CNN’s Michael Smerconish Complains Carly Fiorina Didn’t Smile Enough in GOP Debate

In CNN’s post-debate coverage early Thursday of their 2016 Republican debate, CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish praised Carly Fiorina as possessing “a public speaking gift,” but lamented that she didn’t smile enough during the debate and should “loosen it up a little bit.” 

Leading into his comments, AC360 host Anderson Cooper remarked that he found it “interesting” that “a number of candidates showed a sense of humor” with Fiorina not in that camp while political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson complimented her on being “fantastic” and acting “like she was the clean-up woman in some ways” for her male opponents.

Henderson then immediately shot back and made her rather vehement disagreement known to her fellow panelist by calling him for furthering a double standard regarding women: “I say no, she doesn’t. Do you know how many times men tell women oh, you've got to smile.”

After Cooper asked Henderson if it was actually the case, Henderson reiterated her point that “she doesn’t have to.” Smerconish responded by also doubling down: “Wait a minute, there was not a smile all night long. There are times to be serious, but you've got to loosen it up a little bit.”

Henderson came back a few seconds later by recognizing that politicians should keep a light mood at times, but again asked: “[D]o you know how many times women have to do that?”

Also getting in on the action, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp praised Fiorina’s answer about who she’d put on the $10 bill while slamming the answers her male opponents gave:

Out of all the guys who gave all the schticky answers on the dollar bill question, which is a throw-away question, but a chance to sort of humor – she’s the only one who gave the right answer, which is this is a gesture. This is meaningless.  They're all trying to put their moms and wives on this and she stuck and I think she really shone in that moment. 

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While he stands on the other side of Smerconish on the political spectrum, fellow political commentator Kevin Madden offered the same critique of Fiorina:

But Michael had a really good point, though. At the heart, these are performances and in a performance, the one thing you want to do is drive home some themes and attributes and the theme that she successfully drove home today was somebody who is clear, concise, really strong on a lot of these issues and a greatly great command of the issue, but Michael is absolutely right. There has to be a relatability and a likability. That’s going to be a challenge.

Siding with Henderson, former Obama official Van Jones blasted the issue of Fiorina not smiling as “a double standard” considering his claim that “I didn’t see Marco Rubio smile once” and “[n]obody’s criticizing Marco Rubio.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Special on September 17 can be found below.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Special
September 17, 2015
12:13 a.m. Eastern

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: On Carly, I don’t think we can say enough. she was fantastic. There’s whole concept of leaning in that women are talking about these days. This is what he did time and time again. You wanted the camera on her, you wanted to see her reaction, what she would do with these questions and she did – she often had better answers to questions than everyone else. It's almost like she was the clean-up woman in some ways. 

ANDERSON COOPER: It was interesting, though, a number of these candidates showed a sense of humor. She didn’t necessarily show that. 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Correct. She has got to. I agree with everything that’s been said, relative to her command of facts, she has a public speaking gift. She’s got to smile.

HENDERSON: I say no, she doesn’t. Do you know how many times men tell women oh, you've got to smile. 

COOPER: Is that right?

HENDERSON: I say, no, she doesn’t have to.

SMERCONISH: Wait a minute, there was not a smile all night long. There are times to be serious, but you've got to loosen it up a little bit.

COOPER: It was interesting how, for instance, Ben Carson kind of used, when he said to Donald Trump, he's an okay doctor. You know, just a small little line, it's a little levity that kind of shows Jeb Bush, I think, kind of humanized himself. 

HENDERSON: I think people have time to do that, but do you know how many times women have to do that?

MIKE ROGERS: Plus she had something to prove tonight. She's a newcomer up on the big stage. I think she had to say I can hang with these people who have been up on the big stage for some time. 

S.E. CUPP: And I have to mention. Out of all the guys who gave all the schticky answers on the dollar bill question, which is a throw-away question, but a chance to sort of humor – she’s the only one who gave the right answer, which is this is a gesture. This is meaningless.  They're all trying to put their moms and wives on this and she stuck and I think she really shone in that moment. 

KEVIN MADDEN: But Michael had a really good point, though. At the heart, these are performances and in a performance, the one thing you want to do is drive home some themes and attributes and the theme that she successfully drove home today was somebody who is clear, concise, really strong on a lot of these issues and a greatly great command of the issue, but Michael is absolutely right. There has to be a relatability and a likability. That’s going to be a challenge.

CUPP: That will come. 

MADDEN: That will come and there's plenty of time. 

VAN JONES: I saw this all on Twitter. I just think it's a double standard. You want to know who a real sour puss? I didn't see Marco Rubio smile once. Nobody’s criticizing Marco Rubio.

NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Debates Conservatives & Republicans Sexuality CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Video Kevin Madden Congressman Mike Rogers Mike Rogers Michael Smerconish Anderson Cooper S.E. Cupp Carly Fiorina Van Jones
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