While speaking before the Republican National Committee’s national convention Thursday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee blundered his way into the mainstream media’s War on Women trap with comments that have already lit up Twitter, MSNBC, CNN, and elicited condemnation from the White House.
While Huckabee was obviously trying to make a point about how Democrats view women, his phrasing is already catnip for a hostile media that looks for any reason to permanently define the GOP with one of the Democrat Party’s phony narratives:
If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.
To anyone who understands how today’s media operates, Huckabee’s use of this kind of phrasing and language boggles the mind and seems almost intentionally designed to damage the Republican Party. Already engines of feminist outrage are firing up to scream about Huckabee’s “crass” view of Democrat women and the government programs that help them.
Huckabee’s remarks appeared to have been prepared. So you have to ask yourself why risk launching a thousand cable news segments that ask, “Does Mike Huckabee believe women who use birth control can’t control their libidos, and is that a problem for the GOP?”
Though she updated with the factual context, NBC’s Kasie Hunt still has this tweet floating out there:
Huckabee: Women “helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them … birth control because they cannot control their libido”
– Kasie Hunt (@kasie) January 23, 2014
This is one way CNN’s Dana Bash reported it:
At Rnc meeting @MikeHuckabee just said fed govt shouldn’t help women w who can’t control their libido w birth control.
– Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) January 23, 2014
Before yesterday’s news-cycle ended, MSNBC’s Alex Wagner hosted a roundtable on how awful Huckabee is to describe government programs important to women as “Uncle Sugar,” and CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash round-tabled about how, “90% of women have used birth control” and his poor choice of the word “libido.”
This morning on “Morning Joe” Joe Scarborough heckled Huckabee and Chuck Todd remarked on how the GOP needs to consider birth control a settled matter while “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory dismissed as “base politics” Andrew Cuomo hanging a “No Conservatives Allowed” sign on the state of New York. CNN wasn’t much different.
My favorite example: The Daily Beast accurately quoted Huckabee but then closed the article with a spin that made it sound as though the governor had said something wrong. The writer, Ben Jacobs, even went so far as to bring Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock into it:
The statement may not help the Republican Party in its ongoing efforts to appeal to female voters. The GOP has long been plagued by a gender gap in voting and many elected officials often made gaffes while discussing issues like abortion, birth control, and women’s issues. The most recent was a Republican Congressman publishing a book this month where he wrote that “a wife must voluntarily submit to her husband” while others include the awkward statements of 2012 Senate candidates like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.
There has been some scuttlebutt that Huckabee is thinking of making another run for the presidency in 2016 and headlining this conference might have been a way for Huckabee to dip his toe back into the political spotlight.
Well, if that’s the case, with prepared remarks, he not only gave the media a day or two to again pound the GOP over women (my guess is that the Sunday shows will give it a last gasp), but probably allowed the media and Democrats to define the entire conference as a big, failed event overshadowed by another GOP-Not-Ready-For-Primetime gaffe.
Already RNC Chair Reince Priebus has been forced to distance himself.
Right and wrong and justice have nothing to do with this. The media is what it is and the GOP just has to understand that Republicans are going to be held to a standard no Democrat could ever survive under. Huckabee is not Wendy Davis or Andrew Cuomo — someone the media will cover up for or give the benefit of the doubt to. He is a Republican and therefore someone the media sees as a threat.
A Republican using the word “libido” will always be to our media a bigger gaffe than a Hillary Clinton leaving an American consulate vulnerable to a terrorist attack and lying about it afterwards.
But this isn’t just about the injustice of media bias. It is also about the need for competence when it comes to facing the reality of this injustice.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC