Thursday, October 9, 2008

I think she's got a point (sort of).

(Ann Coulter shooting a gun. Courtesy of's political humor section.)

Fresh off what we were discussing in class on Monday, the character (possibly?) of Ann Coulter showed up on Fox News this week to introduce her new column.
She does raise some interesting and valid points shockingly. She reviews last week's Vice Presidential debates between Biden and Palin, calling out Biden in the process (no real surprise there). She calls Biden's statements "wildly inaccurate" and compares him to Lyndon LaRouche.
Some of her gripes ranged from insignificant, like the fact that Katie's restaurant closed 20 years ago, to significant like interpreting incorrect articles of the constitution, which countries are actually in NATO and how much money we've spent in Iraq compared to Afghanistan.
Now to the part of the column I actually cared about. What if Sarah Palin had uttered a single misstatement as egregious as one of his? What if she were to claim that her running mate never said he would meet without preconditions with dictators, even though he said it numerous times, which are readily accessible all through cyberspace? What if she had pompously lectured about the duties of the Vice President and then cite the article of the constitution which lays out the responsibilities of the VP incorrectly, multiple times?
Coulter claims its the biases of the MSM who won't talk about this. Liberal media this, elite media that. She pushes the idea of the media as leftist (all mainstream media) vs. balanced (Fox) in sort of a fight to the death over exposing political agendas.
It's the conclusion where we differ though. I think it's far worse than that. A woman can't get a fair shake in politics in the media's eyes. Look at Hillary Clinton, look at Palin, and look at Geraldine Ferraro (remember when she was a 'racist' a few months ago?). The list can go on and on. It's not a Democrat / Republican thing. It's a woman thing.


Abe Fried-Tanzer said...

You raise an interesting point, and I appreciate your conclusion. Speaking specifically about Palin and Clinton, it's easy to pinpoint other major factors for their media coverage (Palin, an extremely young nominee coming completely out of nowhere, and Clinton getting her experience from her husband being president). Regardless, it is impossible to ignore the media frenzies over the "lipstick on a pig" comment and questions posed to Clinton about whether she preferred diamonds or pearls. It's also evident that there's something afoot when Clinton is consistently referred to as Hillary while male candidates are referred to by their last names (though a Foundations of Journalism survey showed that a disturbing number of NYU students indicated Hillary as an alternative to the already-listed Clinton). I do believe that both Clinton and Palin are specific cases whose treatment is not entirely due to their gender, but some of these things certainly wouldn't fly if they were men.

Audrey Tran said...

Keith, are you saying that the media's blindness to Bidden's mistaken remarks have to do with the fact that he's a man?

I agree that Palin has to perform at a level higher than her male opponents.

And it does have something to do with the media's specific attention to women.

For weeks last year, newspapers and networks couldn't forget that Hillary Clinton flip-flopped on the issue of undocumented immigrants during a debate.
There was certainly a "GOTCHA" game going on then, and we see another game going on today.

For example, Katie Couric caught/trapped Palin a few weeks ago in an interview where the governor couldn't find the right words.

When was the last time anyone really cared about the VP debate? Most people I came in contact with the night of the show said they were watching just to see Palin slip up.

M. Dery said...

Keith: A spirited argument, as always, written with plenty of panache. But this is the second post you've written in which you assert, as if it were universally conceded, the notion that Palin is being unfairly GOTCHA'd and truth-squadded to death by a putatively liberal-leaning media. This skeptical reader wants to know: where's the beef? In other words, where's the evidence that the media are setting the bar twice as high for Palin as they would for a male candidate? The kerfuffle over whether she would have time to care for her special needs child, as if her First Dude would never undertake the unmanly business of helping to raise a child, is inarguably sexist. That's one of your strongest pieces of evidence, but you don't discuss it in depth. More to the point, you've ridden this hobbyhorse---media sexism---in an earlier post. Time to give it a rest; either that, or think deeply about it and convince your skeptical readers with some rock-solid evidence, and an avalanche of it.
More drive-by comments:
"She pushes the idea of the media as leftist (all mainstream media) vs. balanced (Fox) in sort of a fight to the death over exposing political agendas."
If you truly believe that the charge of liberal media bias is adequately evidenced, it's incumbent upon you to hit us with some of that evidence. For my money---and who knows? my ideological biases might be showing, but I believe the facts speak for themselves---citing an attacking head like Coulter, whose books are rotten with quotes lifted out of context and demonstrable errors of fact (see doesn't exactly sandbag your argument with unshakable evidence. Better to find a cooler head who doesn't play so fast and loose with the evidence.

M. Dery said...

Sorry, snarfed the link. It's

M. Dery said...

Third time's the charm.

M. Dery said...

More afterthoughts: Wish you'd at least raised---if only to rebut---the point that the McCain machine has cordoned Palin off from the media, carefully staging her public appearances and sharply restricting media access to her. If she's not the dim-bulb extremist the Vast Left-Wing Media Conspiracy makes her out to be, why not let the American people hear her in all her spontaneous, TelePromptR-free glory? Also, you need to confront, head-on, the ubiquitous perception that she and the McCain campaign are using the by-now pro forma GOP strategy---as old as Spiro Agnew and as recent as Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and Karl Rove---of "working the ref" (accusing the media of liberal bias in order to coerce them to overcompensate in your candidate's favor). Fine to rebut, but you must at least answer these frequently aired questions.

