CNN's Sanchez Erupts Over McCain Not Rebuking Supporter Who Called Hillary a 'Bitch'

Trying to create a scandal over Republican presidential candidate John McCain's failure to rebuke a woman supporter who called Hillary Clinton a “bitch,” CNN's Rick Sanchez led Tuesday night's Out in the Open with what he insisted was the “relevant and newsworthy” topic as he seriously asked: “Is John McCain done as a result of this?” He later speculated: “Is his campaign dead in the water?” Betraying the skew of those at CNN, Sanchez told guest Amy Holmes: “He could be in trouble for this from women, especially the ones that've been talking to me today in our newsroom who heard this and were offended.” Sanchez's spin matched that of left-wing bloggers, a story in Wednesday's New York Times revealed: “The clip began showing on Web sites like Salon.com, the liberal site TPM.com and others, with bloggers asking why Mr. McCain had not taken the questioner to task.”

Setting up the video, Sanchez haughtily intoned: “You're going to hear a McCain supporter. She refers to Hillary Clinton using really what is a horrible word that is used to do nothing but demean women. Well, at the time, it was a supporter who said that. It wasn't until later on, when we watched the whole tape, which is what you're about to see, that you see McCain's reaction, or lack thereof, that we decided that this is both relevant and newsworthy, and important information to this campaign.” An older woman at an event in South Carolina had asked: “How do we beat the bitch?” An appalled Sanchez complained: “He says 'that's an excellent question,' after somebody refers to Hillary Clinton as a B-word which rhymes with witch.”

The short November 14 New York Times article, “Question on Her Puts McCain in a Tight Spot,” recounted how at the Monday event in Hilton Head “Mr. McCain was obviously uncomfortable, trying to deflect the vitriol with humor and offering to give a translation. But he did not condemn the questioner, instead calling it an 'excellent question.'”

On screen throughout the CNN segment:
“AN EXCELLENT QUESTION”?
JOHN MCCAIN & THE B-WORD

A transcript of most of the segment which led the November 13 Out in the Open, CNN's 8pm EST show:
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: You know, this could be real bad for John McCain. I want you to watch this that we're about to show you. You will probably see its first pass here, and then I have a feeling you will be seeing it a lot. Producer comes in early in the morning today to my office and shows me this video. You're going to hear a McCain supporter. She refers to Hillary Clinton using really what is a horrible word that is used to do nothing but demean women. Well, at the time, it was a supporter who said that. It wasn't until later on, when we watched the whole tape, which is what you're about to see, that you see McCain's reaction, or lack thereof, that we decided that this is both relevant and newsworthy, and important information to this campaign.

All right. Let me set it up for you. He's campaigning in South Carolina yesterday when suddenly this happened. Obviously, the word that's used here is very offensive. We'll let you listen to the entire thing so you can decide for yourself. Here it is.

BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CREDITED TO “FROM FOX NEWS MONDAY”

WOMAN: How do we beat the bitch?
(LAUGHTER)
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Can I give the translation?
(LAUGHTER)
MCCAIN: The way that-.
MALE VOICE: Yes. I thought she was talking about my ex- wife.
(LAUGHTER)
MCCAIN: But that's an excellent question. [EDIT JUMP] I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: "That's an excellent question," he says. This is a fellow Senator that he's talking about. No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, is John McCain done as a result of this? Is this going to become a viral video? This is the kind of questions that we've got to examine at this point. We're going to be looking at a lot of these issues. With me tonight, conservative strategy Amy Holmes, who's also a CNN political analyst.

He says, "That's an excellent question," after somebody refers to Hillary Clinton as a B-word which rhymes with witch. How big a mistake is this?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is a mistake. I don't know it's as big a mistake as that you're making it out to be. He did recover and he did say that he has respect for Senator Clinton-

SANCHEZ: Hold on. No, no, no. He said he has respect for Senator Clinton. And then he went on to say that he has respect for anyone who wins the Democratic ticket. Translation: If Mr. Magoo wins the Democratic ticket, he'd have respect for him, too.

HOLMES: No, I think that he's using politico speak, Washington speak. You hear it up on the Hill every day. I worked in the Senate for three years. And the Senate actually has very strict rules of etiquette of how senators can address each other. I would have hoped that he would have shown more leadership in defending Senator Clinton's honor, not just as a colleague, but as a woman, and that sort of juvenile joke from the audience about, I thought you were talking about my ex-wife, I mean, come on. This is beneath all of us....

SANCHEZ: And, you know, you got to like John McCain. He stuck in there. He's a good American, but I think he could be in trouble for this from women, especially the ones that've been talking to me today in our newsroom who heard this and were offended. Listen to the last part of what he says.

MCCAIN: I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat Party.

SANCHEZ: He respects her, but he only respects her if she gets the nomination of the Democratic Party. He respects -- I mean, as a fellow Senator, Amy, let's be serious.

HOLMES: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Should he not have said to this woman, you know what, that's the wrong kind of language to use in my campaign; I encourage your enthusiasm, but let's not go there?

HOLMES: I think that's what we would have liked for him to have said. I think, looking at the video, you can see he covers his face with his hands. He's clearly uncomfortable, embarrassed by the use of the language, like, oh, boy. And there he is in a room full of supporters. I would have liked for him to have said that, Rick. And I repeat, I worked in the Senate for three years. Senators have very strict rules about how they address each other on the Senate floor. He's been in the Senate long enough to know that. But I do think that he recovered by saying that he did respect Senator Clinton.

SANCHEZ: Well, I got to tell you, most people who've seen it are looking at it as a real mistake on his part in terms of the way he handled it. Let me ask you this question, though. You're a woman. That's a very offensive word that's used to demean women.

HOLMES: It is.

SANCHEZ: Are you offended by the use of that word?

HOLMES: Indeed I am. And I don't think it has any place in the public discourse. I mean, you know, having a sailor mouth in private, that's for every individual to decide. But he is supposed to be leading by example. And that's what we expect as the American people. But again, you know, Rick, politics ain't beanbag. I don't think that Hillary should be raising this issue. I think she should not dignify it with a response. And I think that, from her perspective, it's moving forward and being strong.

SANCHEZ: All right. Hey, listen, Amy, thanks so much. I've just gotten information that we're going to have a statement from John McCain's camp in just a little bit. And, as soon as we get it, we will have it for you. Meanwhile, I also want you to know that we're going to be replaying this and that we want our audience to go to CNN.com/Rick and finish this sentence. All right. You ready? “McCain's handling of the B-question about Hillary tells me?” And then fill in the blank, all right? Go to our Web site right now and you will see it. We're going to read your answers and continue the discussion on this, as we go through in this newscast.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center