Rogue Fact: Palin suggests "no other candidate" subjected to scrutiny "about their hair, makeup, or clothes"


Sarah Palin writes in her memoir that after it was reported that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 "to clothe and accessorize" Palin and her family, "many wondered at the same time why no other candidates or their spouses were being asked a thing about their hair, makeup, or clothes." However, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama were repeatedly subjected to critiques and questions about "their hair, makeup, or clothes" during the 2008 campaign.

Palin: "[M]any wondered at the same time why no other candidates or their spouses were being asked a thing about their hair, makeup, or clothes"

From Pages 314 - 315 of Going Rogue: An American Life:

The first wardrobe story hit on October 22: "RNC Shells Out $150K for Palin Fashion." The [Politico] headline was highly misleading, as was the article itself, which said that according to campaign financial disclosures, the McCain campaign had spent $150,000 "to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family."


I didn't care so much about the petty potshots because I knew they weren't true, and people who knew me laughed out loud when they read the "diva" accusations. But my family was made to look like a herd of hillbillies who had come to the big city and started living high on the hog, and that hurt me for them. My family is frugal. We clip coupons. We shop at Costco. We buy diapers in bulk and generic peanut butter. We don't have full-time nannies or housekeepers or drivers. So the portrayal of my family as wasting other people's money on clothes was a false one. And many wondered at the same time why no other candidates or their spouses were being asked a thing about their hair, makeup, or clothes.

Politico article Palin cited contradicts her "no other candidate" claim

Politico: "The business of primping and dressing on the campaign trail has become fraught with political risk in recent years." The same Politico article Palin referenced noted that questions have been raised about other candidates' "primping and dressing," and Politico reported that it reviewed "similar records" for Obama but found "no similar spending." From the article:

The business of primping and dressing on the campaign trail has become fraught with political risk in recent years as voters increasingly see an elite Washington out of touch with their values and lifestyles.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore took heat for changing his clothing hues. And in 2006, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was ribbed for two hair styling sessions that cost about $3,000.

Then, there was Democrat John Edwards' $400 hair cuts in 2007 and Republican McCain's $520 black leather Ferragamo shoes this year.

A review of similar records for the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee turned up no similar spending.

But all the spending by other candidates pales in comparison to the GOP outlay for the Alaska governor whose expensive, designer outfits have been the topic of fashion pages and magazines. [Politico, 10/21/08]

Edwards, Obama, Clinton and Biden were subjected to frequent scrutiny "about their hair, makeup, or clothes"

Edwards' haircuts. During the Democratic primary, the media devoted significant attention to John Edwards' "expensive" haircuts. For instance:

  • Media followed Politico in reporting on haircuts. After Politico senior political writer Ben Smith, in an April 16, 2007, blog entry, "broke" the story that Edwards had spent $800 on two haircuts the media -- including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Associated Press, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News -- seized on it. In the months after the story first surfaced, media figures on NBC and MSNBC repeatedly brought up the haircuts.
  • MSNBC and Fox offered more coverage of haircuts than GOP senator's call for "new strategy" in Iraq. On July 5, 2007, MSNBC and Fox News devoted significantly more time during their late-afternoon political and prime-time news programs to covering a July 5 Washington Post report on Edwards' haircuts than they did to covering then-Sen. Pete Domenici's (R-NM) July 5 press conference on the Iraq war, at which he called for "a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations." Between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on July 5, MSNBC devoted approximately 15 minutes, 28 seconds to the Edwards story and only 1 minute, 20 seconds to Domenici. Further, Fox News devoted approximately 16 minutes, 25 seconds to the Edwards story during that same time period, and only 1 minute, 40 seconds to Domenici.
  • Haircut became a presidential debate topic. Edwards' haircut was brought up by moderators in two 2007 Democratic presidential debates.
  • Washington Post "Front-runners" packaged obsessed with haircut. In its "Front-runners" package on December 11, 2007, The Washington Post published four pieces that each highlighted the cost or "expensive" nature of Edwards' haircuts.
  • Hannity linked to war on terror. On May 24, 2007, Fox News' Sean Hannity suggested that Edwards' "primping" is evidence that he does not "understand the nature of the battle in the war that's being waged against us."

