A Comprehensive Guide To Sexist Attacks On Hillary Clinton From The 2008 Campaign
With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
In Return To 2008 Form, Media Attack Clinton's Voice During Iowa Caucus Victory Speech
Commentators Complain That She “Shouts,” “Shriek[s],” “Scream[s].” Media pundits attacked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for celebrating her victory in the Iowa Caucus, claiming her tone during her speech was “unpleasant,” “angry, bitter, screaming,” and suggested that Clinton “may be hard of hearing.” [Media Matters, 2/3/16]
Huffington Post: This Criticism Is “Clearly Sexist,” As “Shouting ... Is Not Usually A Liability For Male Candidates.” Reporting on one such criticism of Clinton's voice from Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, the Huffington Post noted: “The former secretary of state has been criticized for her appearance and a perceived lack of approachability for her entire career. Much of that criticism is clearly sexist: shouting, for example, is not usually a liability for male candidates.” [Huffington Post, 2/3/16]
Questioning Clinton's Sexuality
Attacks On Clinton's Appearance
Clinton's Appearance: Cleavage Edition
Claims That Clinton's Femininity Is A Problem
Attacks On Clinton For Having Emotions
Clinton's Emotions: Crying Edition
Comparing Clinton To Violent And Sexualized Fictional Characters
Claims That Clinton Hates Men, Castrates Them
Claims That Clinton's Success Was Entirely Due To Her Husband
Note: The examples included in this report span from when Clinton declared her first run for president on January 20, 2007, to when she conceded the Democratic nomination on June 7, 2008.
Calling Clinton A “Bitch”
Conservative Columnist And NRA Board Member Ted Nugent: “Worthless Bitch” Hillary Clinton Should Ride My Machine Gun Into The Sunset. At a 2007 concert, Nugent said -- while holding a machine gun prop -- “Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I'm in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions?” [Ted Nugent, 8/21/07, via Media Matters]
Glenn Beck: Clinton A “Stereotypical Bitch.” On his radio show in March 2007, then-CNN Headline News host and ABC News commentator Glenn Beck called Clinton a “stereotypical bitch,” claiming she could not “be elected president because ... there's something about her vocal range ... it's not what she says, it's how she says it.” He added, “She is like the stereotypical -- excuse the expression, but this is the way to -- she's the stereotypical bitch, you know what I mean?” A year later Beck was confronted over his remarks on Good Morning America, where he said “I don't think I'd call her that. I hope I've never called her that. Saying, 'sounds like the stereotypical' -- probably a better word was 'nag.'” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/15/07; ABC News, Good Morning America, 5/30/08, via Media Matters]
Politico's Mike Allen Defended McCain Response To “Bitch” Question: “What Republican Voter Hasn't Thought That?” Discussing a campaign event at which a questioner asked Sen. John McCain, “How do we beat the bitch?” Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen said on CNN, "[W]hat Republican voter hasn't thought that? What voter in general hasn't thought that?" [CNN, American Morning, 11/14/07, via Media Matters]
Fox's Neil Cavuto: Clinton Was “Trying To Run Away From This Tough, Kind Of Bitchy Image.” When a guest on the Fox Business show Cavuto claimed that Clinton needed to be “tough in this race,” host Neil Cavuto responded, “if she has tried that to little avail in the campaign thus far and she's trying to run away from this tough, kind of bitchy image that her critics claim that she has, wouldn't that reinforce that image?” [Fox Business, Cavuto, 2/18/08, via Media Matters]
CNN's Castellanos On Clinton As “White Bitch”: “Some Women ... Are Named That And It's Accurate.” During a 2008 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin mentioned a New York Times column, in which “the punch line was a line that was -- that Hillary Clinton was a 'white bitch.'” (The column was by Maureen Dowd, who had written that the joke was offensive.) CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos interrupted, asserting, “And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate.” He continued, "[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." Castellanos later apologized. [CNN, The Situation Room, 5/21/08, via Media Matters]
Other media figures who referred to Clinton as a bitch, “b-word,” or “rhymes with 'rich'” during the campaign included: radio host Marc Rudov, Imus In The Morning executive producer Bernard McGuirk, and Politico's Roger Simon.
Questioning Clinton's Sexuality
Village Voice Columnist Claimed “Whisper Campaigns” Alleged Clinton's Lesbianism. The Frisky documented the history of smears about Clinton's sexuality, noting that conservative author Ed Klein first popularized the idea that Clinton was a lesbian back in 2005. After Clinton declared her candidacy in 2007, Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto claimed “whisper campaigns” alleged Clinton was involved in a lesbian relationship with a top aide, Huma Abedin. Musto suggested, according to The Frisky, that “Clinton was trying to hide her lesbian lover 'in plain sight' by hiring her on staff.” [The Frisky, 5/1/14]
Washington Times Sister Publication Asked If Clinton Was “A Lesbian.” InsightMag.com, a now-defunct online sister publication of the Washington Times, asked in a May 2007 “Washington Watch” column if Clinton had “an affair with [Bill Clinton's deputy White House counsel] Vince Foster” or “Is she a lesbian, as has also been rumored for years?” [InsightMag.com, 5/14/07, via Media Matters]
New York Daily News Confirms Clinton Isn't A Lesbian. The New York Daily News hyped the “news” in September 2007 that Clinton has “publicly announced that she is not a lesbian,” quoting an interview Clinton gave with The Advocate:
Sean Kennedy, the gay magazine's news and features editor, asked the presidential candidate, “How do you respond to the occasional rumor that you're a lesbian?”
