CNN's Novak smeared Sen. Clinton as "Madame Defarge"; Begala demanded apology


On the June 29 edition of CNN's Crossfire, co-host and syndicated columnist Robert Novak again ridiculed Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) by calling her "Madame Defarge" -- a reference to a distasteful character from Charles Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities.

According to, a website that provides study guides for classic novels, Madame Defarge is "a cruel, vengeance-seeking agent of the [French] revolution ... [who] spends her days knitting a 'register' of names of people she has marked for death."

Novak went on to say that Senator Clinton's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy "sound[ed] like communism." Pointing out that Hillary Clinton's title is "senator," Novak's Crossfire co-host Paul Begala defended Clinton against Novak's attacks:

NOVAK: For a while, I thought that Hillary Rodham Clinton was actually trying to be nice. What disappointing behavior that would be for Madame Defarge. But she has been back in form lately. This week, in San Francisco, where else, she vowed to defeat what she called the Republicans' extraordinarily ruthless campaign.

She told Democrats who paid up to $10,000 to attend that event that she was going to raise their taxes -- quote -- "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." Doesn't that sound like communism?


NOVAK: But it's probably what the rich San Francisco liberals want, and certainly what they deserve, even if they don't want it.

BEGALA: Well, what Senator Clinton -- and that is her title, Senator Clinton -- deserves is better than being called a communist and better than being compared to Madame Defarge, who the English majors here will know is the woman who sat and knitted while people were beheaded during the French revolution in the book A Tale of Two Cities.

I think, given what's happening in Iraq right now, it's a really unfortunate way to characterize one of the finest people in public life that I know. And I know you'll apologize for that unfortunate...


NOVAK: I'll tell you. Certainly, next time I talk about her, I'll call her senator. Will that make you happy?

BEGALA: What about Madame Defarge? That is kind of across the line. I mean, come on.

NOVAK: Well, not my line.

Novak has a history of calling Senator Clinton "Madame Defarge." During the June 4 edition of Crossfire, he made the same reference:

America's leading Bush-bashing, America-hating, left-wing nuts are in Washington for the Take Back America Conference. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been trying so hard to be nice. But she returned to Madame Defarge form.

Novak also repeated the name-calling during the January 24, 2002, edition of Crossfire:

You know enough about theology to know that wasn't a sin, because she [Senator Clinton] was Madame Defarge. She is a mean lady who has done a lot of bad things.

And during the September 5, 1993, edition of CNN's The Capital Gang:

I wouldn't say that if she [first lady Hillary Clinton] sat in the gallery looking down on her husband, there was a little impression of Madame Defarge at the French revolution...

Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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