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'Morning Joe' co-hosts tune in issues of working women

Updated 11:12 am, Thursday, October 27, 2011

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  • Patricia Russo, left, president of Yale University's Women's Campaign School, speaks to an audience of about 100 people at J. McLaughlin in Westport on Wednesday night before Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBCís ìMorning Joe,î talked about the challenges of working women. Photo: Meg Barone / Fairfield Citizen freelance
    Patricia Russo, left, president of Yale University's Women's Campaign School, speaks to an audience of about 100 people at J. McLaughlin in Westport on Wednesday night before Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBCís ìMorning Joe,î talked about the challenges of working women. Photo: Meg Barone

 

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Most people get their dose of "Morning Joe" on the MSNBC television cable network weekday mornings, listening to the nation's political odd couple discuss timely topics and interview guests from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

At J. McLaughlin clothing store in Westport on Wednesday night, about 100 people -- mostly women -- got their dose of program co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in person, enjoying their comedic repartee, informative words and inspiring message.

Although both television commentators are book authors, it was Brzezinski's latest publication, "Knowing Your Value -- Women, Money and Getting What You're Worth," which took center stage. The book takes a look at the role of women in the workplace and the fight to gain recognition and a fair salary.

"She's just written a great book about the importance of valuing yourself and inspiring all women to become leaders in their lives, whatever that means to them, business, politics, any aspect of life," said Patricia Russo, president of the non-partisan Women's Campaign School at Yale University.

Kevin McLaughlin, creative director and co-founder of the clothing company along with his brother Jay, said a portion of the evening's proceeds will go to the Women's Campaign School. The program was also sponsored by the southwestern Connecticut chapter of Ladies Who Launch.

Russo said the contribution will fund the school's five-day intensive program for those women running for public office and those interested in running a political campaign.

"What you are doing for women candidates up at Yale, seriously inspirational to me," said Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, who was named in April to the "Time 100" list of the world's most influential people. "It is so difficult for women whether it's in business or politics to really be on a level playing field ... Women are chewed up and spit out," said Scarborough, a Fairfield County resident.

Women often don't recognize their own value and have different approaches to requesting a raise. Scarborough said as a man he kicks the door down and demands it while women stand diffidently before bosses meekly talking about the child who needs braces. He talked about Brzezinski tearing up after a salary negotiation in which she tried to close the divide between their compensation packages.

Brzezinski, the daughter of foreign policy expert and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, said at one time Scarborough was paid 14 times the amount she was until she recognized her worth and fought for what she deserved. She said women are often effective negotiators for their children and for others, but not for themselves.

"The secret to my success is not only knowing my value but knowing exactly how I fit into this picture and this puzzle," said Brzezinski, who also wrote the New York Times bestseller, "All Things At Once." She said it took her 44 years to understand her worth.

Brzezinski told the audience not apologize or play the victim when requesting a pay raise, and told the women not to deliberately play on other women's vulnerabilities.

"All that clutter is in your mind and it's getting in your way ... Confidence breeds success and success breeds more success," said Brzezinski, a former reporter for a Hartford television station who lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

"Most women really struggle to negotiate ... She did that. She was very transparent, very open and shared her vulnerability with the group," said Kathy McShane, market director for the Ladies Who Launch chapter.

"She's my idol because she took control of her life. Instead of giving up and saying, `poor little me,' she took the bull by the horns and conquered her industry," said Joyce Goldfarb of Westport, who has read Brzezinski's latest book. "The book is about a woman who learns to stick up for herself."

Scarborough and Brzezinski also shared behind-the-scenes secrets to their successful pairing in front of the camera each weekday morning, and demonstrated their professional admiration for each other. Brzezinski called Scarborough "a sane conservative voice on a very liberal network," and he called Brzezinski "one of the most powerful, most respected women in news, and she's an absolute inspiration to everybody."

One woman told the duo that their interaction on television seems different from what they saw in front of them during the live presentation Wednesday. A handful of others agreed, but most felt they were witnessing "Morning Joe" before their eyes without a TV separation. They also expressed why they appreciate watching the show. Some said they enjoy the intellect of the hosts and their guests and the erudite discussion on relevant topics.

Others said they appreciate the balance.

"I feel like I'm getting both sides," said Debbie Fay of Fairfield.

"I love the interaction between Joe and Mika and their take on politics," said Carolyn DelMedico of Fairfield. "They are a voice of reason in and unreasonable world."

"In this country we need to learn to agree to disagree respectfully in all areas of our lives, at home, at work and in politics," said Patty Ann Tublin of Stamford, author of an about-to-be released book, "Not Tonight Dear, I've Got a Business to Run! Enrich Your Marriage While Prospering in Your Business."

However, not everyone in the audience was pleased with Brzezinski.

Although Barbara Reynolds, chairwoman of the Weston Democrats, is a fan of the show and watches every morning she said she is concerned about Brzezinski's wardrobe, including short skirts, and feels Brzezinski allows Scarborough to "run roughshod over her conversation."

Reynolds said for Brzezinski and other women it seems like a game they are participating in. "It's a bad message for our daughters. It's disappointing. When are we going to get past this? If we can't count on people like Mika, who can we count on?" Reynolds said.

Linda Pascot of Fairfield, who also watches the show, said she read Brzezinski's book twice and was disappointed that she found no sustaining message.

In response to the few detractors, Brzezinski said only "I've come a long way, I've worked really hard."

During the presentation Brzezinski admitted that she doesn't always join in the discussion but not because she is subservient. "Sometimes I join in, sometimes I get out of the way and I let others come in ... I let him talk, I let him rant when it's working. When it's not working he has bruises. I am very, very, very satisfied with being a supporting player on the show and, actually, the balance that we strike as we bring together a medley of voices in the morning is perfect because of me."

"It is," Scarborough said.