“People say a lot of things about me, so I really don't pay any attention to it,” Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) replied.
“It's not true, but it is something that I have no control over. People will say what they want to say.”
Kennedy told the Daily News he's convinced. “I 100% believe she's a straight, heterosexual woman,” he said. [New York Daily News, 9/21/07]
Accuracy In Media's Cliff Kincaid On Clinton's “Alleged Lesbianism”: “As Explosive As Senator Barack Obama's Mysterious Upbringing As A Muslim.” Cliff Kincaid, editor and writer at right-wing media “watchdog” organization Accuracy in Media, wrote in 2007 that the “sex scandal the media won't touch involves Senator Hillary Clinton's alleged lesbianism.” Kincaid later added: “This matter is as explosive as Senator Barack Obama's mysterious upbringing as a Muslim in Indonesia and his quick conversion to Christianity.” [Media Matters, 5/24/07]
Radio Host: “A Lot Of Americans” Probably Have Wondered If Clinton “Is Actually Lesbian.” Radio host “Gunny” Bob Newman repeatedly speculated on Clinton's sexuality on his Newsradio 850 KOA show, asking his listeners in one instance, “would you be 100 percent surprised if Hillary said she's bisexual? I would not.” On another occasion, Newman claimed that “a lot of Americans” probably have wondered if “Hillary is a switch hitter” or “is actually lesbian,” saying it wouldn't “bother [him] greatly” if Clinton were, but “it's fun speculating.” [Newsradio 850 KOA, The Gunny Bob Show, 3/8/07, via Media Matters]
Attacks On Clinton's Appearance
Glenn Beck Mimed Clinton Shaving Her Face. On Glenn Beck's former CNN Headline News show, a guest referred to senators “who see a president in the mirror when they shave in the morning.” Beck responded by asking, “Does that include Hillary? Does she shave? Does she -- I mean, she -- she shaves her legs. I'm just saying.” Later, while jutting out his lower jaw and miming shaving his face, Beck said, “I can see her in there 'Gimme a pack of Kool cigarettes, will ya?'” [CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck, 12/17/07, via Media Matters]
Fox Suggested Clinton Was Wearing Bright Colors To Solve Her “Likability Problem.” During a May 2007 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron claimed that Clinton had adopted an uncharacteristic wardrobe and sunny expression on the campaign trail in order to benefit politically, saying, “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 fact, Clinton had worn bright-colored clothing and smiled in numerous prior appearances. [Media Matters, 5/10/07]
Rush Limbaugh: “Will Americans Want To Watch A Woman Get Older Before Their Eyes On A Daily Basis?” On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh jumped off a picture of Clinton that had appeared on the Drudge Report with the caption, “The Toll of a Campaign” to claim that “Americans are addicted to physical perfection” and asked, “Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she's getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 12/17/07]
Radio Host Suggests Clinton Had Botox. On a June 2007 broadcast of San Francisco radio station KSFO's The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program, Rodgers asked if “Hillary's starting to wear a little bit thin” even “with her facelift or Botox or whatever she had done.” [KSFO, The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program, 6/12/07, via Media Matters]
Right-Wing Pundit Debbie Schlussel Posted “Valentines” That Read “Cankles 4 Prez,” In a February 2008 on her website, debbieschlussel.com, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel posted “Valentines” in the form of candy hearts that read, “hillary rodham cankles '08,” “cankles 4 prez,” “The Bitch is BAAACK '08,” and “Pimp My Chelsea.” [Media Matters, 2/13/08]
Clinton's Appearance: Cleavage Edition
Wash. Post Published Article On Clinton's “Cleavage.” In a July 2007 Washington Post Style section article headlined “Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory,” staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Robin Givhan wrote that “There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton.” Givhan extensively described Clinton's neckline, calling Clinton's look “unnerving,” and asserted "[t]he last time Clinton wore anything that was remotely sexy in a public setting surely must have been more than a decade ago." Givhan concluded, "[I]t was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!" [The Washington Post, 7/20/07, via Media Matters]
MSNBC Devoted Six Segments In One Day To Clinton's Cleavage. Ten days after the Washington Post article was published, MSNBC devoted six separate segments (a total of 23 minutes and 42 seconds of coverage) to discussing Clinton's “cleavage.” In one segment, then-host Amy Robach compared Clinton's cleavage to that of Britain's home secretary, Jacqui Smith. In another, host Mika Brzezinski said, “I feel like women who are sort of in high-profile positions can't win. You know? It's not like she's strutting around in a bikini. It was just a blouse. It was a blouse.” The same day, CNN devoted almost four minutes of coverage to the neckline story; Fox devoted none. [Media Matters, 7/31/07]
