NPR Indicts Limbaugh, Beck, Cavuto For Anti-Hillary Sexism

As part of their post-mortem for the zombified Hillary Clinton campaign, National Public Radio is blaming the media (including talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and Fox's Neil Cavuto and Bill Kristol) for demeaning Hillary Clinton "pioneering candidacy" with sexist coverage during her race for the White House. On Wednesday’s Morning Edition, media reporter David Folkenflik interviewed male political reporters (Richard Stevenson of the New York Times and Chuck Todd of NBC) and liberal feminists (Dee Dee Myers and Susan Estrich) to recount Hillary’s burdensome struggles with cackle coverage:

FOLKENFLIK: But journalists and pundits do constantly describe Clinton in different terms than they would her male rivals. In the following clip, Fox News pollster Frank Luntz was asking voters what kind of campaign they wanted Obama and Clinton to wage.FRANK LUNTZ (Pollster, Fox News): How many of you want them to really argue? Raise your hands. And how many of you want them to make love to each other?FOLKENFLIK: Just try imagining John McCain and Mike Huckabee in that scenario, or Joe Biden and these remarks by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.RUSH LIMBAUGH: This is Clinton's testicle lockbox. It is big enough for the entire Democrat hierarchy, not just some people in the media.FOLKENFLIK: On the other side of the spectrum, MSNBC's Chris Matthews famously said Clinton was only a senator and plausible presidential candidate because of her humiliation during her husband's presidency. Clinton supporter Susan Estrich was campaign manager for Michael Dukakis back in 1988. She says Clinton's struggle with her image evokes women CEOs who strive to be feminine - but not too feminine - and capable, but not overly assertive.Ms. SUSAN ESTRICH: I think that's why there's been so much attention to Hillary's clothes and to Hillary's cleavage and to Hillary's husband and to Hillary's marriage and to Hillary's motherhood and her own daughter.FOLKENFLIK: No one interviewed for this story thought the media's coverage of Clinton's historic bid determined its outcome. They all pointed to her campaign's failure to anticipate and combat Obama's strength, particularly in states with early caucuses. But Dee Dee Myers, a frequent commentator for NBC, says the media seems blind to its own behavior.MYERS: Have we had male candidates with funny laughs? Almost certainly. Have they gotten as much attention? Absolutely not. Did the Times write about that, the cackle, because people were talking about it? Arguably, that's true. But it just reflects a sexist strain in society, that sort of the things that are acceptable in men are not acceptable in women.FOLKENFLIK: When Clinton showed emotion this winter, she earned the scorn of many media observers, such as the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol on Fox News.Mr. BILL KRISTOL (The Weekly Standard, Fox News): I don't believe it was genuine. I think no Clinton cries without calculating first.FOLKENFLIK: Calculating. Many voters, and women in particular, recoil at that word. Clinton had sought to recast herself as a champion of the working class, the underdog, as she battles on, despite numbers that say she can't win. It's been a strategy thrust on her by circumstances, including the interplay between her ambitions and the media. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

This is not the first story to cry sexism. On the May 22 All Things Considered, anchor Michele Norris interviewed feminist and former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder about Hillary’s struggles with sexism.

NORRIS: Hillary Clinton is now talking about the sexism that she says she's encountered in the course of the campaign. And before we go on, she -- we should take a listen, because she says the media is at the heart of much of this. And there is a YouTube clip that is circulating on the Web right now. It's a mash-up. It's got this sort of scary music, and it features a string of pundits talking about Hillary Clinton.GLENN BECK: Big news from New Hampshire. Tonight is, it cries. After spending decades stripping away all trace of emotion, femininity and humanity, Hillary Clinton actually broke down and actually cried yesterday on the campaign trail. NEIL CAVUTO: Men won't vote for Hillary Clinton because she reminds them of their nagging wives. MARC RUDOV: And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear: Take out the garbage.

This is a slightly naughty edit by the YouTuber (and NPR by extension). Cavuto was attributing his statement to Rudov, as even Hillary's hired media-"misinformation" troops acknowledge:

CAVUTO: All right, well, Marc has been saying it for months, men won't vote for Hillary Clinton because she reminds them of their nagging wives. Lis Wiehl, of course, agrees. No, she doesn't. I'm just seeing if Lis is watching.

But NPR’s Norris was dead serious in decrying the media’s male chauvinism:

NORRIS: When pundits talk about Hillary Clinton in sometimes sexist terms, does that have an impact on the voters? Ms. SCHROEDER, almost whispering: I think when pundits talk that way about a woman, I think it diminishes the woman tremendously. It makes her look like she's not a player, or it characterizes her as something other than presidential material. Plus, it unleashes then all the cartoonists and everybody else to take pokes. But I think if you took it -- all of these pundit comments and put them against the comments of others of how they dealt with the other people who are in the race, you would find that hers are really over the top.NORRIS: Where the sexism is concern, there are questions about how Hillary Clinton herself has handled this. How does she talk about the sexism without looking whiny, since projecting strength is part of her portfolio, and the question of gender, and why she didn't talk about gender more early on - the historic nature of her own candidacy? Ms. SCHROEDER: Well, I think when you break down any barrier, whether it's racist, sexist, ageism, whatever it is, it's always very difficult to figure out how you do it. And, I think originally, she probably had strong advice from advisers saying don't mention it. I mean, we can look at you and tell you're a woman, so you really don't need to go out and say that; go out and talk about all the things you're for. When some of these outrageous comments started happening and things, you know, if she goes out and says this is really unfair, then it sounds like, oh, you can't take the heat. You know, oh, whining. Oh, cry baby. I think part of it is sexism is so ingrained in the society that a lot of this people don't even understand what they were saying or doing and how it will sounded to women.But I think if you had had people showing up with signs at Obama things saying, you know, ‘shine my shoes,’ I do believe there will be people saying, stop that, that's racist, that outrageous.

It's too bad these NPR anchors and reporters didn't actually confront and interview Limbaugh, Beck, Cavuto, Kristol, or Luntz with their alleged sexist offenses. But fairness and balance are not the watchwords at taxpayer-subsidized public radio.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis