The mainstream media were primed for days to accuse critics of “misogyny” if they dared criticize former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, whom he had promised would be a woman.
On cue, they attacked President Donald Trump for calling Harris “nasty” — a perfectly supportable opinion, given her past behavior, and a term he has also used for men.
But the media have no credibility on this issue at all, given how they treated Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the 2008 election.
For a few days after Palin was nominated, the media were shellshocked. They could not believe that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a Republican, had picked a woman — and they were scared that she could steal votes from supporters of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who were still upset at the way the Democratic Party had shunted her aside in favor of newcomer Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). They knew nothing about her. And so they resorted to attacking her as a woman.
There are countless examples, but three that stand out.
One was an early interview by Charlie Gibson of CBS, who looked down his nose at her and said: “Can you look the country in the eye and say ‘I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?'”
Gibson followed up, almost sneering in contempt: “When McCain asked you to take the number two spot on the ticket, for a moment, did you think no?”
Another was when Katie Couric, also of CBS, asked Palin this question: “I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?” The obvious implication was that Palin does not read anything.
The third example occurred on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, when comedian and writer Tina Fey mocked Palin’s foreign policy credentials by doing an impression of the Alaska governor and saying, “I can see Russia from my house!” (Palin had earlier noted, correctly, that Alaska is the only state with two international boundaries, and that Russia is visible from part of Alaska.) Many people believed Palin herself said Fey’s line; years later, even elite journalists were misquoting her.
The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis rounded up several other examples:
In case you’ve forgotten, a reminder is in order. Liberal radio and TV host Ed Schultz used the words “bimbo alert” when discussing Palin. Harry Reid’s press secretary described her as “shrill.” Then-CNBC host Donny Deutsch spent lots of time talking about her “sex appeal.” And Martin Peretz of The New Republic said, “…she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy’s.” Bestselling author Joe McGinnismoved to her town of Wasilla, Alaska. (Stalker much?) And who could forget the wardrobe controversy, the unflattering Time magazine photo, or the “Trig Trutherism” conspiracy theory led by Andrew Sullivan?
Criticism of female running mates is entirely fair, and expected; they should be treated no different than male candidates.
But the media have a double standard for Republican women — and not just Palin. Former First Lady Michelle Obama was celebrated by the media, and still is — while First Lady Melania Trump is routinely disparaged or ignored. She is rarely celebrated on the covers of fashion magazines, for example, as Michelle Obama was — despite Melania Trump’s modeling career.
Sen. Harris ought to be treated fairly. But the media are in no position to lecture anyone about sexism.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.