CNBC's Harwood: Clinton Knew “What She Was Communicating By Her Dress.” During a July 2007 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood declared his intent to “defend” the Washington Post article on Clinton's cleavage, saying “When you look at the calculation that goes into everything that Hillary Clinton does, for her to argue that she was not aware of what she was communicating by her dress is like Barry Bonds saying he thought he was rubbing down with flaxseed oil.” [NBC, Meet The Press, 7/29/07, via Media Matters]
Wash. Post Columnists Distanced Themselves From Cleavage Coverage. The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus and Dana Milbank distanced themselves from Givhan's article on Clinton's cleavage, with Marcus noting that “sometimes a V-neck top is only a V-neck top” and Milbank joking that it was better for voters to learn about the presidential candidate's position on foreign policy, not “exactly where her neckline is.” [The Washington Post, 7/25/07; MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 7/26/07, via Media Matters]
Claims That Clinton's Femininity Is A Problem
Conservative Author Marc Rudov On “The Downside” Of A Female President: “You Mean Besides The PMS And The Mood Swings, Right?” When Fox host Bill O'Reilly asked in 2008, “What is the downside of having a woman become the president of the United States?” author Marc Rudov's initial response was, “You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings, right?” After O'Reilly asserted that “guys have mood swings” and implored Rudov to “be fair,” Rudov said, “Well, you know, I'm joking. Of course, the main problem I have is if a woman has a female agenda ... if we take Hillary Clinton, she specifically does have a female agenda.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 3/10/08, via Media Matters]
In Wash. Post, Charlotte Allen Used Clinton To Argue Women Are “Inferior.” Independent Women's Forum contributor Charlotte Allen suggested in a Washington Post article that women are the “weaker sex,” the “stupid sex,” the “dumber sex,” and inferior. Using Clinton as an example, Allen claimed her campaign had been “marred by every stereotypical flaw of the female sex.” Allen criticized Clinton for having “wept” on the campaign trail, being “dependent” on her husband, and for having a “nearly all-female staff,” despite the fact that none of those allegations were true. [The Washington Post, 3/2/08, via Media Matters]
MSNBC's Chris Matthews Claimed Clinton Was “Advertising Her Sisterhood ... Does It Get In The Way?” MSNBC host Chris Matthews claimed in 2007 “every scene you see with Hillary is a lunch, and it's all women. She is advertising her sisterhood. Is that something she can use to help sell herself as a future strong person defending this country, or does it get in the way?” Later in the segment, then-Time managing editor Richard Stengel asked Matthews, “What are you suggesting by asking does this diminish her as a commander in chief by being surrounded by women?” Matthews replied: “No, the idea that it -- well, let me just get historic. We've never had a woman commander in chief.” [NBC, Chris Matthews Show, 6/24/07, via Media Matters]
NBC's Howard Fineman: Clinton Was Trying To Prove That “Even Though She's A Woman ... She Can Be Tough On Defense, She's Willing To Drop The Bombs, She's Not Abandoning The Troops.” NBC analyst Howard Fineman claimed in 2007 that the top contenders for the Democratic primary were all “trying to prove as much what they're not as what they are. Hillary Clinton's trying to prove that even though she wrote the book, It Takes a Village, and even though she's a woman and even though she's from New York, she can be tough on defense, she's willing to drop the bombs, she's not abandoning the troops. OK.” Fineman did not explain how being a woman was relevant to Clinton's record on national security. [NBC, The Chris Matthews Show, 1/21/07, via Media Matters]
Bloomberg Columnist Margaret Carlson: Clinton Is “Big Mama,” A “Domineering Mother.” Discussing a YouTube video which portrayed Clinton as a Big Brother-type figure, MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked his guests, “Is she Big Brother?” In response, Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson said on MSNBC that Clinton was “big mama” and likened Clinton to a “domineering mother.” Host Chris Matthews, who had previously said Clinton had a “scolding manner in terms of her public speaking,” added, “She's going to tell us what to do.” [MSNBC, Hardball, 3/21/07, via Media Matters]
Then-MSNBC Host Tucker Carlson: Does Clinton Have “An Unfair Advantage ... Because Of Her Sex?” On an April 2007 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson asked Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson, “We were talking earlier about the difficulty the other candidates face in addressing and maybe even going after Senator Clinton on the stage. It does seem like all who attack Hillary Clinton come out the worse for it. Do you think that's true, and is it an unfair advantage she has because of her sex, do you think?” Wolfson responded, “I don't think it has anything to do with her gender.” [MSNBC, Tucker, 4/26/07, via Media Matters]
Claims That Clinton Is Manly
WSJ's Peggy Noonan: Clinton “Has To Prove She's A Woman.” In a June 2007 Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan claimed that Clinton “doesn't have to prove she's a man. She has to prove she's a woman ... She has to prove she has normal human warmth, a normal amount of give, of good nature, that she is not, at bottom, grimly combative and rather dark.” In a subsequent column, Noonan claimed Clinton's “problem is not her sex, as she and her campaign pretend. That she is a woman is a boon to her, a source of latent power. But to make it work, she has to seem like a woman” (emphasis in original). [Media Matters, 10/19/07]
