CNN Asks Eric Cantor 'Do You Not Know How to Talk to Women, Sir?'

Touting the "huge problem" the GOP has with women voters, CNN dredged up Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remark from last year and asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor point-blank "Do you not know how to talk to women, sir?"

The obnoxious question came from Capitol Hill correspondent Dana Bash, who challenged Cantor's point that GOP policies will appeal to both men and women. "But they haven't," she insisted.

"[I]s there a problem with men in the Republican party, your rank and file, who don't know how to communicate to reach female voters?" Bash continued. She highlighted that the "gender gap" remains "a huge problem" with Republicans and noted that "Mitt Romney lost with the women vote I believe by about 11 percent."

What Bash ignored was that Mitt Romney actually won the vote of married women by seven points and white women by 14 percent, according to CNN's 2012 exit polls. Romney lost by a huge margin among unmarried women and black and Latino women, which might denote more of a problem among minority voters and unmarried women than among women in general.

Regardless, Wolf Blitzer brought up Romney's "binders full of women" comment as a symptom of the party's female problem. "Binders full of women obviously caused him some grief out there. How serious is this gender gap problem for the Republicans right now?" Blitzer asked.

And the same Dana Bash that reported the GOP's "huge problem" with women laughed hysterically in 2010 when former Senator Scott Brown's daughters were called "prostitutes."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on December 5 at 1:13 p.m. EST:

[1:13]

WOLF BLITZER: So you remember Mitt Romney and his statement about so-called binders full of women? Or a congressman's comment about rape that probably cost him an election? We're going to tell you what Republicans are now doing to prevent those kinds of gaffes.

(...)

BLITZER: Republican candidates are getting schooled about how to run against women in the upcoming midterm elections. The story was first reported by Politico. The sessions are designed to prevent gaffes like the ones that plagued some Republicans in 2012. Former congressman Todd Akin, a prime example. Remember this comment on abortion during his run for the U.S. Senate?

(Video Clip)

HOST: What about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?

Rep. TODD AKIN (R-Mo.): Well, you know, people always want to try and make that as one of those things, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.

(End Video Clip)

BLITZER: Dana Bash is joining us now from Capitol Hill. Dana, even the House Speaker John Boehner said today that Republicans need to do a whole lot better on this front. Listen to what he said.

(Video Clip)

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio): Trying to get them to be a little more sensitive, you know? You look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democrat Caucus than the Republican Caucus. Some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be.

(End Video Clip)

BLITZER: Alright so Dana so what are you hearing on the Hill about these tutoring sessions?

BASH: Well, what we're told is that what they're doing over at the NRCC, which the political arm of the Republican party and the House that tries to get members elected, is they're doing broad tutorials, media training for all of their candidates, which is not new. Both parties do that. But as part of those tutorials they are being much more focused on avoiding the gaffes like you just played from Todd Akin. On explaining how to, when you're asked about abortion, when you're asked about subjects that certainly are sensitive and are prone to foot-in-mouth moments to not answer those the way Todd Akin did. But then also more broadly, to talk more in a way for Republicans, to talk more in a way that's relatable to women voters, to talk about themselves as husbands, as fathers and things like that. And in fact, this is something that I had the chance to talk to the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor about earlier today, about what he thinks the issue is. Listen to what he said.

(Video Clip)

BASH: (on camera) Do you not know how to talk to women, sir?

Rep. ERIC CANTOR (R-Va.): We have any number of Republican women in our conference who are real leaders on all kinds of issues.

BASH: But -- is there a problem with men in the Republican party, your rank and file, who don't know how to communicate to reach female voters?

CANTOR: It is our policies that are going to appeal to both female and male voters.

BASH: But they haven't.

CANTOR: What we're talking about health care, right now, our health care starts with people and patients.

BASH: There are times when you hear Republican candidates, even Republican members, talk about rape, talk about things that I know that you would rather them not talk about message-wise, language-wise, are you trying to put a stop to that?

CANTOR: Again, Dana, I would say that our policies, the underlying prescriptions that we have for people is what most are concerned about, men and women.

(End Video Clip)

BASH: Now Wolf, one of the big problems Republicans across the board admit that they have in reaching female voters is that they simply don't have that many female candidates, female representatives. Right now, in the House majority, this is a great example, 232 Republicans, a really big number, of those 232 Republicans, 19 are women. Only 19 female Republicans in the House of Representatives. That is another thing that they're really trying to change inside the House Republican leadership.

BLITZER: I remember this comment from Mitt Romney during the campaign last year, also agitated a lot of folks, especially women. Listen to this.

(Video Clip)

MITT ROMNEY, 2012 GOP presidential candidate: I said, well gosh, can't we – can't we find some women that are also qualified? And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.

(End Video Clip)

BLITZER: Binders full of women obviously caused him some grief out there. How serious is this gender gap problem for the Republicans right now?

BASH: It's a huge problem. Mitt Romney lost with the women vote I believe by about 11 percent, and it is certainly not new and not just about Mitt Romney. It has been like that for Republicans for years. And you talk to Democrats who are really, really trying to retake the House and of course keep control of the Senate in this next election. Any time a Republican says anything that can be used by Democrats as, you know, a message about Republicans and their war on women, they take it and they seize on it because the predisposition is already there in the electorate to listen to something like Mitt Romney and saying binders of women, and what he was trying to say, I tried really hard to hire women and put women in my cabinet and business and it sort of is turned on its head because of the way people perceive Republicans and women, and that is the fundamental thing they're trying to change back as we started this conversation in those media training sessions that House Republicans are having.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014