On Monday morning, a producer of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show wanted to air a clip of the day's biggest entertainment story — the racy and controversial performance by Miley Cyrus at Sunday night's MTV Video Music Awards.
“Morning Joe” co-anchor Mika Brzezinski put her foot down and told the producer not to run the clip. For Brzezinski and broad swath of the public, from fellow celebrities to pundits to parents, Cyrus was the victim of exploitation or terrible advice, and Brzezinski wanted no part in repeating the mistake.
"I think that was really, really disturbing," Brzezinski said. "That young lady, who is 20, is obviously deeply troubled, deeply disturbed. Probably has confidence issues, probably an eating disorder. And I don't think anybody should have put her up on stage. That was disgusting."
Reaction began immediately Sunday night as a large TV audience watched. The Video Music Awards was the top-rated show of the year in the 12-to-34 demographic, with 4.6 million viewers between those ages tuning in, many to watch Cyrus, who starred in the tween Disney Channel hit show "Hannah Montana." The entertainment website Deadline Hollywood reported that Cyrus' performance "set a new Twitter record — 306,000 tweets per minute — surpassing the previous record holder: Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance.”
Many of those tweets were negative or expressed shock and surprise as Cyrus danced provocatively and suggestively with 36-year-old singer Robin Thicke, controversial in his own right this year because the video for his hit song "Blurred Lines" included topless dancers. Cyrus joined Thicke in a nude-colored bikini as he performed that song Sunday night.
"That was not fun," Brzezinksi said on "Morning Joe." "That was not funny. That was really, really bad for anybody who is younger and impressionable. And she's really messed up, so I don't think they should have put her on stage. They should be ashamed of themselves. ... The whole thing was cringeworthy, but I also feel bad for her. She is a mess. Someone needs to take care of her. Someone needs not to put her on stage and make a complete fool of herself."
The woman who played Cyrus' mother in a few episodes of "Hannah Montana" expressed a similar thought Monday on the "Today" show: "I was Hannah Montana's mom! Where did I go wrong? I want to know who's advising her and why it's necessary. It's a bit desperate."
Other parents, celebrities and columnists condemned Cyrus for the way she acted during approximately six-and-a-half minutes on stage Sunday.
“Cyrus did her best to shock the audience of the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night, and according to most, she succeeded,” Patrick Kevin Day wrote for the Los Angeles Times. “Media reaction to Cyrus' bump-and-grind veered between disgust and sadness.”
The Parents Television Council criticized MTV for broadcasting the Cyrus spectacle with a TV-14 rating, because of how her hypersexual shtick could influence the impressionable minds of tween and early teen viewers who remain devoted fans of “Hannah Montana” and the clean-cut Miley Cyrus of yesteryear.
“MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. This is unacceptable,” Parents Television Council director of public policy Dan Isett said in a Monday press release. “This much is absolutely clear: MTV marketed adults-only material to children while falsely manipulating the content rating to make parents think the content was safe for their children. “MTV continues to sexually exploit young women by promoting acts that incorporate ‘twerking’ in a nude-colored bikini. How is this image of former child star Miley Cyrus appropriate for 14-year-olds?”
Parents Television Council pulled no punches in lambasting Miley Cyrus even though her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, is a member of the PTC Advisory Board.
The PTC called on Congress to pass the Television Consumer Freedom Act in response to the Video Music Awards. The proposed bill would allow families to buy customized cable TV packages instead of the bundling of networks offered by cable companies.
"After MTV’s display last night, it’s time to give control back to consumers,” Isett said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.