Media Matters looks back at the best of the worst of right-wing media's treatment of women in 2013.
The Washington Times' Wesley Pruden launched a sexist attack against Hillary Clinton, claiming that while a man her age is "not particularly old," a woman in public life like Clinton "is getting past her sell-by date."
Discussing speculation that Clinton might run for president in 2016, Washington Times' editor emeritus Wesley Pruden, began his September 24 column by noting that Clinton's interview with New York magazine had revived speculation on her political plans, adding, "the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing." Pruden concluded by saying that Clinton's age is "not particularly old for a man" but "a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date":
Will she or won't she? Not even her hairdresser, who is only called in occasionally, knows for sure. But the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing.
But what do they actually know? Hillary would be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017, not particularly old for a man not out of sight of his prime, but a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date at 69. John F. Kennedy, who never had to grow old, got it right when he famously remarked that "life is unfair." A second failed race for president would not be much of a capstone for a distinguished career in politics, and life at the hearth with Bubba and the dogs would be more rewarding than indulging the parasites of another campaign.
Pruden has a lengthy history of sexist attacks on Clinton, including in a column earlier this year in which he compared her to an "emotionally abused wife" and attempted to push discredited rumors about her alleged behavior as first lady in order to depict her as "angry and combative" during her congressional testimony on the Benghazi attacks.
Occam's Razor is having a rough go of it these days.
We're now a few weeks out from the nomination conventions and the trend in the polls has been steady and unmistakable: President Obama rising, Mitt Romney declining. This is particularly true of the battleground states -- Ohio, Florida, Virginia, etc. -- where the president has maintained leads over his challenger, some within the margin of error, some very much outside of it. Faced with this phenomenon, which is reflected across nearly every reputable polling outfit, conservatives in the media have arrived at a sadly commonplace explanation: conspiracy.
Specifically, a conspiracy in which pollsters and the media are purposefully oversampling Democrats to create artificially high numbers for Obama in the hopes that they will discourage Republican voters from showing up at the polls on Election Day. It's wildly, objectively implausible stuff, but the idea of electoral collusion between Democrats and the media has become an article of faith in the modern conservative movement. It's a belief that's so strongly held that it has supplanted logical explanations for Romney's decline among the conservative media's most prominent voices.
Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich recently made news by suggesting that President Obama is engaged in "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," but he isn't alone in using the African heritage of Obama's father and grandfather as fuel for ridiculous smears.
The Washington Times has an extensive history of promoting anti-gay smears, falsehoods, and distortions. In the latest example, the Times compared Judge Vaughn Walker, who found California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, to "brutal" Roman Emperor Nero, writing that Nero, "like Judge Vaughn, wanted the community to embrace his unnatural way of life."
Wesley Pruden seems unable to write about President Obama without being condescending about Obama's origins and imparting more than a little dog-whistle racial politics designed to push the notion that Obama is a scary foreigner.
In June 2009, the Washington Times editor emeritus asserted that Obama is "our first president without an instinctive appreciation of the culture, history, tradition, common law and literature whence America sprang." In November, Pruden stated that Obama "was sired by a Kenyan father, born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World and reared by grandparents in Hawaii, a paradise far from the American mainstream."
Pruden keeps up the condescension in his July 15 Washington Times column. He begins by weirdly asserting that even "the Muslims, who had expected Mr. Obama to lead wholesale conversions to Islam, with conversion of St. Patrick's and National cathedrals to mosques soon to follow," have cooled on Obama. Pruden then moved on to a comparison between Obama and Ronald Reagan, which quickly devolved into Pruden's patented scary-foreigner fearmongering:
Mr. Reagan, a son of the heartland, celebrating America as a nation forged in the melting pot, understood America in a way that Barack Obama, who boasts that he is descended from "generations of Muslims" and seems puzzled that this evokes no applause at home, never could. Mr. Obama has never been more eloquent, or sounded more like his heart was in his message, than in Cairo where he apologized for America's "sins" against the Muslims. Ronald Reagan never sounded more like his heart was in the message than in Europe singing a familiar hymn to America's virtues and its sacrifices on behalf of others. Mr. Obama was raised in the third world and through no particular fault of his own never absorbed the words and music of "morning in America."
