premarital sex? It's just so-so.


CARY: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Oh, Kate.

HURTADO: "Saturday Night Live," here you come.

MARTIN: Who's going to be the one to tell Mary Kate to stick to her day job?


MARTIN: Creepy. All right. Well, so, so let's talk about, let's talk a little bit more about TV for just a couple minutes we have left. Because Eva Longoria, the Latina actress, who starred in the just wrapped "Desperate Housewives," was all set to produce an ABC show called "Devious Maids." Apparently, it was based on a telenovela that is already quite popular. But the network decided that it would not pick up the program. I don't know, you know, why exactly that it was rejected, but people - there had already been kind of a movement afoot to say please, no, you know, we don't need this. And I'm just, I'll start with you, Viviana, what do you think about that?

HURTADO: So I'm mixed on it. I've written extensively that in our culture Latino women are seen, stereotyped as hot tamales or as maids. And so all of a sudden having a devious maid in primetime with somebody like Eva Longoria and ABC Studios behind it just kind of promotes that, you know, times a million.

The only thing I'm going to say is that it's already happening right now. In fact, the telenovela you're talking about is called "Maid en Manhattan," which is a telenovela version of "Maid in Manhattan," the Jennifer Lopez movie from a few years ago.

The problem is this is an emerging community, an emerging community where that's actually very upwardly mobile and aspirational. And even though - and Eva Longoria as says, look, these women who are maids have a story to tell. Why not tell their stories? Even though that's true...

MARTIN: So why not?

HURTADO: I think it was a sense in the community that it would've been nice to tell as well other stories that maybe people don't know about Latinas. He interesting thing is that Eva Longoria is a really interesting person who is so involved in charity and in really of lifting the community. And so, is it possible that "Devious Maids" would've been complicated and shown other sides of Latinas?


HURTADO: It's likely, but we're not to know because ABC chose to pull the plug.

MARTIN: That's what I was going to ask Mekeisha about. I mean, how common is that? Because do we really know what it would have been? Would it have been terrible? Remember when "NYPD Blue" first came out, people were all over that; how terrible that was going to be and gratuitous and so forth. Then it went on to win all these awards? I mean, I don't know if you are fans or not. I had my issues with it since I come from a police family. I have my issues with it.

But Mekeisha, what do you think? How common is that for a story to get, for a series to get that far and then to get dumped?

TOBY: It's pretty common in pilot season. I mean, you're talking about right around Upfronts, which was just last week and - or the week before last, and so that's not uncommon. I mean, I think it, of course, garnered a lot of attention because of who she is and because she's from "Desperate Housewives," and because she's a Latina actress and is sort of like, well, why would she want to push a show like this? And I just think that, you know, I think ABC made the right choice in not going with the show. I think they already sort of, you know, they're already dealing with the "Bachelor," "Bachelorette" lawsuit and that they haven't had a person of color in that position. That doesn't really bode well with people of color.

And then you're looking at, you know, the same network that had that awful show "Caveman" or whatever it was called and it was like horribly stereotypical. And they're trying to...


TOBY: ...stay, you know, in third place and maybe rise up to second place. And they're not trying to like, you know, bring the network down with bad choices in programming, and that would've been a bad choice, I think...


TOBY: terms of the stereotypes.

MARTIN: OK. Mekeisha Madden Toby is the TV critic The Detroit News. She was with us fm NPR West. That's in Culver City, California. Here in Washington, D.C., Mary Kate Cary, columnist and blogger for U.S. News & World Report, and Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club. And Danielle Belton is The Black Snob. She blogs on her website about pop culture and politics. She was with us from St. Louis today.

Ladies, thank you.

CARY: Thank you.

BELTON: Thank you, Michel.

HURTADO: Great to be here.

TOBY: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.