Will Marshall said...

While I enjoy your discussion and analysis of Coulter column, I’m not sure your conclusion is backed up. How do you know they are biased towards her because she is a woman? Your evidence for the conclusion is: Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly by the news media and Palin is also being treated unfairly, therefore it must be the gender. That’s hardly a controlled experiment, I couldn’t think of two more different people.

Like you, I agree that Palin isn’t getting a fair shake in the media but I don’t think the fact that she’s a woman is the most plausible reason as to why. I think the media elite dislike Palin because she is so different from them. Her anti-intellectualism, transparent recitation of talking points and small town style are unsettling to big city reporters. The media used to love John McCain because he looked and thought more like one of them (he has been moderate enough to appeal to both parties), but I think to many Palin represents the worst of the Republican party.

The media doesn’t like Palin not because she’s a woman, but because it seems like she’s from another planet.

Anonymous said...

In regards to my last post, 'All if Fair in Politics and Palin," I've mentioned that gender does inevitably play into the media field because: 1) having female candidates on both sides is "uncharted territory for the American News Media," according to Tom Rosenstiel, and 2) because the McCain camp continually accuses the press of sexism for every "gotcha'd journalism" effort.

Although I agree that a woman can't get a fair shake in politics and that the press have questioned her everytime she's made a fumble, (i.e. her not knowing the Bush Doctrine), it's a delicate issue. Ideally' I'd like to see a woman handle a hard hitting investigative inquiry without her supporters constantly accuse the press of giving her too much pressure.

Joseph Coscarelli said...

Keith: The first part that troubles me about your post is when you write, "Now to the part of the column I actually cared about," about Coulter's piece. It suggests that in your attempt to highlight rampant sexism, you admittedly glaze over all else (in this case, Coulter's baseless bile-spitting) in your own spin on GOTCHA journalism.

As the Fact Check reveals, Palin was also a little loose with her tongue in her claims about Obama's tax record and troop levels, to name only two.

Gaffe coverage is indeed subject to a strange, seemingly random algorithm but I'm hard pressed to find any evidence in your post that gender plays a factor. Instead, as in our class discussion on memes, I'm more inclined to believe that repetition, not the sex of the speaker, leads to the MSM pick-up of candidates' missteps.

You say it's not a Dem/Repub thing, but then how do you account for the smoothness with which the "GOP > Drudge > Fox > MSM" cycle works?

Still, I think the incredulousness of the slip-up may be more likely to ensure it's replay value. After all, most Americans probably cannot name the countries in NATO or cite articles in the Constitution, but they could surely name the sources they use for news.

As a final note, this is a bit lengthy so I'll defer to Campbell Brown in support of Prof. Dery's "Why not let her talk?" argument that it is actually the McCain campaign who is guilty of chauvinism.

Zara Golden said...

Your defense of these woman should not go overlooked. I am, however, caught stumbling over your finger pointing. The media certainly has done a great job at pointing out the hole Palin is digging for herself, sure, but it seems overly simplistic to claim a nation (or world's) view of Palin to have been whittled by sexist MSM coverage.

Palin's case is an unusual one: increasingly (and intentionally) hard for the media to reach (not to mention expensive), the stories that pay are the ones that highlight her missteps. And Palin, herself, often tries to play that Me/You, Insider/Outsider game--makes it a little more difficult to sympathetic to the idea that her treatment is just "a woman thing." The MSM needs some sort of portrait of Palin, and perhaps the one they've drawn is less than positive, but that may be a result of the little she's given them to work with.

Even if her treatment is unfair, I am not sure it's all stemming from her gender. Sure she's a woman, and sure, she's not looking to great these days, but I don't think that that means the two accusations go hand in hand. I worry that labeling an issue like this as "sexism" deters from the fact that maybe we aren't seeing the whole story. It's not that the label doesn't fit, per say, it's just that "female" is one of the few things that can be said with certainty about her, and maybe too avoid such "sexist" coverage, we could stop pointing fingers and simply ask for more.

Rhea Anklesaria said...

"A woman can't get a fair shake in politics in the media's eyes." I'm not sure how you reached that conclusion.

I think the McCain camp may well be playing the sexist card to shelter Palin from the scrutiny and hard questions of the media (which she has proved herself to be inept at handling). The accusations stretch to the extent of accusing Tina Fey of sexism in her SNL comedy sketch.When the McCain camp is not busy accusing the media of liberal bias, they are accusing them of sexism. The message seems to be "stop picking on us." As for the John Roberts issue, McCain had no problem using Palin's family background to bolster her credentials. In his own words: Palin is the "role model to women, a reformer, (understands) special needs like autism" and understands special needs families better than "anyone in the country." To play devil's advocate let me throw the point back at the McCain camp - If it were a man being picked who also had a baby four months ago with Down's syndrome, would you play up the same credentials? At the risk of walking too left an edge of cynicism, I admit, Roberts coverage may well be interpreted as sexist. That being said, was it an inappropriate question for the hockey mom of the nation? Maybe not. Was it inappropriate to cover her teenage daughters pregnancy? Maybe not.

In fact in one of her interviews with Couric, Palin was recorded saying "it would be sexist if the media were to hold back and not ask me about my experience, my vision, my principles, my values..."