The Washington Post website reports that Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign has sent out a fundraising letter protesting Post fashion critic Robin Givhan’s article about being disturbed by a small glimpse of Hillary’s cleavage on C-SPAN. Longtime Hillaryland fixture Ann Lewis fussed: "Now I’ve seen some off-topic press coverage – but talking about body parts? That’s grossly inappropriate." She even tries to sound like a social conservative: "Take a stand against this kind of coarseness and pettiness in American culture."
Insert your own comment here on how odd it is to assume that Bill and Hillary Clinton are the very antonym of public pettiness or coarse personal misbehavior.
Lewis clearly wants to suggest that The Washington Post is somehow an anti-feminist publication, or pretend that over the years, it hasn't been filled with oozing profiles about her being "Queen of the World." (Peter Baker, 1999.)
But the item by Howard Kurtz and Anne Kornblut turns even harder to believe:
Lewis, who has complained to Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, said she was "appalled" by the column but initially dismissed it as "an inside-the-Beltway story."
"I didn't realize the attention and the anger it was setting off nationally ..... Women either read it or heard about it. They were indignant on Hillary's behalf and also on their own." Lewis says she has not discussed the matter with the New York senator.
Now who is so gullible that they would believe that Hillary doesn't parse every sentence of a fundraising letter? Or maybe they're playing Clinton word games. Hillary approved the ad via e-mail, so they never "discussed" the matter. Here's the reaction from Givhan and her Post editor:
Givhan, who won a Pulitzer Prize last year, said she disagreed "that there was anything in the column that was coarse, insulting or belittling. It was a piece about a public person's appearance on the Senate floor that was surprising because of the location and because of the person. It's disingenuous to think that revealing cleavage, any amount of it, in that kind of situation is a non-issue.
"It's obviously not the most important thing in the campaign. It's obviously not the most important thing Hillary Clinton has ever done by any means"....
"Robin has consistently raised similar questions over the years about both men and women who are in the public eye," said Steve Reiss, The Post's deputy assistant managing editor for Style. "We know these people take a great deal of care in how they present themselves on TV and in public, and that is fair game for analysis." Noting that the newspaper has run dozens of articles on Clinton's policy positions and background, Reiss said, "I don't feel we have anything to apologize for."
Politicians often rip the media over what they see as unfavorable coverage, hoping to score points against an unpopular institution. But the cleavage letter is undoubtedly a first in the annals of campaign counterpunching.
"I would never say the column was about a body part," Givhan said. "It was about a style of dress. People have gone down the road of saying, 'I can't believe you're writing about her breasts.' I wasn't writing about her breasts. I was writing about her neckline."
Kurtz and Kornblut also noted that Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman wrote today that Givhan "managed to make a media mountain out of a half-inch valley." Now Hillary is making a fundraising mountain out of protesting a largely sympathetic Post story -- except for the "no one wants to see that" part, of course.