Actually, by the time Reagan was using the "morning in America" imagery for his 1984 re-election campaign, Obama had been living in the United States for several years and had graduated from Columbia University. And of course, not only did Obama not "apologize for America's 'sins' against the Muslims" in his Cairo speech -- Pruden invented the quote, as the word "sins" appears nowhere in the speech.
And it also wouldn't be Pruden if he didn't invoke a little Old South nostalgia, noting that "[b]old consistency has not been a Republican trait since Abraham Lincoln visited war on the land, reluctantly freeing the slaves as a convenient afterthought."
After President Obama released a video message highlighting 2010 efforts to turn out the vote among minorities, right-wing media responded with inflammatory rhetoric, including claims that Obama is playing the "race card." Those media figures have ignored that Republicans have issued similar appeals to minority voters.
Yesterday, Simon Maloy brought you the right's unspeakably dumb response to President Obama's videotaped appeal urging his supporters to turn out "the young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008" during the 2010 midterm elections. According to Drudge, Limbaugh, and company, this was Obama playing the "race card." According to sanity, this was Obama doing what politicians do: Urge the constituencies that elected them to vote.
Today, Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden -- who once reportedly called the Confederacy "a country that will endure for as long as men and women know love" -- takes the right's "race card" argument to disturbing extremes. He compares Obama's comments urging his supporters to turn out African-American and Latino voters to the racist screeds of ardent segregationists.
When George Wallace lost his first race for governor of Alabama, back in the benighted days, he vowed never to be "out-segged" again. He was making polite conversation. Sen. Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, whose name was synonymous with mean-spirited race politics in the South, once felt the hot breath of a challenger and called in his campaigners to tell them "it's time to start yelling n
." Bilbo and his campaigners quickly obliged and the backwoods p
and w-- t-- obliged with enthusiasm and votes.
Those days are mercifully behind us, but now Barack Obama wants to join the sordid ranks of the race hustlers, like the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, if not necessarily the race baiters. Maybe there's only a small distinction between hustling and baiting, but once the toxic stuff is let loose, it doesn't matter what you call it.
The Democratic National Committee released a video clip Monday of the president rousing his troops with what Politico, the Capitol Hill political paper, calls with artful euphemism, "unusual demographic frankness." The auguries for November do not look good, the president concedes, and he wants "young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 [to] stand together once again."
Pruden's comments are breathtaking, especially in the context of Pruden's own record of race-baiting. Below the fold, I contrast Obama's comments with statements made by Pruden.
It's hard to find people who substantively defend the fact that citizens of the nation's capital pay federal taxes but do not have a voting member in either house of Congress. It's the textbook definition of "taxation without representation," the injustice that helped launch the American Revolution. But Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden has tried to articulate such a defense, and in the process Pruden threw the Founding Fathers under the bus.
In an April 20 column, Pruden wrote:
Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, argues that District residents have no representation in Congress "even though we pay federal taxes, fight in wars and fulfill all other obligations of citizenship." This is of a piece with the slogan "Taxation Without Representation" written on license tags, a lie that motorists must display on their cars and trucks, like it or not. It's a lie because District residents actually have 535 representatives in the House and Senate, duty bound to look after the District of Columbia. Whether these representatives always do their duty is certainly arguable.
Well, gee, why would any resident of the District of Columbia be upset? They don't have any vote to determine who those "535 representatives in the House and Senate" are, but why should that matter? Those 535 members are "duty bound to look after the District of Columbia."
Unfortunately for Pruden, his argument could be used to defend King George III against those intemperate American colonists. In his coronation oath, King George solemnly promised "to Governe the People of this Kingdome of England and the Dominions thereto belonging according to the Statutes in Parlyament Agreed on and the Laws and Customs of the same" and "cause Law and Justice in Mercy to be Executed in all Your Judgements." So King George was duty bound to look after the colonists and execute "law and justice in mercy" in doing so.
From Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden's March 30 column:
We're not yet a nation wholly of whiners, but some of our congresspersons are working on it. Democrats who should have been taking a victory lap spent a week cowering in fear of the contents of a tea cup. No wonder real men - mostly but, by no means all, white - are shunning the Democrats.
The polling gurus are finding that millions of the white men who helped put Barack Obama in the White House are leaving the Democrats in great numbers, and this could lead to really bad news in November. Gallup finds that white male support for a Democratic Congress has fallen 8 percentage points since last summer, while the support of women has remained remarkably steady. White women who voted for Mr. Obama continue to support him, but only 38 percent of white men support him now. Unless the president and his party find a way to reverse this trend they must prepare for an epic bath nine months hence.
