Taking lead from Drudge, conservative echo chamber hypes Clinton photo

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN & JEREMY HOLDEN

After the Drudge Report displayed an Associated Press photo of Hillary Clinton above the headline "The Toll of a Campaign," the conservative echo chamber went into effect. Rush Limbaugh discussed the photo on his radio show, Drudge then linked to the transcript on Limbaugh's website, and The Washington Times and Michelle Malkin on Fox news' The Big Story, then reprinted or discussed the photograph, characterizing it as representative of the toll the campaign was taking on Clinton.

On December 16, Internet gossip Matt Drudge displayed an Associated Press photo of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) above the headline "The Toll of a Campaign." The next day, during the 2 p.m. ET hour of the December 17 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh noted the photo and discussed what he said was "this theory of mine based on this Drudge picture of Mrs. Clinton with the headline: 'The Toll of a Campaign.' " Limbaugh then offered his theory before asking: "Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?" By 4:56 p.m. ET, the Drudge Report included a link to Limbaugh's transcript, which was posted on Limbaugh's website under the headline "Does Our Looks-Obsessed Culture Want to Stare at an Aging Woman?" After Drudge displayed and Limbaugh discussed the photograph, a discussion that Drudge highlighted on his site, the conservative echo chamber reverberated elsewhere, with right-wing pundit and nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin on the December 17 edition of Fox News' The Big Story referring to "the famous photo from the weekend of Hillary looking so haggard." The photo then appeared on the front page of the December 18 edition of The Washington Times. It also appeared accompanying an article dated December 19 (Australian time), headlined "Are we ready to see Hillary age?" at the website news.com.au, a News Corp. subsidiary, which noted of Limbaugh's commentary, "The inspiration for this misogynistic king hit, one that says much about the kind of attention Senator Clinton can expect if she eventually becomes the Democratic nominee, was an unflattering photograph of her taken on the campaign trail in freezing New Hampshire at the weekend." By 9:24 a.m. ET on December 18, Drudge had included a link to the news.au.com website: "PAPER: Are we ready to see Hillary age?"

Touting his theory "based on this Drudge picture of Mrs. Clinton" Limbaugh said:

LIMBAUGH: Now, this theory of mine based on this Drudge picture of Mrs. Clinton with the headline "The Toll of a Campaign." Now, it could well be that that's a sympathy photo, too, to make people feel sorry for how tough the campaign trail is. Now, I want to preface this by saying I know it's going to get out there. Media Matters is going to get hold of this and they're going to take it all out of context. We can expect that. It's a badge of honor when this happens, but for the rest of you, I want you to understand that I am talking about the evolution of American culture here, and not so much Mrs. Clinton. It could be anybody, and it is really not very complicated. Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television. We know it because we see it. We see everybody and their uncle in gyms. We see people starving themselves. We see people taking every miracle fad drug there is to lose weight. We see guys trying to get six-pack abs. We have women starving themselves trying to get into size zero and size one clothes; makeovers, facials, plastic surgery, everybody in the world does Botox, and this affects men, too. As you know, the haughty John Kerry Botoxed his wrinkles out during the campaign.

There is this thing in this country that, as you age -- and this is particularly, you know, women are hardest-hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood -- America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses, who lament that they can't get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yea or nay, in the box office. While Hollywood box office receipts may be stagnant, none of that changes the fact that this is a country obsessed with appearance. It's a country obsessed with looks. The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand. Everybody's trying to make themselves look different -- and in that situation, in that case, they think they're making themselves look better. It's just the way our culture has evolved. It's the way the country is. It's like almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?

Drudge then linked to Limbaugh's transcript with the headline "Limbaugh: Does Our Looks-Obsessed Culture Want to Stare at an Aging Woman?" Later, during the December 17 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, right-wing pundit and nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin asserted, "You all saw the famous photo from the weekend of Hillary looking so haggard and, what, looking like 92 years old. If that's the face of experience, I think it's going to scare away a lot of those independent voters that are on the fence."

The photo then appeared on the front page of the December 18 edition of The Washington Times:

In a December 18 column that was accompanied by a different photo of Clinton, Washington Times editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden wrote, "So this is what a cratering Clinton campaign looks like: Hillary, thrashing about on the stump and suddenly looking 20 years older, with Bubba, desperate not to be relegated to 'husband of,' reduced to whining about the cruelty of 'them lyin' newspapers.' No morning in America here, just the gloom of the approaching winter's dusk."

A December 19 article on the Australian website news.com.au, a News Corp. subsidiary, displayed the photo of Clinton, but noted of Limbaugh's commentary, "The inspiration for this misogynistic king hit, one that says much about the kind of attention Senator Clinton can expect if she eventually becomes the Democratic nominee, was an unflattering photograph of her taken on the campaign trail in freezing New Hampshire at the weekend."

The Australian, a News Corp. newspaper, ran a December 19 story headlined "Ageing Hillary a turn-off: shock jock." The story -- which did not include the photo of Clinton - noted that "[t]he image was featured prominently on the home page of the Drudge Report website under the heading, 'The Toll of the Campaign', and Limbaugh - whose past commentaries on Senator Clinton's campaign have included references to her 'testicle lock box' - seized on its popular cultural significance."

