Appearing as a guest on Friday's New Day to discuss the issue of whether sexism toward women has caused more negative feelings toward Hillary Clinton, liberal CNN political commentator Peter Beinart -- also of The Atlantic -- theorized that because, according to Politifact, Clinton is an "unusually truthful" political candidate, there must be some other factor like sexism that is causing her unfavorable rating to be so high.
After citing studies claiming that people judge female politicians more negatively and that negative treatment affects behavior, he further theorized that knowing that she is perceived negatively has caused her to overreact "defensively' and make minor problems worse. Beinart: "I think if you look at the Hillary Clinton scandals, going back to the 1990s, the pattern is it starts with something relatively small, and she reacts defensively, and she makes the problem worse. And I think part of that has to -- again, I'm not excusing her for everything -- part of that has to do with that she always has been judged by a different standard, and she has responded to that."
After host Alisyn Camerota and left-leaning CNN political commentator Kirsten Powers recalled frustration that some women have when they are told they should smile more, Camerota turned to Beinart and posed: "Peter, what's your take on this? I mean, you know, a lot of men don't like Hillary Clinton, but how do you know that that's sexism? Maybe they just don't like her."
After recounting surveys finding that white men view Clinton much more unfavorably than they did John Kerry or Barack Obama, Beinart added:
I don't think you can explain that simply by her email scandal or the Clinton Foundation. In fact, Politifact says she's been an unusually truthful candidate. I read for this piece I wrote in The Atlantic dozens and dozens of studies about the way that both men and women respond to women in power, and I have to say I was appalled, I was, there's so much evidence that people respond differently to women in power.
The liberal CNN commentator then recalled studies finding that women in authority positions are often viewed more negatively, and ended up finding the amount of sexism "frightening." Beinart:
A fictional male state senator and female state senator, right? The people in the study are supposed to read a biography of them and it says that this politician is ambitious. No negative reaction to the fictional male state senator. Outrage at the female state senator. Men who are hired by female supervisors negotiate more aggressively over money than those who are hired by men.
Men are more likely to send pornography in these studies to women who describe themselves as "feminists" than women who don't. There is so much evidence that helps us understand -- again, not to say Hillary Clinton is perfect, but to understand the totality of the outrage that she's experiencing, the academic literature helps us understand it, and it's frightening.
A bit later, Beinart moved toward blaming Clinton's bad behavior partly on society:
You know, the most remarkable thing that I found in all those studies I read is the impact of the way you're being perceived on the way women actually act when they are in power. Because women who are in positions of power are not given legitimacy in general that men are. And, tragically, that can do -- this is a study by a professor at Yale -- kind of self-reinforcing cycle in which, because you are perceived as not legitimate, because you know you are being judged by a different standard, it can make you more defensive and it can actually have a negative impact on the way you behave.
I think if you look at the Hillary Clinton scandals, going back to the 1990s, the pattern is it starts with something relatively small, and she reacts defensively, and she makes the problem worse. And I think part of that has to -- again, I'm not excusing her for everything -- part of that has to do with that she always has been judged by a different standard, and she has responded to that. And I think that's part of what you're seeing in that post.