Right-wing media throw sexist tropes at Kamala Harris’ laugh

During Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) interview with CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell on 60 Minutes, the Democratic vice presidential nominee laughed before answering a question about whether she had a “socialist or progressive perspective.” Right-wing media saw the exchange as an opportunity to trot out an old sexist attack against the sound of women’s voices, which is continually used as a supposed stumbling block for women candidates.

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Citation From the October 25, 2020, edition of CBS News’ 60 Minutes

And while some applauded Harris’ laughter as a “perfect reset” of the absurdity of O’Donnell’s question, other right-wing voices saw an opportunity to dredge up a trove of misogynistic language.

  • Right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro called Harris’ laughter an “insane Joker laugh,” saying during an appearance Monday on Fox & Friends: “I would love to play poker with Kamala Harris, because she has the most obvious tell in the history of politics — which is if she’s asked a question she does not want to answer, she breaks into that insane Joker laugh.”
  • On Fox’s panel show The Five, co-host Jesse Watters, who proclaimed himself to be “an expert in human behavior,” said: “The cackle is a defense mechanism, and it's used to buy time and to create comfort when there's no comfort that actually exists.”
  • Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his radio show: “It was funny, the puffball interview Norah O'Donnell gave on 60 Minutes. It was unwatchable. And that weird laugh of Kamala Harris. ‘Are you a socialist?’ ‘Ha, ha, ha , ha.’ I mean, it's bizarre.” 
  • On the Monday edition of his radio show, Fox News host Mark Levin declared: “That cackling laugh is very annoying to me. It's like Hillary Clinton-esque. It's a nervous laugh. It's a laugh when somebody's trying to dodge. But it is very, very annoying to me.” He also falsely claimed, “Notice, she didn't answer the question. She did not answer the question.”
  • Brent Scher, the executive editor of the right-wing Free Beacon, boasted on Twitter that his site was “all over” Harris’ “laughing problem” way back in February 2019, when she first launched her bid for president.

And reflecting this right-wing media milieu, President Donald Trump declared at a campaign rally on Monday, “She kept laughing. I said, ‘Is there something wrong with her, too?’” — and Trump’s own line was in turn picked up in the New York Post.