From the December 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Now, it could well be that that's a sympathy photo, too -- make people feel sorry for how tough the campaign trail is. Now, I want to preface this -- I know it's going to -- Media Matters is going to get hold of this and they're going to take it all out of context. We can expect that. It's a badge of honor when this happens, but for the rest of you, I want you to understand that I am talking about the evolution of American culture here, and not so much Mrs. Clinton. It could be anybody, and it is really not very complicated. Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television. We know it because we see it. We see everybody and their uncle in gyms. We see people starving themselves. We see people taking every miracle fad drug there is to lose weight. We see guys trying to get six-pack abs. We have women starving themselves trying to get into size zero and size one clothes; makeovers, facials, plastic surgery, everybody in the world does Botox, and this affects men, too. As you know, the haughty John Kerry Botoxed his wrinkles out during the campaign.

People -- there is this thing in this country that, as you age -- and this is particularly, you know, women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood -- as you age, America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses who lament that they can't get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yea or nay, on the box office. While Hollywood box office receipts may be stagnant, none of that changes the fact that this is a country obsessed with appearance. It's a country obsessed with looks. The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand. Everybody's trying to make themselves look different -- and in that situation, in that case, they think they're making themselves look better. It's just the way our culture has evolved. It's the way the country is. It's almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?

We know that the presidency ages the occupants of that office rapidly. You go back and look at -- well, you can't use Clinton because he dyed his hair based on the audience he was speaking to, but take a look some pictures of Bush in 2000, when he was campaigning, 2001 when he was inaugurated. Take a look at him now. Just been eight years. The difference is stark. Now, he's kept himself in good shape and so forth, but you can say that this is a sad, unfortunate thing. But men aging makes them look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished. Sadly, it's not that way for women, and they will tell you.

Well, Snerdley, you know, you're just sitting there thinking that I'm on the precipice of a cliff here without a bungee cord. I'm not. I am trying to be -- look, if I'm on the edge of the bungee cord, then I'll take the leap. The bungee cord will save me because this is -- I'm just giving you an honest assessment here of American culture. I mean, look at all of the evidence. I mean, I've just barely scratched the surface with some of the evidence, and so: Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she's getting older, because it'll impact poll numbers. It'll impact perceptions.

In politics, perceptions are reality. So there will have to be steps taken to avoid the appearance of aging. You know, politics -- politics is not for sissies. Now, you know, I'm looking at people on the other side of the glass here and they're laughing and they're smiling. They think I'm making a joke here and there's some big punch line coming. I'm not. You're not laughing at that? What are you laughing at? You're laughing at how -- he's smiling because it's true! OK. Maimone is smiling because it's true, and what also happens in this -- when you say something that's true that people don't want to hear, man, do you catch it. I am fully prepared. I'm going to catch it here. That's really why he's smiling because he knows I'm going to catch it, but you're also responding because you know I can take it, you know that I can catch it, and throw it right back. So, you know, politics isn't for sissies, and being president ages men faster than normal. This is just -- I think this is one of the intangibles. And another thing, by the way: We've -- how many times have you said in your adult life, you've had a candidate for president or some office that you really like, but he just doesn't come off well on television. Just for some reason, television doesn't complement this person. I've often reminded you that politics is "showbiz for the ugly," and it is.

And when you see people who are just -- you think, "Boy, they're really great," but they can't get anywhere because they just, for some reason, television doesn't complement them. They don't look well on it, they don't handle it well, and it has an effect, regardless how smart they are, how brilliant their policy. This is one of the things that many people lament with the coming of television. You go back and look at presidents that we elected prior to TV, and presidents we elected after TV, and you will notice a huge diff -- do you think a bloated president -- we had plenty of fat-guy presidents. Do you think one could get elected today? There's not a prayer! There isn't a prayer. Remember when people said, "The way to tell if Gore's really going to run is if he starts losing weight?" It's just what it is, folks. It's just what it is. Perfection, the appearance of perfection and good health, all of that ties into the perception of mental acuity, stamina, being able to hold up to the job -- and I'm just suggesting -- one of these intangibles. You know, people will never tell you in an exit poll, "Yeah, I voted for Candidate X because he looks better than Candidate Y." They're not going to tell you, "I like their position on the Taliban. Yeah, I love their health care plan." They don't tell you what the real reason is -- and, of course, nobody else out there with the guts or the stupidity to address this as I am, but it's just something to put in the hopper and to think about. If it's -- let me give you a picture, just to think about. I'm not even going to answer the question for you, just want you to think about this: The campaign is Mitt Romney versus Hillary Clinton in our quest in this country for visual perfection. Hmm?

From the December 17 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson and Heather Nauert:

BILL HEMMER (guest host): Hey Michelle, let's go to the big question tonight: Bill Clinton as the attack dog, is this his role in the campaign?

MALKIN: Well, Hillary has allowed him to do it. She's let him off the leash, and over the weekend of course she was flapping around in her helicopter while he was flapping his mouth about Obama, but I think that playing the experience card is going to implode like everything else has imploded with their campaign because the more they point out Obama's inexperience, the more attention they're calling to the long-time Clinton-Clintonian reign of error and terror. And I have to imagine there are a lot of independents who don't want to go with the tested thing. You all saw the famous photo from the weekend of Hillary looking so haggard and, what, looking like 92 years old. If that's the face of experience, I think it's going to scare away a lot of those independent voters that are on the fence.

Posted In
Elections
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2008 Elections
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