Accomplishing such a turnaround would require first of all for Democrats to pipe down about what a tough life they have. Life is real, often hard, and, as Damon Runyon famously said to a whiner at the poker table, "three out of three people die, so shut up and deal." Democrats in Congress who got their way in the health care "reform" debate are frightened now that the people they abused are angry and determined to do something about it. With the help of the compliant "mainstream" media, they have created the specter of a tsunami of hate, bigotry, racism, slander, rock-throwing, spitting, irritable bowel syndrome and seven-year itch. Sarah Palin has got the Democrats particularly spooked.
What the Democrats actually got were dirty looks, catcalls, and cries of "shame!" They accused their constituents of hurling naughty words, including "the N-word" (which has become more terrible than the A-bomb in modern usage) as well as sticks, stones and occasional bricks. Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who betrayed his anti-abortion allies who believed him when he vowed never, ever, to vote for legislation to make taxpayer-funded abortion easier, even insists that his life was threatened by unidentified evildoers.
What most Democratic whiners don't understand - and what some of their betters understand very well - is that people get mad when they're ignored and punished by consequences imposed on them. Barack Obama understands it, and is contemptuous of the backlash, as anyone knows who saw the curl of his lip and heard the disdain in his voice when he celebrated the signing of Obamacare.
The Democrats know they have shoved an unwanted and despised health care "reform" down the throats of Americans, and they understand that arrogance, like elections, sometimes invites consequences. Once upon a time the liberal establishment - now the terrified whiners - didn't have to worry about consequences, since it had silenced the great unwashed. But the unwashed have found their voice, and they're not giving it up.
Reacting to progress on health care reform legislation, conservative media figures have repeatedly referred to President Obama and Democratic officials as "health care suicide bombers" and characterized their efforts to pass a bill as "a kamizake mission" and "political suicide missions."
In attacking President Obama's recent health care reform guidelines, right-wing media have leveled numerous criticisms that are at odds with their earlier attacks against Democratic health care reform legislation. This follows repeated efforts by conservative media figures to shift their criticism of health care reform by changing the definitions of "death panels" and the public option.
In anticipation of the February 25 bipartisan health care summit, numerous conservative commentators have warned that the summit is a "trap" or a "setup" for the GOP.
In an anti-gay screed, Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden wrote that "[t]here's really not very much gay about war," but that "[y]ou might think war is endless gaiety, like Mardi Gras, from this week's coverage of" Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen's February 2 testimony on repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). This is only the most recent offense in Pruden's and the Washington Times' long history of anti-gay rhetoric and smears, including Pruden's prior statements that those who support allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military want to "make the barracks safe for sodomy," and that doing so would "render [the military] inoperable for the convenience of puffs and poofs."
From Pruden's February 5 column in The Washington Times, titled, "There's nothing gay about this mission":
There's really not very much gay about war, as anybody who has seen a battlefield up close and personal will tell you. The nation's Army and Navy are organized for a simple ultimate mission, to kill people and break things.
You might think war is endless gaiety, like Mardi Gras, from this week's coverage of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings about whether to repeal the law enabling homosexuals to serve in the armed forces so long as nobody asks and they don't tell.
The military services have always discriminated against a lot of people in choosing who they want for the grim tasks and brutal duties of war. Congress and the courts have always granted the services wide latitude. The old, the halt, the lame, the one-legged man and even the man with flat feet are not allowed to serve, either. It would never have occurred to the generations who won America's wars to question such common sense. Now we have pregnant sailors and routinely send mothers of small children off to do the work of men, so why not oblige men who look upon other men with lust?
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified they were ready to welcome "open" gays into the ranks just as soon as Congress says it's OK, but neither man wanted to talk much about why many of their military colleagues think this would not be a good idea. More than a thousand retired generals and admirals, no longer at the mercy of the president or the bureaucracy, have signed a letter saying so.
Adm. Mullen wanted to talk mostly about how he's not like the homophobes who resist introducing confusion and uncertainty into the ranks. Navies once took small boys aboard ship as cabin boys to make life pleasant for the officers, and that seemed to work out all right. So what's the big deal?