    Obama. During the campaign, Obama was the subject of critiques and attacks about his clothing:

    • Purported lack of patriotic clothing. In one of the pieces comprising The Washington Post's December 14, 2007, "Front-runners" profile of Obama, Post fashion editor Robin Givhan wrote: "One of the most distinctive elements of Barack Obama's public style comes down to what he so often is not wearing: patriotism on his sleeve." Givhan continued: "Whether he is speaking at a campaign rally, attending a fish fry or debating his Democratic challengers, he comes across as the candidate least willing to drape himself in the usual symbols of nationalism and politics. No flag pin on the lapel. No hand on heart during the national anthem. And he generally shuns bold red ties." Givhan offered no explanation as to how a "bold red tie" is a "usual symbol[] of nationalism and politics," or how Obama's alleged avoidance of "bold red ties" constitutes a statement on patriotism.
    • Obama dressed in Somali clothing. During the campaign, a photograph of Obama dressed in traditional Somali clothing was posted on the Drudge Report. On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Rush Limbaugh claimed Obama "look[ed] like Ayman Zawahiri" in the photo. Clear Channel radio host Dan Caplis likened the clothing to "the kind of garb you often see Osama bin Laden in" and to "Somali warlord garb."
    • Debate question: "I want to know why you don't" wear a flag pin. During the April 16, 2008, presidential debate on ABC, a questioner asked via videotape: "Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't." Before Obama answered, moderator and ABC anchor Charlie Gibson explained, "Just to add to that, I noticed you put one on yesterday. But -- you've talked about this before, but it comes up again and again when we talk to voters. And as you may know, it is all over the Internet." Obama was frequently attacked and critiqued over the flag pin and purported "patriotism problems."

    Clinton. Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton was the frequent target of critiques about her clothing:

    • Post discusses Clinton's neckline. In a July 20, 2007, article headlined "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory," Givhan wrote that "[t]here was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton." Givhan further asserted that Clinton's look was "unnerving" and claimed: "The last time Clinton wore anything that was remotely sexy in a public setting surely must have been more than a decade ago." Several media outlets picked up the story, including MSNBC and CNN.
    • Fox News links Clinton's "bright colors" to "likability problem." On the May 9, 2007, edition of Fox News' Special Report, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron claimed that Clinton adopted an uncharacteristic wardrobe and sunny expression in order to combat her "likability problem." Cameron said: "Wearing bright colors, smiling constantly, as if to deal with what polls say is a likability problem, she has surged 10 points since the Democratic debate in three new polls: USA Today/Gallup, CNN, and Rasmussen."
    • Debate question: "diamonds or pearls?" On CNN's broadcast of the November 15, 2007, Democratic presidential primary debate in Las Vegas, one questioner said, "And my question is for Senator Clinton. This is a fun question for you. Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?" As The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder first reported, the questioner wrote on her MySpace page that she had originally prepared two questions, but CNN insisted she "ask the frilly question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository." On CNN, Time national political correspondent Karen Tumulty called it "the stupidest question of the night."

    Biden. Biden's hair was frequently a topic among journalists. For instance:

    • The Politico wrote on August 24, 2008, that Biden "has taken steps to pre-empt baldness. The most common hypothesis is that he received a hair transplant, where follicles from the bushier back of the head are grafted onto fading spots closer to the front of the dome." Politico also took a "quick Politico survey of stylists and hair transplant surgeons" to discuss Biden's hair.
    • The National Review's Denis Boyles wrote on August 26, 2008, that the "selection of Joe Biden, the oldest functioning white liberal senator with a foreign policy background who is Catholic with hair-plugs in the Democratic party, must have come as quite a shock to many people."
    • Conservative columnist Debbie Schlussel wrote on August 25, 2008, that "[t]here is no doubt he had hair transplants. The guy is wearing Barbie's hair."
    • During the October 3, 2008, edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Ann Coulter said that "Biden is so out of his mind. He is Lyndon LaRouche with hair plugs at this point."
    • An October 26, 2008, New York Post article about horror movies mentioned the "Real-life scare" of "Joe Biden's hair plugs."
    • In an October 29, 2008, discussion (retrieved from Nexis) on NBC's Today about how "clothing has somehow become part of both campaigns," Newsweek contributing editor Julia Reed said that "nobody in my generation can look at Joe Biden and forget -- I mean, and not remember his hair plugs. I mean, you know, it's not just about the women, let's face it. I mean, John Kerry got Botox to like -- to sort of fix his craggy forehead. I mean, the men are just as obsessed for good reason because people really do care about how these people look. ... It's hypocritical to say we don't."
    Sarah Palin
    Going Rogue: An American Life
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