Press

Kathie Lee Gifford, anti-sweatshop activist, compares the Oscars red carpet to a sweatshop

Salon |  By Daniel D'Addario | March, 18 2014 |  Share  | Source Article

Kathie Lee Gifford, anti-sweatshop activist, compares the Oscars red carpet to a sweatshopKathie Lee Gifford (Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford)

Kathie Lee Gifford has finally broken her silence on what Oscar coverage is like — and the comparison’s pretty tone-deaf.

On the most recent episode of her podcast, “Kathie Lee and Company,” released today, the NBC personality welcomed Al Roker, with whom she’d co-anchored “Today’s” Oscar coverage.

She described just how difficult it had been to work with various cameramen and producers in a confined space on the red carpet: “I thought we’d done away with that sort of treatment of other human beings. I thought sweatshops were a thing of the past. […] There we were in a two-by-two feet thing with five of us. Five of us!”

For his part, Roker laughed and interjected, “Welcome to Hollywood!” No one can blame the amiable meteorologist for not wanting to dredge up the scandals of the 1990s, during which Gifford’s apparel line for Wal-Mart was found to be produced by child labor in Honduras.

Gifford has always described the sweatshop incident as a particularly painful time in her life and disavowed knowledge of the working conditions that went into making her brand of clothing. She has also spoken out in the past against sweatshops, including at the Clinton White House. In a 2012 interview, Gifford told me that the money she’d gotten from Wal-Mart had been reinvested into children’s charities and that the media gave her a raw deal: “The truth was not convenient! You can go visit where the money went—it’s still there, helping 200 little babies today. I wasn’t angry. I was frustrated.”

Which is what makes the whole loose talk about a glamorous occasion as the practical equivalent of forced labor in horrible conditions so befuddling. Shouldn’t Gifford have a clue by now? Jokes are fun, but has Gifford, well-compensated for her “sweatshop” labor at the Oscars and across NBC, forgotten just how much hot water she landed in as the financial beneficiary of actual toiling children?