CNN Turns to Steinem to Blame Hillary’s Loss on Sexism, Media

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterCNN’s "American Morning," following-up on their segment last Friday with Gail Sheehy on whether sexism factored into Hillary Clinton’s loss, asked "pioneering feminist" Gloria Steinem about the issue on Monday morning. Steinem placed the blame squarely on "misogyny and the culture at large, and especially in the media." "[N]o candidate in history has been asked to step down by the media. She was. The average time that it takes for a loser to endorse a winner in this situation is four months -- four months. She did it in four days, and look how she was criticized, you know, for not doing it the very same night. It's outrageous."

Co-hosts Kyra Phillips and John Roberts interviewed Steinem at the end of the 7 am hour of the CNN program. Roberts first addressed the issue of "what went wrong:" "Was it that, as her husband has suggested, she got a raw deal as the first female candidate to go this far, or was it something else?"

In reply, Steinem lamented, "...I never thought that a progressive woman could win the top spot in my lifetime, and I never thought she could win, which was all the more reason it was important to support her. We have a very bad record in this regard. We're like 82nd in the world in terms of representing women, and the pattern at the very top is that you have different varieties of men, the Jewish man, the Puerto Rican -- you know, before you have a woman in that spot."

After initially bringing up the issue of the media’s "misogyny," Steinem later went back to it when Phillips asked if Hillary Clinton should have made a "gender speech" just as Barack Obama made a "race speech." Note how the CNN substitute co-host, even in a segment about Hillary Clinton’s loss, can’t help but to gush over Obama.

PHILLIPS: Did she miss an opportunity, though, to do a speech on gender? He came out with the race speech in March. It was amazing, riveting -- should she have done the same thing?

STEINEM: Well, I think that -- I think she should have. But I think the pressures on her not to were enormous, because people would have said, oh, she's fetching, she's complaining. You know, the fact is that gender is still perceived as part of nature in a way that race used to be and, you know, sometimes still is, but it's not as much anymore, thank goodness. So I'm not sure that -- I mean, she would have been so criticized in the media. Look how criticized she's been for even raising the fact that she's a female human being.

Despite this cheerleading on the part of Phillips, Steinem, now that she is an Obama supporter herself, doesn’t slam the media for its pro-Obama bias. Instead, the issue for her is the media’s apparent sexism.

The full transcript of the Gloria Steinem interview from Monday’s "American Morning:"

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say, yes we can!

KYRA PHILLIPS: Senator Hillary Clinton suspending her historic campaign this weekend and throwing her full support behind Barack Obama.

JOHN ROBERTS: But will the millions of women who back Hillary Clinton follow her lead? Pioneering feminist author Gloria Steinem supported Hillary Clinton in her campaign. She's now backing Barack Obama. She was at the speech on Saturday and she joins us now. Good to see you, thanks for coming in.

GLORIA STEINEM: Thank you so much.

ROBERTS: Let me start first of all with this idea that six months ago, she was a lock for the nomination. What do you think went wrong? Was it that, as her husband has suggested, she got a raw deal as the first female candidate to go this far, or was it something else?

STEINEM: Well, I am in kind of a special situation here because I never thought that a progressive woman could win the top spot in my lifetime, and I never thought she could win, which was all the more reason it was important to support her. We have a very bad record in this regard. We're like 82nd in the world in terms of representing women, and the pattern at the very top is that you have different varieties of men, the Jewish man, the Puerto Rican -- you know, before you have a woman in that spot. Clearly, part of the problem is the misogyny and the culture at large, and especially in the media. I mean, you know, no candidate in history has been asked to step down by the media. She was. The average time that it takes for a loser to endorse a winner in this situation is four months -- four months. She did it in four days, and look how she was criticized, you know, for not doing it the very same night. It's outrageous.

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, it's interesting. You said something that everyone -- or women are more likable as the loser.

STEINEM: Yes, right.

PHILLIPS: So do you think -- do you think the fact that she did not win is actually going to be better for women in the long run because of that?

STEINEM: No, no, no, no, it's not good for women to be liked as losers. But it's an evidence of the bias in the culture. It's the way sex roles, gender roles are policed, let's put it that way -- that men are liked when they win and women are liked when they lose. It's the way we are policed into our roles which oppresses men too. You know, they should be liked whether they win or not.

PHILLIPS: But is it sort of the thing that -- well, men still don't want to see women get it, get that brass ring and so....

STEINEM: Right, and some women don't either, you know, because we're all raised by women or most of us are raised by women until we come to think that female authority is only appropriate in childhood, and we feel when we see an authoritative woman, we feel almost regressed to childhood, because that was the last time we saw an authoritative woman. So, it's deep, it's going to take quite a while, and we're taking even longer in this country than most countries.

ROBERTS: Gloria, some people, including former Senator Bob Kerrey, have suggested that she didn't lose because she was a woman. He just ran a better campaign and had he have run in 1992 against Bill Clinton, probably would have beaten him too.

STEINEM: Yeah, but that's ridiculous to do -- a single factor analysis of history, you know, she didn't win or lose. But, you know, we're all unique people. Every situation is unique. But had she not been a woman, you know -- she was very close. So any single thing, you know, could have made the difference.

ROBERTS: Do you think he needs to do a speech on gender, very much the way he did one on race?

STEINEM: Well, look, her candidacy was really born in Beijing during her first term, when she went there gave a fantastic speech about women's rights as human rights -- women from Africa, Asia, you know, stood up and said she should be a leader. He needs to read that speech, I think, which I'm sure he understands anyway, and always speak about women's rights as human rights, and having had his own experience of discrimination, makes it much easier for him to understand what women of all races go through.

PHILLIPS: Did she miss an opportunity, though, to do a speech on gender? He came out with the race speech in March. It was amazing, riveting -- should she have done the same thing?

STEINEM: Well, I think that -- I think she should have. But I think the pressures on her not to were enormous, because people would have said, oh, she's fetching, she's complaining. You know, the fact is that gender is still perceived as part of nature in a way that race used to be and, you know, sometimes still is, but it's not as much anymore, thank goodness. So I'm not sure that -- I mean, she would have been so criticized in the media. Look how criticized she's been for even raising the fact that she's a female human being.

PHILLIPS: She got up there, not only as a contender but -- right next to him.

STEINEM: She has made such a huge advance. You know, this is the first time. I mean, I ran as a delegate for Shirley Chisolm 36 years ago. Shirley Chisolm took the 'white males only' sign off the White House door -- both, you know. And, you know, we've had 50 women, you know, running over time. It takes a long time in this -- in a country that is this big and that is this biased against female human beings. I mean, let's face it, you know, we have this kind of frontier macho thing and we've still got it. But, therefore, we're choosing our leadership talent from a tiny pool. But what we have to remember is that men have gender, too. We have to talk about gender roles as men. White people have race, too. We have to talk about white racism. Every time we talk about -- race doesn't belong to the people who are afflicted by it. It belongs to all of us, and if we do that, this campaign really will be historic and we will have enlarged the talent pool from about 6%...

PHILLIPS: Both of them having cracked the doors. They've busted open the doors, from race to gender....

STEINEM: It's huge. We had an embarrassment of talent this year, and I'm very proud to have been part of both campaigns and we're going to elect Barack Obama.

ROBERTS: Gloria, thanks for coming in this morning -- appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

STEINEM: Thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center