NYT's Maureen Dowd Repeatedly Called Clinton “The Man,” “The Manliest Candidate.” A Media Matters review of Maureen Dowd's New York Times columns between January 1, 2007, and June 8, 2008, revealed that Dowd frequently characterized Clinton as masculine, while describing other Democratic candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards as feminine. Dowd called Clinton “The Man,” described her political message as “man-tailored with a dash of pink femininity,” claimed Clinton was “the manliest candidate among the Democrats,” and called her a “debate dominatrix.” [Media Matters, 6/10/08]
Attacks On Clinton's Voice
Wash. Post's Achenbach: Clinton Needs A “Shock Collar So That Aides Can Zap Her When She Starts To Get Screechy.” In a January 2008 blog post which also appeared in the print edition of The Washington Post, writer Joel Achenbach claimed that Hillary Clinton “needs a radio-controlled shock collar so that aides can zap her when she starts to get screechy.” Describing her performance during a primary debate, Achenbach went on to claim that “She came perilously close to going on a tirade. Volume is critical in these things.” [The Washington Post, 1/7/07, via Media Matters]
Fox News Graphic: “Clinton's 'Nagging Voice' Is Reason She Lost Male Vote.” On Fox News' Your World, author Marc Rudov claimed “When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, 'Take off for the future.' And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, 'Take out the garbage.'” During his appearance on the show, on-screen text read: “Rudov: Clinton's 'nagging voice' is reason she lost male vote.” [Fox News, Your World, 1/4/08, via Media Matters]
Tucker Carlson: “Could You Actually Live In This Country For Eight Years Having To Listen To Her Voice?” On his former MSNBC show Tucker, host Tucker Carlson asked “Could you actually live in this country for eight years having to listen to her voice?” When former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) responded that “of course” he could live in the United States with Clinton as president, Carlson responded: “You're a man of steel.” [MSNBC, Tucker, 5/24/07, via Media Matters]
Glenn Beck: “Hillary's Voice Makes Angels Cry. ... Brace Yourself, Men Of America.” While still working at CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck aired clips of Hillary Clinton speaking and claimed her voice “makes angels cry,” warning, “brace yourself, men of America.” After airing one clip, Beck said, “Oh, my good God. Danny [Bonaduce] -- will you kill yourself [after] four years of that? I agreed with everything she just said, but I just want to kill myself.” At the end of the segment, Beck asked Bonaduce if he'd prefer to listen to another clip of Clinton speaking or feel “purple monkeys crawling all over [his] body, and they're covered in spiders.” Bonaduce replied that the monkeys with spiders was “too fair of an offer.” [CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck, 3/29/07, via Media Matters]
Other media figures who criticized Clinton's voice included: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, New-Press columnist Curt Dale, Time's Joe Klein, Washington Post's Kathleen Parker, the National Journal, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, radio host Roe Conn, radio host Craig Silverman, and then-MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
Attacks On Clinton's Laugh
Fox News Discusses Clinton's “Evil Laughter;” Sean Hannity Finds It “Frightening.” 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 discussing Clinton's laughter with a “body language expert” who deemed it “evil,” and Sean Hannity calling the laugh “frightening.” [Media Matters, 10/3/07; Media Matters, 10/10/07]
New York Times Called Clinton's Laugh “The Cackle.” 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.” [The New York Times, 9/28/07; Media Matters, 10/10/07]
Politico Called Clinton's Laugh Her “Signature Cackle” And “Programmed.” Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith described Clinton's laugh as her “signature cackle,” while then-Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh “sounded like it was programmed by computer.” Mike Allen later said on MSNBC that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. [Politico, 9/23/07; Politico, 9/30/07, via Media Matters; MSNBC, Hardball, 10/1/07, via Media Matters]
Fox & Friends Compared “Dean Scream” To Clinton “Cackle.” Fox News' Fox & Friends aired an audio clip of former presidential candidate Howard Dean's exclamation during his 2004 Iowa presidential primary concession speech. After co-host Steve Doocy replied, “That's like a cackle,” Fox aired part of an audio clip of Clinton laughing from Fox News Sunday. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/9/07, via Media Matters]
NYT's Maureen Dowd: Clinton's Laugh Takes Her “From Nag To Wag.” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a “hellish housewife” 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 New York Times, 9/30/07]
Other media figures who debated or mocked Clinton's laughter included: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Fox's Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, and CNN's Jeanne Moos.
