MSNBC's Carlson suggested women may be "so sensible, they don't want to get involved in something as stupid as politics"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On the November 5 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, while discussing "the so-called gender card in the '08 presidential race," host Tucker Carlson asked Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation: "You don't sort of look down a little bit on women ... who would vote for [Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)], partly because she's a woman?" Smeal responded, "No, absolutely not. ... [L]et's face it, she's very qualified. But the reality is, you also would like to break this glass ceiling. You would like to have some representation," adding, "I mean, it's embarrassing, Tucker. We're 68th in the world for representation of women in our Congress." Carlson replied: "I'm not embarrassed. I almost -- when I get up at a baseball game and sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' I don't hang my head because we don't have enough women in Congress. I'm actually not embarrassed by it at all." Smeal responded, "Well, it has nothing to do with your baseball game obviously," to which Carlson said: "I don't know why that's embarrassing. You could make the counter case that most women are so sensible, they don't want to get involved in something as stupid as politics. ...They've got real things to do."

Carlson began the interview by noting a November 4 Politico article reporting that Smeal compared the "spectacle of Clinton onstage confronting seven male rivals [sic] and two male moderators" at the October 30 Democratic presidential debate with Anita Hill's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' nomination hearing in 1991. From the November 4 Politico article:

"It goes beyond logic -- it's a gut response," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said of the spectacle of Clinton onstage confronting seven male rivals [sic] and two male moderators at a debate in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Smeal, who has endorsed Clinton, compared the debate scene to the congressional grilling of Anita Hill when she challenged Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination in 1991.

"Every woman -- it was just so visceral -- that panel was all male," Smeal recalled. "It didn't matter almost what was being said. It [was] a visceral gut reaction, and I think that's what you're seeing here again."

On the show, Carlson asked Smeal: "[H]ow did this remind you of the Thomas hearings?" Smeal responded: "Well, what reminded me is that it was the reaction from the audience. I think that women have a gut reaction to seeing all those men then two men as the interrogators." Carlson then asked: "So women see themselves as victims?" Smeal replied: "No, they don't see themselves as victims. They just know how hard it is to crash through the glass ceiling. And so, there's a feeling for her in those kinds of situations."

Following Smeal's statement that "[y]ou have, for the first time in history, a woman leading the race for president ... and then you see that whole line-up, all men on the panel, two men questioning, and the 'I got you' question," Carlson stated: "But they're not just men, I mean, they're Democrats: They're sensitive, New Age men. I mean, they're NPR-listening, Volvo-driving, Whole Foods-shopping. They're the kind of guys who cry during Meg Ryan movies. I mean, they're kind of in touch with their feelings. They're not manly men ... they're wimpy men." When Smeal responded, "Oh, come on!" Carlson said: "I'm not attacking 'em. I'm just saying, it's not like she's surrounded by Southern sheriffs. She's surrounded by [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL]." As Media Matters for America documented, Carlson has previously asserted that Obama "seems like kind of a wuss" and called his "rhetoric" "kind of wimpy."

Smeal also asserted during the segment that Clinton is "obviously very strong," stating that she both is "a strong debater" and has a "record of fighting for women's rights." Carlson replied, "But if she's so strong, then why is she whining about sexism?" Smeal countered, "She isn't whining about sexism," to which Carlson stated: "Of course she was. She got up there and said, you know, 'It's this all-boys club.' ... [E]ssentially she's saying, 'They're being mean to me 'cause I'm a girl.' " Carlson was referring to Clinton's November 1 speech at Wellesley College, her alma mater, during which she said: "In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete on the all-boys club of presidential politics." Nowhere in her speech did she claim that the male Democratic candidates were "being mean" to her because of her sex.

From the November 5 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

CARLSON: Hillary Clinton appears to have decided that complaining about sexism is not a winning rhetorical strategy, so, for the moment, she has stopped. Not all of her supporters have given up on the gender card, though.

In describing her reaction to last week's Democratic presidential debate, Eleanor Smeal spoke of her gut reaction to seeing one woman against six male rivals and two male moderators, and according to Politico.com, compared that moment to the questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings all those years ago.

Here to discuss that comparison and the so-called gender card in the '08 presidential race, we welcome Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Eleanor Smeal, thanks so much for coming on.

SMEAL: Good being here.

CARLSON: So, how did this remind you of the Thomas hearings?

SMEAL: Well, what reminded me is that it was the reaction from the audience. I think that women have a gut reaction to seeing all those men and then two men as the interrogators. So --

CARLSON: So women see themselves as victims?

SMEAL: No, they don't see themselves as victims. They just know how hard it is to crash through the glass ceiling. And so, there's a feeling for her in those kinds of situations.

CARLSON: Well, why would it be hard? I mean, here you have someone who is probably the most famous woman in the world, who's smart, who's aggressive and knows what she thinks, who has more money and more support than any presidential candidate in the history of the United States. She's the overdog, not the underdog.

SMEAL: Yes, but let's face it, she's making history. This will be the first woman. And so, there's no question that women know that this is tough terrain. They know this is the highest of all glass ceilings. So, there's no question there.

CARLSON: Well, it's interesting 'cause the kind of convention -- the stereotypical stereotype about women is, "Oh, they're emotional. They use their hearts not their minds. They can't control themselves." I mean, you know that sort of ugly stereotypes you spent your life combating and yet you've just described them. You've just said, "This is a gut reaction we can't control. She's a woman, we're women, so we empathize."

