The Washington Times - September 3, 2008, 03:37PM

The controversy swirling around CNN’s Campbell Brown’s on-air “takedown” this week of John McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, resulting in the Republican candidate pulling out of a scheduled interview with the network, centers on the interviewer’s relentless pursuit of answers surrounding vice president pick Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience.

However, the bigger issue, one might argue, doesn’t surround Mrs. Brown’s persistent line or manner of questioning. Arguably, she was only performing her job, much in the mold of her onetime colleague, the late NBC “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert.

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If any insult was hurled at Mr. Bounds, it more likely came at the end of Mrs. Brown’s one-on-one interview.

“All right, Tucker,” she concluded in a softer but obviously sarcastic tone. “I’m just going to give it to ya baby.”

And, for whatever reason (probably because he prefers to keep his job), Mr. Bounds sat there and took the insult with half a smile on his face.

Baby?

“You’re not from the South,” Mrs. Brown told this columnist by telephone Wednesday from Minneapolis.

Actually, I am from the South, remember?

“Well, I grew up in Louisiana, my grandmother still lives in Mississippi,” she said.

The point?

“It’s a Southern thing: ‘honey,’ ‘baby,’ ‘sweetie.’ I say it to everybody. It’s a term of endearment,” she insisted.

You’ve never said it to me before.

“It was my signal to Tucker that I knew that he was there to do his job, that there was nothing personal, not insulting in any way. I drop these words in my speech all the time,” she insisted.

At which point, I recalled for Mrs. Brown that after Barack Obama had referred to a female campaign reporter as “sweetie,” igniting a national debate over what is acceptable language between men and women in a professional setting, the Democratic candidate hours later left her a voicemail apologizing.

So, will you apologize to Mr. Bounds?

“No,” Mrs. Brown answered. “It’s one of the sad realities of the world that women can get away with calling men ‘honey,’ ‘baby,’ and ‘sweetie.’”

John McCaslin, reporter, The Washington Times