David Shuster | Media Matters for America

David Shuster

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  • Media Return To Deriding Hillary Clinton's Laugh

    "The Cackle," "A Record Scratch," And Other Tired Attacks From The Debate

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Clinton and Sanders at the October 13 debate

    Multiple media figures derided Hillary Clinton's laugh during the first Democratic presidential debate, calling it a "cackle" and "a record scratch." During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton's laughter was repeatedly attacked, despite criticism that such attacks were rooted in sexism.

    During the October 13 CNN debate in Las Vegas, Clinton laughed after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended her from repeated questions about her use of private email by criticizing the media for fixating on the issue and saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Clinton and Sanders shook hands as the crowd applauded.

    The moment has been described by several outlets as a highlight of the night.  

    But several media figures initially focused on Clinton's laugh. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted, "oh god the Clinton laugh is out," while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "THE CLINTON LAUGH," and Fox's Sean Hannity tweeted "Omg that laugh."

    Several conservative media figures took it further, calling it a "cackle":

    Attacking Clinton's laughter was a common theme during the Democratic primary before the 2008 election. In September 2007, after Clinton appeared on several Sunday political talk shows and laughed in response to some questions, media figures spent weeks debating and mocking her laughter. Fox News led the charge, with Bill O'Reilly even discussing Clinton's laughter with a "body language expert" who deemed it "evil," and Sean Hannity calling the laugh "frightening."

    The mainstream press picked up on the attacks on Clinton's laugh, with New York Times political reporter Patrick Healy writing an article with the headline "Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign," in which he described Clinton's "hearty belly laugh" as "The Cackle," calling it "heavily caffeinated" and suggesting it may have been "programmed."

    Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith also described Clinton's laugh as her "signature cackle," while Politico correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh "sounded like it was programmed by computer."

    And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has a long history of nasty attacks on Clinton, claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a "hellish housewife" and a "nag" and more like a "wag":

    As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won't stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."

    That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.

    The list goes on: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, CNN's Jeanne Moos, and others all debated or derided Clinton's laughter during Clinton's first run for president.

    Politico's Allen said on MSNBC during all of this that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. Other outlets agreed; Jezebel called out Matthews for his "cackle" criticism and other derisive remarks, asking, "can we agree that no matter what your political allegiances, this is not the way you speak of a woman -- whether she is a senator or not?" Rachel Sklar, writing in the Huffington Post, said at the time "I keep finding sexist Hillary Clinton bashing everywhere I turn," noting that criticisms of the candidate's laughter "turn completely on the fact that she's a woman. 'The Cackle?' So would never be applied to a man. We all know it."

    Unfortunately, the criticism hasn't stopped in the intervening seven years. The Washington Free Beacon has a "Hillary Laugh Button" permanently on its site. The National Journal published in June 2014, many months prior to Clinton declaring her second bid for president, a "Comprehensive Supercut of Hillary Clinton Laughing Awkwardly With Reporters." And conservative tweet-aggregator Twitchy in August mocked "scary as hell" pens which featured "Clinton's cackling head." 

  • On CNN, Jennifer Rubin Flat-Out Lies About Obama's Benghazi Statement

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin joined the transcript truther crowd on CNN's Reliable Sources this morning, claiming that President Obama was not referring to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi when he used the term "acts of terror" in his September 12 Rose Garden statement on the attack.

    Specifically, Rubin claimed Obama's use of "acts of terror" was "not in the same paragraph with Benghazi." That is flatly untrue. The president's very next sentences were: "Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."

    Current TV host David Shuster, appearing with Rubin, tried to correct her, noting that just two sentences prior to saying "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation," the president said: "[L]ast night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi." Rubin denied this was true even though, as the transcript shows, Shuster was right:

    Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.  We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

    As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.  Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

    No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.

    Keep in mind that we're several days out from the debate at which this quibbling over "acts of terror" became an issue. Rubin has had more than enough to time to read over the transcript of Obama's remarks, and she's clearly quite familiar with what it says. That raises the question as to why she's so blatantly lying and mischaracterizing the president's words.

    The answer can be gleaned from a comment she made towards the end of the video above about the "acts of terror" flap: "I don't think this hurt Mitt Romney whatsoever. His campaign doesn't think it hurt Mitt Romney whatsoever." That lock-step synchronicity with the Romney campaign crystallizes the broadly held opinion of Rubin's increasingly embarrassing work for the Washington Post.

  • Newsbusters' Whitlock still attacking Shuster, still not making sense

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Newsbusters' Scott Whitlock is rapidly emerging as a remarkably unimpressive media critic, even by the bottom-of-the-barrel standards of the Media Research Center.

    Yesterday, Whitlock criticized MSNBC's David Shuster for asking whether the NRCC's reference to Charlie Rangel as a "Harlem Democrat" was "racially tinged." Whitlock cluelessly responded: "How is it inaccurate to refer to the Representative as a 'Harlem Democrat?' Harlem is in his district" -- ignoring the obvious question of whether the NRCC routinely refers to Members of Congress by naming a town or neighborhood in their district, or whether it reserves such treatment for towns and neighborhoods that they think can be used as pejoratives.

    Well, it turns out the NRCC doesn't regularly refer to members of Congress that way. In fact, an NRCC release that referred to Rangel as a "Harlem Democrat" didn't use that construct when discussing another New York City congressman, Michael McMahon, who was labeled a "New York Congressman" rather than a "Staten Island Congressman."

    So David Shuster defended himself, and now Scott Whitlock is back, making a fool of himself once again. Whitlock completely ignores Shuster's point that the NRCC doesn't routinely refer to members of Congress this way -- just pretends it never happened. That's a pretty good indication that Whitlock secretly knows his argument doesn't hold much water. Then, hilariously, Whitlock complains that Shuster didn't rebuke his MSNBC colleague for doing "the same thing" the NRCC did:

    Shuster, however, was silent on the fact that MSNBC reporter Luke Russert basically did the same thing. Appearing on the March 3 edition of the Ed Show, he commented on Democrats who wanted to strip the controversial Rangel of his chairmanship.

    Russert explained that these politicians are in "conservative districts, who really saw problems back home in their rural districts in the mountains being associated with a Harlem Democrat who writes the nation's tax laws who a lot of folks say is not paying their taxes." Does this mean that Luke Russert is using "racially tinged" language? Will Shuster call on his colleague to apologize?

    What's hilarious about that? Well, Russert didn't do "the same thing" the NRCC did. The NRCC repeatedly drew attention to Rangel's ties to Harlem. Russert, on the other hand, reported that some members of congress in conservative districts fear "being associated with a Harlem Democrat." Russert's reporting suggests that, to some people "Harlem" is a pejorative. Russert's report, in other words, reinforces Shuster's point -- that the NRCC appears to be using "Harlem" because it believes the word has negative connotations, at least to some people.

    Stop digging, Whitlock.