SMEAL: No. No. No. It's -- of course you empathize, but that doesn't mean it's overemotional, it's just -- it's the facts of life. You have, for the first time in history, a woman leading the race for president. And so -- and then you see that whole line-up, all men on the panel, two men questioning, and the "I got you" question.

CARLSON: But they're not just men, I mean, they're Democrats: They're sensitive, New Age men. I mean, they're NPR-listening, Volvo-driving, Whole Foods-shopping. They're the kind of guys who cry during Meg Ryan movies. I mean, they're kind of in touch with their feelings. They're not manly men; they're kind of -- they're wimpy men.

SMEAL: Oh, come on!

CARLSON: No, no. I'm not attacking 'em. I'm just saying, it's not like she's surrounded by Southern sheriffs. She's surrounded by Barack Obama and --

SMEAL: No, no, no. But let's face it, the question, though, was led by [NBC News Washington bureau chief and debate moderator] Tim Russert.

CARLSON: Right.

SMEAL: It was led with by Chris Matthews [sic]. I'm just saying that if you're saying what people are feeling, I think that women do identify with the woman who is crashing through.

CARLSON: But don't you think, as a matter of citizenship and civic engagement --

SMEAL: Right.

CARLSON: -- that women have a moral responsibility to overlook, or look beyond, the gender of a candidate. That's like, you know, should white people vote for a white guy 'cause he's white? That's disgusting. Is -- doesn't the same thing apply here for women?

SMEAL: Well, no, of course it does. But you're saying all things being the same, and it's more than the same. She's obviously very strong, a strong debater, strong on the issues --

CARLSON: Right.

SMEAL: -- a record of fighting for women's rights. So, all things being equal, you're there rooting -- and that's all the case is.

CARLSON: But if she's so strong, then why is she whining about sexism?

SMEAL: She isn't whining about sexism.

CARLSON: Of course she was. She got up there said, you know, "It's this all-boys club and they're --" essentially she's saying, "They're being mean to me 'cause I'm a girl."

SMEAL: No, I don't -- I -- see, I don't read that Wellesley speech like that at all. She was identifying with that audience that knows how tough it is to break through the political glass ceiling. I mean, are we going to kid ourselves? This has not been an easy feat. This is tough work. We're only 16 percent of Congress. It's 2007.

CARLSON: You don't sort of look down a little bit on women, though, who would vote for her, partly because she's a woman? I mean, doesn't that --

SMEAL: No, absolutely not.

CARLSON: So, you think that's an important, legitimate criterion in a candidate --

SMEAL: I think that --

CARLSON: -- the sex, the gender?

SMEAL: Well, I think that -- I think all other things being equal -- I mean, let's face it, she's very qualified. But the reality is, you also would like to break this glass ceiling. You would like to have some representation. I mean, it's embarrassing, Tucker. We're 68th in the world for representation of women in our Congress.

CARLSON: I'm not embarrassed. I almost -- when I get up at a baseball game and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," I don't hang my head because we don't have enough women in Congress. I'm actually not embarrassed by it at all.

SMEAL: Well, it has nothing to do with your baseball game, obviously.

CARLSON: I'm just saying. I don't know why --

SMEAL: I mean, it has nothing to do with that.

CARLSON: I don't know why that's embarrassing. You could make the counter case that most women are so sensible, they don't want to get involved in something as stupid as politics.

SMEAL: Oh, give me a break!

CARLSON: They've got real things to do.

SMEAL: Give me a break! They spend all kinds of money -- you know what's happening. War and peace issues, how much is going to be spent --

CARLSON: Yeah, but let's be real.

SMEAL: -- for Social Security and child care.

CARLSON: Most voters are women. Wait, hold on. Most voters are women, OK. That's just a fact. So, if women were so anxious to have women in Congress, and there were so many great female candidates running, then why wouldn't Congress be 52 percent female?

SMEAL: Well, come on, that's rather naive, isn't it?

CARLSON: I don't know.

SMEAL: We've had two political parties throughout history. We didn't even get to vote until 1920. We've had -- we are now beginning to come into our own age, but we have not cracked it. We only got nine governors. There's a reality that we're underrepresented in this country, and it's time that that changed.

CARLSON: Wait. Wait --

SMEAL: So, as long as there's been a history of discrimination, gender will be an issue. And that's --

CARLSON: Would you support a federal law to bring equity to politics, a sort of affirmative action for women in politics, why not?

SMEAL: I think there should be affirmative action for women in politics. We'd be better off for it.

CARLSON: Do you think Mrs. Clinton agrees with you? Hillary Clinton agrees with you?

SMEAL: I don't know if she agrees with me, but I do believe in affirmative action, you know that.

CARLSON: No, but for politics. We should hold up --

SMEAL: And the women's movement has always been for affirmative action.

CARLSON: Absolutely. One of the reasons I've always opposed it. But should we hold aside a certain number of seats in the Congress and make this a less embarrassing number.

SMEAL: Well, we can't under the current Constitution do that.

CARLSON: Right.

SMEAL: So, we're not saying that. But we are saying that there should be gender balance in appointments. There should be more women running. It would be -- you know, one of the reasons that there's now women on the Judiciary Committee -- and there is still only one in the Senate Judiciary Committee -- is because of what happened to Anita Hill. It would better if that panel had been integrated.

CARLSON: All right. Eleanor Smeal. I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

SMEAL: Thank you.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Tucker Carlson
Show/Publication
Tucker
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.