Attacks On Clinton For Having Emotions
Larry Kudlow: Clinton's “Mood Swings” Mean She “Could Be Depressed,” “Taking Meds.” In a National Review Online blog post, then-CNBC host Larry Kudlow claimed that Clinton had displayed “erratic, roller-coaster, mood swings these past few weeks,” writing, “Now I'm no psychiatrist, far from it, but I think a simple answer is that Senator Clinton could be depressed.” He added, “Maybe Hillary's taking meds, but they're just not working for her? Could that be why she's always attacking Big Pharma?” [National Review Online, 2/25/08, via Media Matters]
NYT's Maureen Dowd Suggested Clinton Had Multiple Personality Disorder. In a February 2008 Times column, Maureen Dowd claimed that Clinton “has turned into Sybil,” an apparent reference to a book and movie about a woman who developed multiple personality disorder after being severely abused as a child. Dowd added:
After saying she found her “voice” in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil. We've had Experienced Hillary, Soft Hillary, Hard Hillary, Misty Hillary, Sarcastic Hillary, Joined-at-the-Hip-to-Bill Hillary, Her-Own-Person-Who-Just-Happens-to-Be-Married-to-a-Former-President Hillary, It's-My-Turn Hillary, Cuddly Hillary, Let's-Get-Down-in-the-Dirt-and-Fight-Like-Dogs Hillary.
Just as in the White House, when her cascading images and hairstyles became dizzying and unsettling, suggesting that the first lady woke up every day struggling to create a persona, now she seems to think there is a political solution to her problem. If she can only change this or that about her persona, or tear down this or that about Obama's. But the whirlwind of changes and charges gets wearing. [The New York Times, 2/27/08, via Media Matters]
New York Daily News' Stanley Crouch: Clinton Seems “Hysterical.” The New York Daily News' Stanley Crouch claimed that while Clinton was charismatic in person, on television she seemed:
...by turns icy, contrived, hysterical, sentimental, bitter, manipulative and self-righteous. In short, dehumanized by the mysterious dictates of technology, she takes on qualities that most people hate.
Perhaps because of the way camera lights hit the planes of her face and the tinny distortions of her voice imposed by television microphones, something apparently evil happens. [New York Daily News, 3/30/08]
Then-CNN Commentator Jack Cafferty: Clinton Resembled "Someone With Multiple Personality Disorder." On a February 2008 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, commentator Jack Cafferty claimed Clinton resembled “someone with multiple personality disorder,” asking about the debates, “which Hillary Clinton's going to show up?”:
Hillary Clinton has her work cut out for her when it comes to that debate tonight in Cleveland, Ohio. If she has any hope of closing the gap on front-runner Barack Obama next Tuesday in Texas and Ohio, Clinton's got to deliver a big night tonight, a really big night.
The question is, which Hillary Clinton's going to show up? In the last few days, we've just about seen it all. At Thursday's debate in Austin, Texas, Clinton showed a softer side, saying that she was honored to be there with Barack Obama. A couple of days later, she morphed into a scolding mother, talking down to a child, waving her finger and saying, “Shame on you, Barack Obama.” She called him out, demanding that he meet her in Ohio for a debate on his tactics and behavior in the campaign.
She wasn't finished. Resembling someone with multiple personality disorder, last Sunday, Clinton mocked Obama, derided his calls for unity. She made fun of him, as though his 11 straight victories in the primaries meant nothing. [CNN, The Situation Room, 2/26/08, via Media Matters]
Republican Author Bay Buchanan Noted She's Not “A Medical Professional,” But Suggested Clinton Had A “Pathology” Anyway. Republican author Bay Buchanan wrote in her book The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton that Clinton was defined by a “debilitating” “lack of confidence and self-esteem,” adding that “after days of research, I was led to a fascinating field of study involving narcissistic personality style.” Referring to an endnote that apparently did not exist in the book, Buchanan purported to offer “symptoms of the related disorder”:
As I studied Hillary from her early years through her days as First Lady, it became more and more evident that extreme insecurity is a dominant personality trait. Not being a medical professional, I decided to look more deeply into the condition. After days of research, I was led to a fascinating field of study involving narcissistic personality style. The symptoms of the related disorder were intriguing. I have included them in an endnote. [cite 74] I pass no judgment as to whether this shoe fits the Lady Hillary.
Deep insecurity and its related symptoms, in and of itself, in no way precludes Hillary from consideration for the presidency or any other position of responsibility. It is not the insecurity that is the problem. For example, John Adams had difficulty with this condition and others and surely proved himself to be a remarkable leader. [cite 75]
So, you might ask, why raise it in the case of Hillary? Because she has allowed a chronic lack of confidence and self-esteem to define her -- rather than rise above the challenge, Hillary has been consumed by it. One simply cannot study Hillary without understanding how debilitating this trait has been to her development as a human being. That being said, it is no excuse for her behavior, rather it is an explanation.
