Candy Crowley: ‘I’m Not Going to Argue that When You Turn on the TV, You Basically Get Young, Blonde, Thin Women’

By Gail Shister Comment

Crowley_2.3.jpgThe double standard is alive and well in the news business.

Or is it?

Candy Crowley’s appointment as anchor of CNN’s “State of the Union” – she debuts Sunday — has re-ignited that contentious debate. Particularly among women.

To wit: Would Crowley have been chosen if she hadn’t dropped major poundage over the past year, or is the fact that she was chosen a sign that networks have moved beyond judging on-air women by their dress size?

Crowley, 61, whose credentials and experience are beyond reproach, says she’s not sure.

“Would I have gotten the job without having lost the weight? I don’t know. That’s an X factor,” says CNN’s respected senior political correspondent. “Does the refrigerator light stay on when you close the door? We’ll never know.”

Crowley won’t disclose how many pounds she’s lost, but says she’s down five dress sizes. She doesn’t own a scale. Exercise, diet and transcendental meditation led to the transformation, she says, which she embarked on to feel better, not to be an anchor.

“I think I have the credentials to do this job,” says Crowley, a CNN staffer since 1987. “This company has talked about my credentials first, last and always. I got the job because I’m the best person for the job.”

Still, Crowley acknowledges that she doesn’t fit the stereotype in a business where body size still matters if you’re female.

“I readily admit I’m not the most obvious pick, from a purely cosmetic point of view,” Crowley says. “I’m not going to argue that when you turn on the TV, you basically get young, blonde, thin women. This is changing.”

Not enough, according to Emily Rooney, an executive producer/anchor at Boston’s WGBH and former EP of Peter Jennings’ “World News Tonight.”

CNN deserves major props for naming Crowley, Rooney says. “She deserves it, she’s earned it and she’s really good.” But, she adds, “‘Is she attractive enough?’ I’m sure somebody brought it up. Things haven’t changed that much.”

Jane Hall, an associate professor in American University’s School of Communication, label’s Crowley’s ascension as “the next positive step for women” in TV news. “Bravo to CNN and brava to Candy Crowley.”

However, the issue of appearance continues to impact women more than men, Hall adds.

“On camera, it’s still harder for a woman who’s equally experienced and equally capable as a man,” says Hall, an expert in women and broadcasting. “Women are still held to a standard of age and looks that experienced men are not held to.”

That is not to imply Crowley is not beautiful, because she is, Hall says. Rooney agrees.

Crowley, meanwhile, is still getting her sea legs after almost a month’s vacation in Australia and New Zealand, where her eldest son, Webster, 30, a neurosurgeon, is doing a year of his seven-year residency. His wife, Angela, a rheumatologist, landed a job in the same hospital.

Crowley used 240,000 of her frequent-flyer miles for the trek. At one point, she had well over a million. Speaking of which, has she seen George Clooney’s “Up in the Air?”

Not yet.