Sarah Palin Is Right

The media has a double standard for covering female candidates.

NEAR JUNIPER CREEK, ALASKA, SEPTEMBER 04 2010: Sarah Palin hunts caribou near Juniper Creek, in the toundra north of the Arctic Circle (photo Gilles Mingasson).
National Journal
Emma Roller
Add to Briefcase
Emma Roller
May 20, 2014, 10:18 a.m.

In 2008, a con­spir­acy the­ory about Sarah Pal­in — then a can­did­ate for vice pres­id­ent — was born. The the­ory: Pal­in was not in fact the moth­er of her then-in­fant son, Trig — her daugh­ter Bris­tol was. The blog­ger An­drew Sul­li­van fed in­to the the­ory, and it was re­sur­rec­ted in an aca­dem­ic pa­per by a Ken­tucky journ­al­ism pro­fess­or in 2011. (Salon has since thor­oughly de­bunked the Trig Pal­in con­spir­acy the­ory.)

Now, Hil­lary Clin­ton is on the re­ceiv­ing end of her own health-re­lated cov­er-up con­spir­acy the­ory — and Pal­in is us­ing the story to skew­er the me­dia and il­lus­trate what she sees as a double stand­ard for how Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an fe­male can­did­ates get covered.

Some back­ground: In Decem­ber 2012, Clin­ton was treated for a blood clot on her brain after suf­fer­ing a con­cus­sion. Clin­ton re­covered and was giv­en a clean bill of health, but Karl Rove re­mained skep­tic­al.

“Thirty days in the hos­pit­al? And when she re­appears, she’s wear­ing glasses that are only for people who have trau­mat­ic brain in­jury? We need to know what’s up with that,” Rove al­legedly said at a con­fer­ence in Los Angeles.

After cries of “Sex­ism!” from me­dia out­lets, Rove walked back his state­ment, but he was not alone in his think­ing. Re­ince Priebus, the chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee, de­fen­ded Rove’s com­ments and said the health ques­tion is “fair game.”

Like it or not, Clin­ton will have to deal with these kinds of ques­tions for the next two years, at a min­im­um. And judging by Pal­in’s re­sponse, the pain doesn’t fade over time. In a highly sar­cast­ic Face­book post Monday night, Pal­in poin­ted out me­dia hy­po­crisy for de­fend­ing Clin­ton against Rove’s com­ments.

“Demo­crats are right — scour­ing re­cords of a fe­male can­did­ate is just polit­ics of per­son­al de­struc­tion, and for the me­dia to en­gage in it would be un­fair, un­eth­ic­al, and ab­so­lutely UN­PRE­CED­EN­TED. You can’t probe a wo­man like that be­cause, well, it’s a war on wo­men!” Pal­in wrote.

“Amer­ica, you de­serve fair and con­sist­ent cov­er­age of rel­ev­ant is­sues be­fore de­cid­ing a Pres­id­en­tial/Vice Pres­id­en­tial tick­et, so have faith the agenda-less me­dia will re­fuse to push whis­pers and wildly in­ac­cur­ate in­form­a­tion about a par­tis­an politi­cian’s body part,” she con­tin­ued.

It’s less likely that Pal­in is de­fend­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton against per­ceived sex­ist com­ments, and much more likely that she’s just tak­ing an­oth­er pot­shot at the Lamestream Me­dia. Of course, some polit­ic­al journ­al­ists did re­buke the Trig the­ory — namely BuzzFeed Ed­it­or-in-Chief Ben Smith, who was at Politico at the time, along with Salon‘s Justin El­li­ott.

But un­like with the Trig The­ory, nearly every re­port­er cov­er­ing the 2008 cam­paign bought in­to an­oth­er nar­rat­ive — one about Pal­in’s men­tal fac­ulties. Pal­in was por­trayed, from Katie Cour­ic to Sat­urday Night Live,  as a clue­less bimbo, and that im­age lives on in Ju­li­anne Moore’s (ex­cel­lent) por­tray­al of Pal­in in HBO’s Game Change. 

Was it fair to por­tray Pal­in as in­ex­per­i­enced and un­fit for of­fice? Yes. But that’s far dif­fer­ent from the im­age the me­dia cul­tiv­ated. Cov­er­ing Pal­in as a bimbo was an un­ques­tioned giv­en. One is a val­id point, the oth­er is a ca­ri­ca­ture.

Of course, Hil­lary Clin­ton has suffered her fair share of sex­ist cov­er­age. After Bill Clin­ton’s af­fair with Mon­ica Lew­in­sky came to light, pun­dits spec­u­lated that Hil­lary — that fri­gid harpy! — had driv­en her hus­band to in­fi­del­ity. More re­cently, the idea that Chelsea Clin­ton be­came preg­nant to boost her moth­er’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity was al­most laugh­ably sex­ist. Pal­in and Clin­ton can sym­path­ize on that point.

The ques­tion Rove raised was a seem­ingly in­no­cent one — does Hil­lary have the men­tal stam­ina to be pres­id­ent? Mean­while, Sul­li­van’s the­ory about Trig Pal­in’s true par­ent­age was more of a sug­ges­tion that Pal­in was will­ing to go to despic­able lengths to main­tain her pub­lic im­age as a whole­some folk lead­er. Rove was con­cern trolling; Sul­li­van was just plain trolling.

Now, in a dar­ing feat of Nar­rat­ive Re­appro­pri­ation, Pal­in is call­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton dumb while ad­mon­ish­ing the me­dia for do­ing the same thing to her in 2008. “Ap­par­ently, Demo­crats de­mand their next chosen one’s brain must be ab­sent,” she wrote in her Face­book post.

It’s the type of quick-change polit­ic­al man­euv­er­ing that takes a healthy sense of irony to un­der­stand.

What We're Following See More »
PLAN C?
Senate Looks to Pass “Skinny Repeal” Then Negotiate with House
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Senate GOP leaders picked up support Wednesday for their plan to pass a scaled-back bill to repeal a handful of elements in the current health law, and then open negotiations with House Republicans to try to bring together their two very different bills."

Source:
“CLEAN REPEAL”
Senate Votes Down Repeal without Replace
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
SECOND QUARTER OF SALARY
Trump to Donate $100,000 to Dept. of Education
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
TURNED OVER NOTES
Manafort Testifies in Closed Session
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Paul Manafort, who served as a top aide to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, on Tuesday provided congressional investigators notes he took during a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that has emerged as a focus in the investigation of Russian interference in the election. Manafort’s submission, which came as he was interviewed in a closed session by staff members for the Senate Intelligence Committee, could offer a key contemporaneous account of the June 2016 session."

Source:
PENCE BREAKS THE TIE
Senate Will Debate House Bill
1 days ago
THE LATEST

By the narrowest of margins, the Senate voted 51-50 this afternoon to begin debate on the House's legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins defected from the GOP, but Vice President Pence broke a tie. Sen. John McCain returned from brain surgery to cast his vote.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login