Whether it is a pathology that makes Hillary do what she does or just good ol' God-given free will, matters little. What is important, however, is how her pattern of behavior offers a window to her heart. That is what should be on the minds of Americans should Hillary be on the ballot in November 2008. [Regnery Publishing, The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, 5/16/07, via Media Matters]
Clinton's Emotions: Crying Edition
Newsweek's Holly Bailey: Clinton Showing Emotion Was Her “Most Famous Moment Of Trying To Be Like An Average Human Being.” During a campaign event in New Hampshire in January 2008, Clinton's voice broke while discussing why she wanted to become president. She was attacked for this for months, with many in the media accusing her of intentionally pretending to cry in order to gain sympathy. On MSNBC Live, then-Newsweek reporter Holly Bailey accused Clinton of crying in order to seem like “an average human being ... I mean, that's trying to appeal to average people.” [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 3/31/08, via Media Matters]
Fox's Dick Morris Questioned Clinton's National Security Credentials Because She Showed Emotion. After Clinton's voice broke at the New Hampshire campaign event, then-Fox News contributor Dick Morris said “I believe that there could well come a time when there is such a serious threat to the United States that she breaks down like that,” adding, “I don't think she ought to be president.” In response to Morris' comment, Fox's Alan Colmes noted that presidential candidate Mitt Romney had also cried during a media appearance; Morris claimed that was different, because Romney supposedly didn't cry “in sympathy for himself.” [Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 1/7/08, via Media Matters]
Bill Kristol: Clinton Won NH Primary Because “She Pretended To Cry; The Women Liked It.” Appearing on Fox News, then-Fox News contributor Bill Kristol attributed Clinton's victory in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire entirely to “the tears,” saying, “She pretended to cry; the women liked it,” adding, “The women were sorry for her, and she won.” Anchor Brit Hume asked Kristol if “there [is] anything else to attribute it to,” to which Kristol replied, “No, it's the tears.” [Fox News, You Decide 2008, 1/8/08, via Media Matters]
Rush Limbaugh Described Clinton's Voice Breaking As “Emotional Blackmail” And “The Gender Card.” Rush Limbaugh claimed on his radio show that Clinton showing emotion in New Hampshire was a “sympathy play,” “the gender card,” and “emotional blackmail”:
All right, that's enough. We've heard enough of it. Here's the thing. This is the sympathy play. This is the gender card again. I'm going to tell you exactly what this is. This is the latest version of “invading my space.” This is a re-enactment with tears of the Rick Lazio moment, ladies and gentlemen. Should a man get away with bringing Mrs. Clinton to tears? Should a man -- be it me, be it Obama -- should a man get away with bringing Mrs. Clinton to tears, who has -- she says, “I have so many opportunities for this country.” “I have so” -- how about “we have so many opportunities together,” Mrs. Clinton? Rather than “I have so many” -- “I” this and “I” that. Emotional blackmail. This is calculated. Make no mistake about it, folks. This is not spontaneous. Because nothing with the Clintons is coincidence.[Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/7/08, via Media Matters]
Other media figures who attacked Clinton over her voice breaking or questioned the validity of her emotions included: then-CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, The Washington Post's Charlotte Allen, CNN's Gloria Borger, radio host Laura Ingraham, nationally syndicated radio host Stephanie Miller, Fox's Sean Hannity, and the New York Post.
Comparing Clinton To Violent And Sexualized Fictional Characters
Weekly Standard Compared Clinton To Lady Macbeth Because Both Washed Their Hands. The Weekly Standard's Joseph Bottum quoted Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth because Clinton mentioned washing her hands to stay hygienic while on the campaign trail:
In Sunday's 60 Minutes interview with the inestimable Katie Couric, Hillary Clinton explained one of the keys to staying healthy on the campaign trail: “Wash your hands all the time.” It's probably not bad advice, but still, you'd think the echos [sic] would have stopped her saying it: Out, damned spot! out, I say! ... What, will these hands ne'er be clean? ... Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth orchestrates the murder of the King of Scotland so that her husband can become king. Overcome with guilt, she describes her hands as covered in blood, and commits suicide. [The Weekly Standard, 2/11/08, via Media Matters]
NBC Personalities Repeatedly Linked Clinton To Nurse Ratched. In 2007, MSNBC hosts Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson both compared Clinton to Nurse Mildred Ratched, a character in Ken Kesey's novel and the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, who has been described as a “scheming, manipulative agent” who “asserts arbitrary control simply because she can.” She also uses violent and humiliating techniques to “treat” her patients. A Media Matters analysis found the comparison had a long history, with multiple examples of guests and hosts on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC making the comparison over the years. [Media Matters, 12/7/07]
NPR's Political Director Ken Rudin: “Hillary Clinton Is Glenn Close In Fatal Attraction.” Then-National Public Radio political director Ken Rudin said “Hillary Clinton is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She's going to keep coming back and they're not going to stop her,” during an appearance on CNN's Sunday Morning in April 2008. Rudin later apologized, calling it a “facile and dumb comparison.” In the movie Fatal Attraction, Close's character stalks and violently attacks a man she had an affair with. [Media Matters, 5/3/08]
Other media figures who compared Clinton to violent fictional characters included: the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, radio host Rush Limbaugh, The Guardian's Andrew Gimson, Fox's Monica Crowley, the Times Online's Gerard Baker, Fox's Dennis Miller, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, then-CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, and The Nation's Tom Hayden.
