Discussing Sen. Hillary Clinton's comments regarding sexism in the media's coverage of her presidential campaign, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin referred to a New York Times column that “talked about some of the humor in the campaign, and the punch line was a line that was -- that Hillary Clinton was a 'white bitch.' ” CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos asserted, “And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate.”
UPDATE: Castellanos apologizes
Discussing Sen. Hillary Clinton's comments regarding sexism in the media's coverage of her presidential campaign, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted on the May 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room that "[t]here was a column in The New York Times not too long ago where it talked about some of the humor in the campaign, and the punch line was a line that was -- that Hillary Clinton was a 'white bitch.' " Moments later, as TPM Media reporter-blogger Greg Sargent noted, CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos interrupted, asserting, “And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate,” adding of Clinton, "[S]he is a tough -- that tough lady, tough in politics, that's been her great strength. But let's face it, she can be a very abrasive, aggressive, irritating person, and a lot of voters, I think, see her that way."
CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger responded: “Yeah, but a lot of voters don't, you know.” Castellanos interjected: “It doesn't have to be unanimous.” Later in the conversation, Castellanos asserted that Clinton is “very good at playing the professional victim until she gets up closely ... and then can put a knife in your ribs. ... [T]here is no weakness in this lady.” He also said: “I have a problem with Hillary Clinton playing victim when it's convenient. I have a problem -- it's not a problem at all when she's doing well. It's not a problem. But the minute she's trapped in the corner, it doesn't look like the math adds up, she doesn't look like she has her way to get -- then all of a sudden, she's the ... poor, weak ... cookie-baking lady.”
On the May 13 edition of The Situation Room, Castellanos suggested that if Clinton were Sen. Barack Obama's vice president, “I think Barack Obama would have to hire a food tester ... because these are the most politically ambitious people on the scene in America today.” Castellanos made his “food tester” remarks one week after falsely linking the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Iraq during CNN's May 6 coverage of returns from the Democratic primaries.
As Media Matters for America noted, Castellanos created the racially charged "Hands" advertisement, which ran on behalf of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) during his 1990 re-election campaign against Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
In his May 20 post on TPM Election Central, Sargent wrote of Castellanos' May 20 comments: “Hard to imagine that CNN would invite this gallant and chivalrous fellow back on the air, isn't it...”
The New York Times reported on May 12 that Castellanos is “now an outside adviser to McCain's advertising team.”
From the May 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
CLINTON [audio clip]: The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable or at least more accepted. And I think there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism, when and if it ever raises its ugly head. But it does seem as though the press, at least, is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments and reactions of people who are nothing but misogynists.
BLITZER: Let's discuss these provocative words from Senator Clinton with the best political team on television. Gloria, what do you think?
BORGER: Well, I think that Hillary Clinton probably -- I don't know what she's referring to, but I do think that if she says that there's incredible sexism, a woman knows it when she sees it. And so I'm sure there is.
However, I don't think it's smart or good or right, right now, to be talking about that, because she's the iron lady. She's the tough fighter. She's the one who's continuing. And you can't be both the iron lady and the one who feels besieged at the same time. I think it's probably not the right tone she wants to strike now. I'm not doubting what she feels in her head about the way she's been attacked.
BLITZER: Because a lot of the so-called pundits have said racism, you can -- you know when there's racism. Sexism --
BORGER: You know when there's --
BLITZER: -- it's a little bit more difficult to discern.
BRAZILE: Well, as a black and a woman, I've seen them both, Wolf. And, yes, there's a -- there's undercurrents of racism and sexism in every presidential campaign. And, clearly, in this historic election season, with two unconventional candidates, we've seen subtle forms of racism as well as sexism, but I don't think that that defines Senator Clinton's candidacy, nor Senator Obama.
They have been two exceptional candidates. That's why they're in the finals. They're in the finals because they are the very best. And I think to blame their standing right now in the polls among delegates on racism or sexism will not give credit to the American people, who have put these two unique human beings in the position of becoming the next president of the United States.
TOOBIN: I think Hillary Clinton is dead right. There was a column in The New York Times not too long ago where it talked about some of the humor in the campaign, and the punch line was a line that was -- that Hillary Clinton was a “white bitch.” You couldn't say that. I mean, that is acceptable about a woman. You couldn't --
TOOBIN: -- say the equivalent thing about a man, and I mean about a black person. And I think it's appalling, but I think she's absolutely right that there has --
CASTELLANOS: By the way, though --
TOOBIN: -- been a level of sexism --
BLITZER: Let Alex go.
TOOBIN: -- that is not --
CASTELLANOS: If I can -- if I can --
CASTELLANOS: If I can disagree, I think you're dead wrong. She's dead wrong. And I think she thinks her problem is she's a woman; her problem is she's Hillary Clinton. And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate. So, it's --
TOOBIN: Well --
CASTELLANOS: She is -- she could -- she is a tough -- that tough lady, tough in politics, that's been her great strength. But let's face it, she can be a very abrasive, aggressive, irritating person, and a lot of voters, I think, see her that way.
TOOBIN: Well, I --
BORGER: Yeah, but a lot of voters don't, you know. And you can't -- are you --
CASTELLANOS: It doesn't have to be unanimous.
BORGER: Look, I mean, she can't --
CASTELLANOS: But, look --
BORGER: -- blame --
CASTELLANOS: -- she's very good at playing the professional victim until she gets up closely --
CASTELLANOS: -- and then can put a knife in your ribs.
TOOBIN: I don't -- I don't think she's saying --
CASTELLANOS: She is -- there is no weakness in this lady.
TOOBIN: I don't think she's saying that the whole problem with her campaign is due to sexism.
BORGER: Right. She can't say that.
TOOBIN: And it isn't. Clearly, she had many problems in this campaign. But was there sexism, and is there sexism, in the coverage of her? You bet.
BRAZILE: Absolutely. No one would disagree with that. But I would hope --
TOOBIN: Well, Alex does.
BRAZILE: Well -- but Alex has a problem with this woman. But, clearly, I don't think that's the issue. I think Senator Clinton has been able to break so many barriers, but at the same time, she has faced some unique hurdles and a double standard that --
CASTELLANOS: I don't --
BRAZILE: -- applies to women in leadership positions.
CASTELLANOS: I have a problem -- I have a problem with Hillary Clinton playing victim when it's convenient. I have a problem -- it's not a problem at all when she's doing well. It's not a problem. But the minute she's trapped in the corner, it doesn't look like the math adds up, she doesn't look like she has her way to get -- then all of a sudden, she's the --
BORGER: But here's the thing --
CASTELLANOS: -- poor, weak --
BORGER: Here's the thing -- but we don't know --
CASTELLANOS: -- cookie-baking lady.
BORGER: But what we don't know about this interview is whether she's saying I have lost in these states, or I didn't do well enough, because there was sexism out there and that was held against me. I doubt she's saying that. What she's saying is, “Look, there are some people who treated me differently because I'm a woman. I think every woman in America understands that that occurs.”
BLITZER: Let me just -- let me just --
BORGER: You know --
BLITZER: Let me just move to one quick subject, because we're almost out of time.