ABC Highlights Media Matters Video; Investigates Sexism Against Hillary

ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday again investigated the issue of whether sexism has handicapped Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. To do so, reporter Claire Shipman featured a video from the Women's Media Center, a group partnered with the left-wing organization Media Matters. The video featured clips of various journalists harshly attacking Clinton. Shipman didn't mention the connection to Media Matters and simply described the organization as one that "doesn’t endorse a specific candidate" and "has put together a greatest hits video called 'Sexism Sells.'"

In fact, the WMC's website describes the group as "as a non-partisan, non-profit progressive women's media organization [founded] by the writers/activists Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem." Is it not incumbent on ABC to identify the group's liberal outlook and its connection to Media Matters? At the beginning of the piece, co-host Diane Sawyer solemnly intoned that the possible end of the New York senator's presidential quest "has the Clinton campaign crying foul and even raising questions of sexism. Did that play a role in this campaign?"

"Good Morning America" has repeatedly delved into this sexism issue. On May 20, 2008, Sawyer speculated about Clinton's failures and sympathetically wondered, "...Is it an argument that she can make, that in some sense, sexism has cost her the race?" On November 13, 2006, the GMA co-host asked if America is "secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?" For more on GMA's history of worrying about sexism against Mrs. Clinton, see a May 20, 2008 NewsBusters posting.

On Friday's show, Shipman played a clip from feminist Naomi Wolf who insisted that the New York senator shouldn't complain about sexism, but also that "you can't expect fairness." Apparently not, as Wolf is the person who, in 2007, compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler.

Shipman did, at the end of her piece, somewhat discount the cries of sexism: "It can actually be argued that Hillary Clinton has benefited from her gender. Remember, she’s had huge support from women, a lot of support from white men." She also admitted that the presidential candidate's failure to secure the nomination has to do with "bad political decisions." However, the ABC journalist's previous reporting on Clinton has certainly not been free of hyperbole. On January 18, 2007, she touted the "hot factor" that the senator brought to the race.

(Special thanks to intern Peter Sasso for transcribing the segment.)

A transcript of the May 30 segment, which aired at 7:31am, follows:

ROBERTS: First this half hour, as we mentioned earlier, it is a big weekend for Senators Clinton and Obama. The Democratic Party will meet to make a decision about delegates in Florida and Michigan. A decision that could bring Senator Clinton's campaign to an end. It's a possibility that has the Clinton campaign crying foul and even raising questions of sexism. Did that play a role in this campaign? Claire Shipman went in search of some answers and joins us this morning. Good morning Claire.

ABC GRAPHIC: Has Sexism Hurt Hillary Clinton? Sexism in the Campaign

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning Robin. The apparent twilight of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy has opened the floodgates on profound anger for a lot of women. Protests are planned for this weekend, chat rooms are on fire. We decided to check out this charge of sexism, but we should warn you, you might want to cover your children's ears. Depending on your point of view you, could find some of the language offensive. Both Clintons are leveling the charge.

BILL CLINTON: Nobody told Jesse Jackson he should drop out in 1988. Nobody told the people that ran against me in 1992 they had to drop out. This is really interesting. Why are they doing this?

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: So much of what has occurred has been very sexist.

SHIPMAN: Sexism. Suddenly the "S" word is everywhere. Women especially debating its existence and impact. "This election means you’ve not gotten anywhere, girl," blogs one frustrated woman. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan jumps in calling the sexism charge "sissy blame gaming."

NEIL CAVUTO: A ho is a ho.

SHIPMAN: The Woman's Media Center, which doesn’t endorse a specific candidate, has put together a greatest hits video called "Sexism Sells."

[From Video]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: She was calm, she was charming. Ah, her hair, just to be cosmetic, her hair looked great.

TUCKER CARLSON: When she comes on television I involuntary cross my legs.

SHIPMAN: Wow. Extreme examples to be sure, but how pervasive is it? We did some digging ourselves and came up with more.

MATTHEWS: Is it smart politics for Republicans to demonize Hillary Clinton?

UNIDENTIFIED HOST: What Jackie Smith was wearing although its being covered by, oh there we go.

CARLSON: But the one thing we learned from the Lorena Bobbitt case is there's a great deal of resentment among women aimed at men. That's why Oprah's huge. I mean, women are angry. I am serious.

SHIPMAN: Is that stuff sexist, funny or really bad taste? We asked Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson if they wanted to talk about it, the only personality though who manned up to talk about his word was us, radio and TV host Glenn Beck. I am going to show you some examples of one thing you said. So you don’t get nervous.

GLEN BECK [radio clip] She's a stereotypical bitch, you know what I mean? She's that stereotypical nagging-- [Mock screams] -- you know what I mean?

[Clip ends]

BECK: Do you know what I mean? Do you?

SHIPMAN: What did you mean?

BECK [Host, radio and TV]: This is what I meant. We were watching one of her um, interviews, or whatever she was doing, or a speech. And she had that tone of voice. She just sounds like, I can't listen 'cause -- it sounds like my wife saying, "take out the garbage."

SHIPMAN: But what about the "B" word. Is that okay to use? You think I should say it? I don't want to say it. I don't like it.

BECK: No, You know what? here's the thing. Calling her that, no. I don't think I would call her that. I hope I've never called her that. Saying, sounds like the stereotypical -- probably the better word was "nag."

SHIPMAN: One of the problems is that sexism is hard to define. The virtue of name calling, if you will, or slurs [shows clip of man with a poster at a Hillary Clinton rally] like "iron my shirt," is that sexist or not, they are so obvious. But what about the very silly? A pin with Hillary’s cackle? A Hillary nutcracker, her legs lined with spikes? In the bigger picture, even Obama supporters like leading feminist Naomi Wolf think Hillary is feeling unfair pressure but she thinks its self-defeating for the candidate to talk about it.

NAOMI WOLF: When you're saying, I want to be President of the United States of America, what you have to also tell the American people is I can handle anything. And you can't expect fairness.

SHIPMAN: And on that point, the feminist and provocateur agree.

BECK: Here's how you win in America, if I'm Hillary Clinton, instead of saying sexist, sexist, sexist. I walk on stage and [Holds up Hillary "nutcracker" doll] go, you're damn right. That's what I want from the President of the United States.

SHIPMAN: This is such a divisive issue of course. Even at "Good Morning America" we had a heated debates sometimes accompanied by surprised blasts of Helen Reddy. But of course the big picture, if there was sexism, Did it matter? It can actually be argued that Hillary Clinton has benefited from her gender. Remember, she’s had huge support from women, a lot of support from white men. A year ago well ahead in the polls, a gigantic war chest. Barack Obama's popularity and bad political decisions have probably had more to do with her situation than anything else, Robin.

ROBERTS: Alright Claire. As you’ve said we had heated discussions. But I love, how did you phrase it with Glen Beck? He was the only one who would man up and talk to you and admit?

SHIPMAN: The only one who would man up, yes, glad you caught that. Robin.

ROBERTS: Alright Claire, Have a good weekend. Thanks a lot for bringing that to us.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.