Claims That Clinton Hates Men, Castrates Them
Then-MSNBC Host Tucker Carlson: “There's Just Something About Her That Feels Castrating.” On his MSNBC show Tucker, host Tucker Carlson noted that a 1984-inspired attack ad posted on YouTube characterized Clinton “as an Orwellian Big Sister” and proceeded to endorse this depiction of Clinton, saying, “But there's just something about her that feels castrating, overbearing, and scary.” He insisted that “when you watch that, it does get right to heart of people's instinctive problems with Hillary, which don't have to do with policy.” Carlson further noted that the ad “seems to be the work of one person ... who doesn't like Hillary or, in any case, perceives the truth about her.” [MSNBC, Tucker, 3/20/07, via Media Matters]
Rush Limbaugh: Clinton Has A “Testicle Lockbox.” Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly referred to Clinton's so-called “testicle lockbox” over the years, stating during the campaign “Mrs. Clinton's testicle lockbox is big enough for the entire Democrat hierarchy, not just some people in the media. And whether they have been taking steroids and the testicles are smaller than usual doesn't matter. Her lockbox, her testicle lockbox can handle everybody in the Democrat hierarchy.” Limbaugh later claimed that Clinton “reminds men of the worst characteristics of women they've encountered over their life: totally controlling, not soft and cuddly. Not sympathetic. Not patient. Not understanding. Demanding, domineering.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/14/08, via Media Matters]
MSNBC's Chris Matthews Was “Appalled At The Willingness” Of Clinton Endorsers “To Become Castratos In The Eunuch Chorus.” On MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked Financial Times U.S. managing editor Chrystia Freeland, “aren't you appalled at the willingness of these people to become castratos in the eunuch chorus here or whatever they are?” Matthews was referring to people who had endorsed Clinton in the campaign. Freeland responded, “Well, I'm not going to comment on whether they have been castrated or not.” [MSNBC, Hardball, 12/17/07, via Media Matters]
Then-MSNBC Host Tucker Carlson: Clinton Is “Pandering” To Women's Anger Towards Men. On his MSNBC show, Tucker Carlson claimed Clinton “clearly is playing the gender card” and said “there's a great deal of resentment among women aimed at men ... I'm serious. Women are angry at men in a lot of ways. They don't say much about it, but they are. And she's pandering to that resentment and anger, and it's wrong.” [MSNBC, Tucker, 11/1/07, via Media Matters]
Other media figures who suggested Clinton hated men or was turning women against men included: the New York Times' Maureen Dowd and the American Spectator's R. Emmett Tyrrell.
Claims That Clinton's Success Was Entirely Due To Her Husband
ABC's Charles Gibson To Clinton: “Would You Be [A Presidential Candidate] Were It Not For Your Husband?” During a January 22 interview with then-Senator Clinton, then-ABC News anchor Charles Gibson asked, “You are a strong, credible female candidate for president of the United States, and I mean no disrespect in this, but would you be in this position were it not for your husband?” [ABC, 1/22/07, via Media Matters]
Rush Limbaugh: If “Her Name Was Hillary Smith, Would Anybody Be Talking About Her As A Presidential Candidate?” On his radio show, Limbaugh claimed Clinton “is not a brilliant woman. She's not the smartest woman in the world. She is a hack!” He went on to ask, “if her name was Hillary Smith, would anybody be talking about her as a presidential candidate?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/31/07, via Media Matters]
MSNBC's Chris Matthews: Clinton Didn't Win Her Senate Race “On Her Merit.” On MSNBC's Hardball, host Christ Matthews claimed “the reason” Clinton was “a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merit.” Matthews later attempted to clarify his comments, saying she won “tremendous respect from the country for the way” she handled political scandals in the nineties. [Media Matters, 1/17/08]
Other media figures who claimed Clinton's success was entirely due to her husband included: then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, Washington Post's Sally Quinn, radio host Don Imus, and Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman.
