CPB Office of the Ombudsman

WEALTHTRACK goes off-track

Joel Kaplan

March 19, 2014

Monte Bedford of South Carolina was upset when he was watching WEALTHTRACK, a public television show distributed by American Public Television.

The show that raised Mr. Bedford's ire was an interview by host Consuelo Mack with Erin Botsford, who had written a new book, The Big Retirement Risk: Running out of money before you run out of time. She was brought on the show to discuss women and retirement.

Here is the exchange that disappointed Mr. Bedford:

CONSUELO MACK: So Erin, as far as the basic needs that we have and that you've mentioned in your book, that we should focus more on funding our needs, as opposed to like getting one dollar amount for retirement, but are the needs of women, for instance, are they the same as they are for men or are they different?

ERIN BOTSFORD: I would say not. It's quite humorous when you actually are dealing with men and women in the same conversation. I always say that men, all they need is a big-screen T.V., and a remote control, and a bag of chips on, you know, a cardboard box, and they're happy.

CONSUELO MACK: So that's what they want to fund in their retirement.

ERIN BOTSFORD: That's their need, they think. And if it's a 50-inch, you know, big-screen T.V., that's all they need. And really, it is that sort of mentality, because men seem to have this hunter-gatherer mentality. They're really not afraid of losing it all, because remember, you know, they were born to go out and hunt, and gather, and bring it home, and heck, you know, if they lose it all, they can go out and get another job, or find a way to bring home the bacon. Women, as Mary Beth said, they're the caretakers, the nesters. Women are afraid of ending up being a bag lady under some highway, you know. So their needs are very different. They have the need for security. They want financial security. You know, their basic needs are housing. I mean women tend to want to pay their home off. Men are okay with having a mortgage. You know, the food, the shelter, women want the health insurance. They want the best plan. So they're willing to pay a little bit more for it. Men, they want Vegas money. I mean it's just a difference…

CONSUELO MACK: Mentality.

ERIN BOTSFORD: It's a different DNA. And it's quite fun to see the differences. But it's pretty universal.

Mr. Bedford calls the exchange anti-male and sexist.

“I don't know any men like that; anyway, none with serious values,” he said. “The comment is blatantly sexist. Very offensive.

“Ms. Mack made no effort to provide mitigating pushback. Isn't that the responsibility of the show hostess? Woefully lowbrow.”

Mr. Bedford added that attitudes of this sort have no place on public broadcasting.

Jamie Haines, vice president of American Public Television, issued this statement on behalf of APT:

As the distributor of several thousands of hours of programming, American Public Television frequently receives feedback from viewers. As the distributor, we pass along that feedback to the presenting stations and the producers who are responsible for and own the content. We are very careful to be sure that they have the opportunity to reply to that feedback. It is important to clarify that we do not create the content; rather, we receive the programming from the producers and work with them with regard to the public television requirements for content and the delivery of these programs to the public television system of more than 355 local public television stations across the country.

APT does not normally provide responses to viewers regarding the content of a program as we do not create it. However, the producers would and have that responsibility.

Susan Weaver, managing producer for WEALTHTRACK, said she contacted Mr. Botsford upon hearing of his complaint:

I responded to his criticism immediately and did not feel I needed to defend Consuelo's line of questioning. The topic of the program was Women and Retirement and Botsford's new book, The Big Retirement Risk: Running out of money before you run out of time. She shared her humorous and general observations about the different attitudes men and women have toward retirement planning based on her experiences with clients. Mr. Bedford was the only viewer who took issue with the exchange.

In her direct response to Mr. Bedford, Ms. Weaver wrote:

Point very well taken. If one of our male guests had described women as just wanting to get their hair done and have bon bons, we would have received tons of viewer mail.

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