On Tuesday, the newly elected members of the 114th Congress were officially sworn in and CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell sat down with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) the youngest woman ever elected at age 30.
While the interview was mostly friendly, co-host Norah O’Donnell found time to push her guest on the GOP’s standing with minority voters and asked Stefanik “does the Republican Party have an image problem?”
O’Donnell began her interview by highlighting the barriers the young Republican overcame to win her election before she pushed liberal talking points about the GOP’s so-called image problem:
Republicans are calling her the future of their new party. They're looking to Stefanik to attract new voters. Someone noted that the Republican Party has wanted to bottle and mass produce candidates like you, young, female and Republican. Does the Republican Party have an image problem?
For her part, Stefanik pushed back against O’Donnell and insisted that the GOP has made significant improvements:
We’ve certainly fixed it this past election cycle. And I hope that we take away lessons from this past election cycle. I think we need to have a tone that reaches out to women and that's something that I've been very focused on. I also think we need to do a better job of listening.
As the segment progressed, the CBS host made a backhanded swipe at Ms. Stefanik’s pro-life values:
Her credentials are rock solid. A Harvard graduate who worked in the George W. Bush White House. She helped run her family’s small business back home. She’s pro-life but argues for compassion and understanding of differing views.
While O'Donnell did correctly label Stefanik as pro-life, rather than use the liberal "anti-choice" term, the CBS host implied that unlike most members of the pro-life community Stefanik is actually "understanding of different views."
O’Donnell concluded her interview by once again promoting the liberal argument that the GOP needs to improve its image:
The Republican Party knows that more than half of voters are women and they know that the segment of millennials is growing in terms of the voting population and they have to reach out to those groups.
See relevant transcript below.
CBS This Morning
January 6, 2014
NORAH O’DONNELL: When the new Congress gets sworn in today it will include the most diverse group in history with a record number of minorities and women. A Republican from northern New York becomes the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress. In a story you’ll see only on CBS This Morning, we sat down with Elise Stefanik to look at her groundbreaking achievement. So what's it like to be the youngest women ever elected to Congress?
ELISE STEFANIK: It's very exciting. It's a humbling feeling and I'm just excited to add an additional crack to the glass ceiling.
O’DONNELL: Elise Stefanik made her crack in the glass ceiling in a district known as the north country in New York State. She launched her campaign at age 29 and won it as a 30-year-old. How did your parents respond to your ambition about joining politics?
STEFANIK: They're very supportive. My parents have always been supportive of everything that I've done. Whether it was in school growing up, whether it was my dance recitals, whether it was sports and I really credit the values that my parents instilled in me. The hard work. They're just really my role models. I'm getting a little choked up talking about them. They're just wonderful. They were excited.
I think it's harder for family members to see someone go through it with the negativity. To go through the campaign with the blog comments, the negative ads. It's hard on family members than on the candidates themselves. So I often was telling them, it's okay, I have a thick skin.
O’DONNELL: Were there personal comments that were made that were hurtful?
STEFANIK: Women oftentimes, the comments are different, whether it's about appearance, attire, it's just different than male candidates. There are different challenges.
O’DONNELL: People made comments about the kind of tights you wear.
STEFANIK: They did. I wear patterned tights which are not, I mean they’re not that fashion forward. If you look around for example the halls of Congress, there are lots of staff members that wear patterned tights. They're very tasteful. But it's just part of being a young new candidate.
O’DONNELL: Republicans are calling her the future of their new party. They're looking to Stefanik to attract new voters. Someone noted that the Republican Party has wanted to bottle and mass produce candidates like you, young, female and Republican. Does the Republican Party have an image problem?
STEFANIK: We’ve certainly fixed it this past election cycle. And I hope that we take away lessons from this past election cycle. I think we need to have a tone that reaches out to women and that's something that I've been very focused on. I also think we need to do a better job of listening. That's something that I prioritized over the course of the campaign.
And one of, a current member of Congress who gave me some of the best advice is actually Congressman Paul Ryan, who when I first went to him and said I was considering running for office, and he, too, of course, ran at a younger age than I was, said you have one mouth and two ears. Use them in that ratio.
O’DONNELL: Stefanik considers Ryan her mentor. She ran his debate prep team when he was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. Her disappointment in that election pushed her to run. So this is where most of the freshmen members of Congress have offices.
STEFANIK: A lot of freshmen are up here.
O’DONNELL: Her credentials are rock solid. A Harvard graduate who worked in the George W. Bush White House. She helped run her family’s small business back home. She’s pro-life but argues for compassion and understanding of differing views. She also talks about something that's rare these days in Washington, compromise and working with Democrats. Americans are really sick of gridlock in Congress.
STEFANIK: I think you're going to see a Congress that works in the 114th Congress and a Senate at work.
O’DONNELL: I can hear viewers at home saying, ah, I'll believe it when I see it. Every member of Congress tells me that every new session.
STEFANIK: But you know what, maybe it's my youth coming through and maybe its naivety but its also optimism. I think that’s where being young is a strength because I bring, I hope, a sunny side of optimism to Congress and a willingness to work with people. I hope I'm not frustrated after the next two years.
O’DONNELL: And if you had had to bet your house on it?
STEFANIK: Again, I'm so young. I'm optimistic.
O’DONNELL; You know, she's on the Armed Services Committee which is where that room was because she represents Fort Drum, New York which, of course, they’re the first to go in wars like Afghanistan and stuff like that. She's optimistic on tax reform which I think is one of the things to look at in this Congress. They're going to vote on the Keystone Pipeline.
You know, they're going to vote on repealing parts of ObamaCare, but whether tax reform comes through. But she's interesting and I think it’s interesting for 2016. The Republican Party knows that more than half of voters are women and they know that the segment of millennials is growing in terms of the voting population and they have to reach out to those groups.
GAYLE KING: She seems to have a great attitude Norah. Sunny side of optimism. And very poised I thought. Very poised.
O’DONNELL: Yeah, very poised.
KING: She kept talking about her age but she’s very poised.
O’DONNELL: I mean, 30's young. 30's young. The average age of a member of Congress is 58.
KING: Now, you're talking.