ABC Touts Dem as 'Feminist Icon' After the Release of Racy Photos, Downplayed 'Whore' Attack on Whitman

October 25th, 2010 12:53 PM

The surfacing of racy photos of a Democratic congressional candidate have made the politician "something of a feminist icon," according to Good Morning America. Reporter Jeremy Hubbard and host Bianna Golodryga on Sunday offered sympathetic reports on Krystal Ball, a House candidate in Virginia.

An ABC graphic speculated, "Sexist Smear Campaign?: No Regrets for Racy Photos." Golodryga pitched softball questions about the six year old photographs of Ball and her then husband posing with sex toys at a party. Addressing the uproar after the photos appeared on websites, Golodryga comforted, "You call this whole scandal a sexist double standard. Why?"

Allowing Ball to play the victim, the host wondered, "And when these came out you said that you thought of Hillary Clinton. Why?" Yet, when audio of a Democratic staffer referring to Republican Meg Whitman as a whore appeared, GMA mostly ignored it. News anchor Juju Chang covered it in a news brief on October 8 as "some salty language in the race for California governor."

According to Chang, an aide to Jerry Brown used "a not-so flattering word to describe" Whitman. (She then played the offending audio.) On Sunday, GMA featured no clips of Brown's heavily favored Republican opponent Rob Wittman. In a passing reference, she did challenge, "You're right now 20 points behind your opponent."

It's also odd that ABC would bring this topic back up so close to the election. The risque photos of Ball first became public in early October. Regardless, the network morning show appeared to be more interested in portraying a liberal female candidate with no little chance of winning as a victim than they do in discussing the Republican gubernatorial candidate attacked as a "whore."

A transcript of the October 24 segment, which aired at 8:30am EDT, follows:

 ABC GRAPHIC: Sexist Smear Campaign?: No Regrets for Racy Photos

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: But, first racy pictures have come to light causing a big controversy in a congressional race. They show the young woman candidate dressed in a risque costume at a party six years ago. We'll talk to her live in a minute. But, now, here's Jeremy Hubbard with her Brow

KRYSTAL BALL: My dad named called me Krystal Ball so I know what it's like to be made fun of.

JEREMY HUBBARD: Even with a name like that, this Democratic House candidate couldn't have possibly predicted the uproar over these embarrassing old photos. A conservative blog and several other sites published the suggestive pictures taken at a party several years ago showing Ball and her then husband posing with a sex toy on his nose. A digital trail of youthful discretions. It is a new problem for candidates of the Facebook age. But, instead of quitting in shame, the 28-year-old is hoping this scandal opens a door for women. In a statement she wrote, "Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere. This is a reality that has to be faced or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office." It is a message that many feminists are embracing. She's become something of a feminist icon.

TERRY O'NEILL (President, National Organization for Women): Women do suffer from a stud versus slut dichotomy where Scott Brown can run for the United States Senate and the pictures of him in Cosmopolitan posing nude don't make him qualified but women, they're told, oh, that makes you disqualified. Krystal Ball confronted that unfair dichotomy and simply rejected it.

HUBBARD: The question is will voters reject her over the photos.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I think it was poor judgment. You have to know that whatever you do nowadays somebody is going to see it.

HUBBARD: Either way, these photos have exposed a new problem for young office seekers. For Good Morning America Jeremy Hubbard, ABC News, New York.

GOLODRYGA: And Krystal Ball is here joining us this morning. Good to see you. Thank you very much for coming in.

KRYSTAL BALL: Thank you very much for having me, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: You call this whole scandal a sexist double standard. Why?

BALL: I do. And I think the example of Scott Brown in Massachusetts is the perfect example. He posed nude at the same age in a national magazine and it was barely a bump in his campaign. These photos came out where I was fully clothed, albeit it was certainly in poor taste but everybody was over age, et cetera. And became the number three most googled thing in the entire world. So, I do think there is a different standard applied. And even more than that, I think this is an example of exactly the type of politics people are so frustrated with and so disgusted with rather than talking about the issues, rather than focusing on solutions to the big challenges we're facing trying to destroy each other personally and it's just not helpful in our society.

GOLODRYGA: And yet you seem to take this as a platform of your own. Why not just come out and say these were pictures taken when you were young and move forward with your own political ticket items and things that you'd like to talk about as opposed to these photos themselves?

BALL: Yeah, which is actually what we've tried to do and I made the decision that it wasn't just about this particular race in the first district of Virginia. There are going to be a lot of other young people stepping up to run who have photos that they're maybe not proud of in their past. And I wanted to make sure that I came out and said, you know what, if you have some stupid photos in your past, it's okay. You can still run for office. You can take this thing head on. So that was my concern going in. I personally believe we need people from my generation to step up and run for office and the last thing that I wanted to see is for some stupid photos from the past to derail people's ambitions to run for office and to serve.

GOLODRYGA: And when these came out you said that you thought of Hillary Clinton. Why?

BALL: I did. I did. And certainly I am not comparing myself to Hillary Clinton at all. But she was such a role model for me growing up. I was about 15 years old when everything went down with her and the President in the '90s and I Just remember looking at her and thinking, what an incredible, strong, courageous woman. So when I was faced with this- what was a very difficult situation for me personally and I really just wanted to sort of go into a corner and hide, I drew on her example as a model of strength and courage and that kind of gave me the ability to come out and take this head on.

GOLODRYGA: And who do you think released these pictures? Do you think this was a personal attack or political attack?

BALL: It was definitely a political attack. I have no idea who released the pictures. It had to have been someone at the party. They weren't posted online or anything like that. So in that way it was very hurtful because it had to have been someone who knew me personally.

GOLODRYGA: Regardless of what happens, you're right now 20 points behind your opponent right now. What are you going to tell your little daughter about this incident when she's old enough to talk about it?

BALL: You know, I'm going to tell her to certainly be careful what she does in front of the camera but not to be ashamed. We all make mistakes in our life and not to let it keep her from pursuing the things she wants to pursue and serving the country in the way that she wants to.

GOLODRYGA: Lastly, actually we have to ask you about your name. Krystal Ball. Where did that come about? Is that your given name?

BALL: That is my- my parents actually did that to me. My dad actually named me. I have two older sisters, normal names. My mother named them. My dad was a PhD physicist. He did his dissertation on crystals and they just liked the name.

GOLODRYGA: Krystal Ball, sometimes normal isn't always great. Coming from a Bianna Golodryga. Definitely not a normal name myself. We wish you all the best.