'Brilliant' Ifill Cousin Scours Palin As 'Offensive to Black Women'

Here are more signs Sarah Palin could face an uphill battle with PBS host Gwen Ifill. Professor Sherrilyn Ifill of the University of Maryland Law School, whom Gwen Ifill has lauded as "my brilliant baby cousin," has written that black women are not buying Sarah Palin’s "false claims to feminism" and is portrayed as too perfect: "when women who are privileged present as though they have it all together, it’s offensive to black women." (Photo from Soros.com)

The Community Times, a suburban Maryland newspaper, found Professor Ifill was ardently opposed to the Alaska governor when they did an e-mail interview:

"From the first day, Palin presented herself as shooting a bear in the morning, field dressing it, cooking up the breakfast, diapering the babies, passing legislation in the afternoon, cleaning the house, satisfying her husband, etc., etc., etc. And it's just not true," she wrote in an e-mail interview. "It's hard to be an average working mom, really hard. And when women who are privileged present as though they have it all together, it's offensive to black women."

She said, "black women are not easily confused by false claims to feminism. When women like Palin lay claims to ‘representing' average women, I think that black women have a visceral reaction to it."

Ifill added that Palin "missed her opportunity when she announced Bristol's pregnancy to explicitly talk about how painful it was to her as a mother - instead of making it as though this too was also part of her perfect life.

"Hillary has the sympathy of women because of what she went through with Bill in front of the whole country. Michelle [Obama] takes pains to be self-deprecating and to talk about her concerns and fear about her girls. She insists that she couldn't do what she does without the help of her mother. Most importantly, both champion issues that affect the lives of real, average women - universal health care, equal pay, choice, etc. To do so is a recognition that real working women (not political wives or politicians) need policies that will help them maintain their families. What's the point of Palin's brand of feminism if it doesn't translate into real returns for average women?"

It can be noted that the professor is so passionate an Obama supporter that she also denounced Hillary Clinton as a phony feminist: "When she knocked back a shot and a beer in that bar in Pennsylvania, Mrs. Clinton ended any pretense of running as a feminist." She compared it to Michael Dukakis in a tank, a failed "macho stunt."

Gwen Ifill’s family pride came through in her monthly washingtonpost.com online chat on October 4, 2007:

Pittsburgh, Pa.: Is Professor Sherrilyn Ifill at the University of Maryland Law School, who's spoken out so eloquently and thoughtfully on symbols of racial hatred lately, any relation to you?

Gwen Ifill: She is indeed my brilliant baby cousin, and the author of an excellent book "On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 20th Century."

Cousin Gwen supported that book at an event at the liberal D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose. As The Politico reported in February of 2007:

Ifill's reading illustrates how decisions are made. She had everything you need: a name to draw a crowd (her cousin, moderator of PBS's "Washington Week," introduced her); a friendship with Jim Lehrer of "The News Hour," also on PBS; and a book with a liberal, social-justice bent, about lynchings that took place outside the Deep South.

"Jim Lehrer's a great friend of the store," Meade said, adding that the store probably would have held the reading anyway, given the content of Ifill's book. "If it's something that involves civil rights, civil liberties, we're pretty interested in it usually."

The idea that Politics and Prose has a liberal bias has caused the store some consternation, but it's rooted in reality. The bookstore draws a graying, turtleneck crowd in a neighborhood known for its liberal politics in a city that gave George W. Bush fewer than 22,000 votes in 2004. Would you expect the shelves to be buckling under the weight of Sean Hannity and Co.'s latest books?

The bookstore's most well-known snub went to Matt Drudge, a conservative and the creator of The Drudge Report. Cohen reportedly called him "a rumormonger and a troublemaker" in 2000 when the store rejected his request for a reading.

(Hat tip: Chris R.)

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