Dick Morris: “The First Black Man Is Running For President And Nobody's Afraid Of Him, Because Everybody's Afraid Of Hillary.” On Fox News, syndicated columnist Dick Morris responded to a question about poll numbers which showed some Americans were “scared” of Clinton becoming president by remarking, “You have to ask yourself, the first black man is running for president and nobody's afraid of him, because everybody's afraid of Hillary.” [Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 4/9/07, via Media Matters]
NBC's David Shuster Suspended For Claiming Clinton “Pimped Out” Her Daughter, Chelsea. NBC News officially suspended David Shuster after he asked, while guest-hosting an MSNBC show, if Chelsea Clinton was “sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” after she appeared on the campaign trail with her mother. Shuster was forced to apologize for his remarks. [Media Matters, 2/8/08]
Don Imus Jumped Off Shuster's Remarks With Segment Suggesting Chelsea Clinton “Have Sex With” Delegates. On Imus in the Morning, during a segment referred to as “Radio Theater on the Air,” regular guest Rob Bartlett played the character of “former president Billy Clayton” and left a message for “Kelsey Clayton,” his daughter. During the message, Billy Clayton referred to “this pineapple-eatin' [Borat] Ohana” and asked Kelsey Clayton to “campaign for” her mother -- Hailey Clayton, a “New York Senator” and “onetime front-runner for the Democratic nomination” -- and “have sex with” delegates. In character as “Billy Clayton,” Bartlett said:
Hello, Puddin' Pop? It's Daddy. Listen, Love Bug, Mommy and me need you to do us a favor. If she's ever gonna beat this pineapple-eatin' Ohana, we need you to campaign for her, help her get some delegates. Now, I want you to understand that we don't want to exploit you. We don't want you buying them drinks or taking them to dinner or getting them gifts. We just want you to have sex with them. [ABC Radio Networks, Imus in the Morning, 2/13/08, via Media Matters]
Politico's John Harris Discussed The Clintons' Sleeping Arrangements On Glenn Beck's Show. On his former CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck asked Politico editor-in-chief John Harris about the Clinton's sleeping arrangements, asking whether they had a “king-sized bed or Lucy and Desi beds.” Harris replied, “You know, a lot of times they are not in that bed together very often.” Harris added that he had been in the Clintons' bedroom in Chappaqua, New York, and said that “it is indeed a king-sized bed,” which Beck found “shocking.” [CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck, 2/20/07, via Media Matters]
Then-Time Blogger Andrew Sullivan Discusses Clinton's “Cootie Vibes.” On NBC's Chris Matthews Show, blogger Andrew Sullivan said “when I see [Clinton] ... all the cootie vibes sort of resurrect themselves.” Sullivan added that he considered Clinton a “very sensible senator” and admitted that he “actually [found] her positions appealing in many ways.” Nevertheless, he concluded, “I just can't stand her. I'm sorry about that.” [NBC, Chris Matthews Show, 1/28/07, via Media Matters]
MSNBC Guest Encouraged People To Call Clinton “Vaginal American.” On MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson claimed Clinton's campaign was “You should vote for her because she's a woman.” Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, responded, “At least call her a Vaginal-American.” Carlson called the phrase “nasty” and “I don't think I can say that.” [MSNBC, Tucker, 10/15/07, via Media Matters]
Radio Host On Fox News: “Men Shouldn't Allow The Vagina Monologue To Become A Dialogue.” On an April 2008 edition of Fox News' Your World, author and radio host Marc Rudov said “This is a gynocracy ... The reason that Hillary is losing is because people don't like her. That's all it is ... The woman is not called a B-word because she's assertive and aggressive; she's called a B-word because she acts like one ... this is exactly why men shouldn't allow the vagina monologue to become a dialogue. Hillary Clinton, who's living by the gender sword, is going to be dying by the gender sword.” [Fox News, Your World, 4/10/08, via Media Matters]
All-Male Morning Joe Panel Laughed As Mike Barnicle Compared Clinton To “Everyone's First Wife Standing Outside A Probate Court.” During a discussion of a primary debate with an all-male panel that included co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist, and guest co-host David Shuster, commentator Mike Barnicle said Clinton, “when she reacts the way she reacts to Obama with just the look, the look toward him, looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court, OK? Looking at him that way, all I could think of ... was this fall, if it's McCain that she's facing, McCain is likable. She's not.” All three MSNBC co-hosts laughed at Barnicle's comparison of Clinton to “everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 1/23/08, via Media Matters]
Wash. Post's Kathleen Parker Thought The Hair Color Of Clinton's Aides Was “Very Telling.” MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked the Washington Post's Kathleen Parker in 2007 if Clinton “being surrounded by women” makes “a case for commander in chief -- or does it make a case against it?” Parker responded that “It makes a case with a certain demographic, and I noticed the picture on the front of The Washington Post the other day showed her with all these women and her crew, and did you notice, there was only one blonde out of about 15 women, so it sort of -- I thought that was very telling.” Parker never explained what was “telling” about the hair color of Clinton's top aides. [MSNBC, Chris Matthews Show, 6/24/07, via Media Matters]
Groch-Begley, who wrote this piece as a research fellow at Media Matters, is now research director of the SCOTUS Project at NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Media Matters' Matt Gertz and Ben Dimiero contributed research to this report. Images by Oliver Willis.