In Monday's daily political chat at the Washington Post website, reporter Shailagh Murray was defending her Saturday front-pager on hot-looking Democrats. She claimed that it was not biased to say Democrats were better looking this year. The bias was "in the facts," she claimed:
Alexandria, Va.: On the good-looking thing: to do a story like that -- ooh, look at the Democratic hotties! -- in mid-October looks a bit like electioneering (leering electioneering?). When you have a good-looking Republican, the media treat them as automatically devoid of depth. That's why this article came across as tilted.
Shailagh Murray: This year, Republicans are incumbents and Democrats are challengers. That's why I focused on Democrats. Because they're the ones pushing the boulder up the mountain. As I pointed out, Republicans did something similar in 1994, when a lot of their candidates were younger and more fresh faced, less like traditional politicians. I realize that some people see bias in everything we all write, but sometimes the bias is in the facts.
Later, she was asked if her article was sexist:
Arlington, Va.: You don't think it's sexist to push Man Meat for high office? As if women make all their decisions based on appearances?
Shailagh Murray: You have got to be kidding me. Have you noticed all those reality shows and fashion magazines, the obsessions that shopping and personal grooming have now become, the de facto religion of celebrity worshipping? Who do you think consumes all that? Those are voters! Why should they judge candidates any differently?
Murray told one questioner who couldn't believe we were going to have a female Speaker of the House that "I can't imagine a scenario where Nancy Pelosi isn't Speaker, if Democrats take the House back. No matter what lots of people think about her, she will get some credit for this win. Murtha is challenging Steny Hoyer for the No. 2 job, and may or may not win -- he's not a universally beloved figure. However, if the Dems do take the House, many of the new members will be far more conservative, and they also will be expecting some credit as well as a voice at the top." That prompted another question:
Centreville: On what do you base your idea that new House Democrats are going to be much more conservative than Pelosi: they're pro-Iraq war? Pro-tax cut? Anti-abortion? What?
Shailagh Murray: Because for Democrats to win the House next month, they have to clean up in Republican districts. Not Northern California districts, but Indiana and Virginia districts. Not surprisingly, the Democrats running in these places are more conservative. They are pretty unified on the big Democratic priorities -- energy independence, minimum wage, expanding health coverage -- but they hold more conservative views on social issues, in particular abortion -- lots of pro-life Dems running this year.
At noon, media reporter Howard Kurtz was asked about the Democratic-hottie article, too, and he said it could have been more balanced out with some attractive GOPers:
Baton Rouge, La.: So a month from the election, The Post prints a story about how all those Democratic candidates are so good lookin'. If the paper were trying to write an article that conservatives could use as an example for decades to come as evidence of MSM bias, could The Post have done a better job?
Howard Kurtz: I thought we should have looked harder for good-looking Republican candidates as well. Assuming that this sort of thing matters to voters at all, that is.
He was also asked about the Jabba-the-Hastert joke in a Post news story:
Arlington, Va.: Since you're taking questions on the looks of politicians, did you notice today's Post story on Denny Hastert (starts on p. 1) suggests he looks like a cross of "Wilford Brimley and Jabba the Hutt"? A little harsh? Opinionated?
Howard Kurtz: Opinionated? Sure. But I don't think even Speaker Hastert would say he's been successful in politics because of his matinee looks or trim physique. And isn't Wilford Brimley a pretty popular figure?