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Our letter to Regis and Kelly

This campaign is now closed, but the letter we and supporters sent is below:

Dear Ms. Ripa and Mr. Gelman:

I am writing to object to comments Kelly Ripa made on "Live with Regis and Kelly" during the week of March 12-16, 2007. Ms. Ripa repeatedly promised to act as "sponge bath nurse" to ailing co-host Regis Philbin, and said she would do so in her "little nursey costume." Ms. Ripa's remarks suggest that nurses are brainless bimbos, rather than the college-educated science professionals who have played a central role in keeping Mr. Philbin alive. Please let viewers know what nurses really do for patients.

I realize that Ms. Ripa's "naughty nurse" comments were "jokes." But even humor sends powerful messages. And constantly linking sexual images so closely to the profession of nursing--to even the fantasy idea that working nurses are sexually available to patients--reinforces long-standing stereotypes. Those stereotypes discourage practicing and potential nurses, encourage sexual abuse in the workplace, and contribute to an atmosphere of disrespect. The devaluation of nursing translates into an underpowered profession that can't do its vital work effectively, especially during the current nursing shortage, which is a global public health crisis.

I urge "Live with Regis and Kelly" to make amends for the damage Ms. Ripa's remarks have done. The show could tell viewers what the highly skilled surgical, critical care, and floor nurses at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell have done to keep Mr. Philbin alive and on the road to recovery during and after his operation. The show might tell viewers that nurses undertake years of college-level science education so they can save lives and improve patient outcomes, not so talk show hosts can refer to them as "nursey" and suggest to millions that they have the time and inclination to provide sexual services at work.

Thank you for your consideration.