CNN’s Campbell Brown Rips ‘Double Standard’ on Palin Clothing Issue

Campbell Brown, CNN Anchor | NewsBusters.orgCNN anchor Campbell Brown led her Election Center program on Wednesday with a critique of the “double standard” concerning the recent attention on the $150,000 that the Republican National Committee spent on vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin: “My issue: there is an incredible double standard here, and we're ignoring a very simple reality. Women are judged based on their appearance far, far more than men. This is a statement of fact. There has been plenty of talk and plenty written about Sarah Palin’s jackets, her hair, her looks....Compare that to the attention given to Barack Obama’s $1,500 suits or John McCain’s $520 Ferragamo shoes. There is no comparison.”

Brown spent more than 2 minutes on the matter, in which she related her own experience of how women “get scrutinized based on appearance” much more than men do: “...I speak from experience here. When I wear a bad outfit on the air, I get viewer e-mail complaining about it, a lot of e-mail, seriously. When Wolf Blitzer wears a not-so-great tie, how much e-mail do you think he gets? My point is, for women, unfortunately, appearance is part of the job. If Wolf or Anderson shows up on the air without makeup, do you think you would even notice? I show up on the air without makeup, trust me, you’ll notice.” The CNN anchor then defended the RNC’s efforts to help Palin appear visually good: “All women in the public eye deal with this issue, and it’s for this reason that I think the RNC should help Palin pay for hair, clothes, and makeup. It is part of the job.” She concluded her commentary by labeling the attention on Palin’s clothing a “peripheral issue” in the presidential campaign.

More than a half hour later, the Palin/clothing issue came again during a roundtable discussion. Brown asked Time magazine’s Mark Halperin about a possible backlash against the Alaska governor. Instead of answering her question, Halperin decided to get former Romney spokesman Kevin Madden’s take on the matter: “Kevin, tell Campbell and her audience what Republicans are really saying today about Sarah Palin and about the pick and about the effect -- this revelation about the clothes -- the clothing allowance the RNC gave her. Tell people what Republicans are really thinking.” Madden balked at first, but Brown insisted that he answer the question. He replied, “There are those out there who are, you know, in these battleground states that are really energized by the simple fact that they finally have somebody like them on the ticket, somebody they can identify.” Halperin then interrupted with a snark: “Only with a $150,000 clothing allowance.”

The transcript of Campbell Brown’s commentary which aired at the beginning of Wednesday’s Election Center program:

CAMPBELL BROWN: ...[F]irst, as we do every night, we’re cutting through the bull -- a lot of sniping and a lot of stories today about Sarah Palin’s clothes. Politico.com reports that the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on clothes, hair, and makeup for Palin on the campaign trail.

Now, these are not your tax dollars. This is money given by Republican donors to the RNC. But the report questions whether it's legal to use campaign cash for quote,’personal use.’ My issue: there is an incredible double standard here, and we're ignoring a very simple reality. Women are judged based on their appearance far, far more than men. This is a statement of fact. There has been plenty of talk and plenty written about Sarah Palin’s jackets, her hair, her looks. Sound familiar? There was plenty of talk and plenty written about Hillary Clinton’s looks, hair, pantsuits. Compare that to the attention given to Barack Obama’s $1,500 suits or John McCain’s $520 Ferragamo shoes. There is no comparison.

Women get scrutinized based on appearance far more than men, and look, I speak from experience here. When I wear a bad outfit on the air, I get viewer e-mail complaining about it, a lot of e-mail, seriously. When Wolf Blitzer wears a not-so-great tie, how much e-mail do you think he gets? My point is, for women, unfortunately, appearance is part of the job. If Wolf or Anderson shows up on the air without makeup, do you think you would even notice? I show up on the air without makeup, trust me, you’ll notice. This doesn't just apply to TV. All women in the public eye deal with this issue, and it’s for this reason that I think the RNC should help Palin pay for hair, clothes, and makeup. It is part of the job.

Now, you may think that’s an awful lot of money to spend on clothes, hair, and makeup, or you may complain, as some have, it’s hypocritical to sell yourself as a small-town hockey mom when you’re wearing designer clothes. That's fine. Just don't ignore the fact that there is a double standard here and personally, I think, in this campaign, with so much at stake, this is a peripheral issue. I myself have raised plenty of questions about Sarah Palin, much to the annoyance of the McCain campaign. But those questions have been about her qualifications and experience, never her appearance. Let’s keep the focus on what really matters here.

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