Veteran Newsmen Discuss Sexism in Coverage of Clinton's Campaign
August 24, 2008 4:22 PM
NBC's Tom Brokaw and ABC's George Stephanopoulos are lending some surprise support to charges from Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters that some of the media coverage of their candidate was unfair or sexist.
Speaking at an SRO forum sponsored by Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics & Public Policy on Sunday at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Mr. Brokaw said some of the early talk about the need for Sen. Clinton to drop out of the race for the nomination may have gone too far.
“The conversation was loaded up against her early on. The need for her to drop out of the race,” said Mr. Brokaw. “A lot of people were saying she should get out of the race too early, and I think that was a little unfair.”
Mr. Brokaw said he didn’t believe Sen. Clinton was the victim of sexism, but Mr. Stephanopoulos said the “Sunday funnies” section of his ABC show showcased the willingness of comedians and perhaps the media to mount potentially sexist commentary, such as pointing to Sen. Clinton’s wearing of pantsuits.
“It created an entree that did work against Sen. Clinton,” he said.
The two joined CBS’ Bob Schieffer during “A Conversation” with the hosts of the Sunday network talk shows. Moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS said together, Mr. Schieffer, Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Brokaw represented 150 years of journalism experience.
During the forum, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who headed Sen. Clinton’s campaign but now is supporting Sen. Barack Obama, complained that the attention paid to Sen. Clinton’s crying during a campaign appearance shortly before the New Hampshire primary was sexist; he said similar attention wouldn’t be paid to a man.
Gov. Rendell also complained that Sen. Obama got a “free pass” from the media and that MSNBC became “the official network of the Obama campaign.”
While they had a few criticisms, all three hosts were generally supportive of coverage this year.
Mr. Schieffer defended the press from charges it didn’t do enough to investigate Mr. Edwards' personal life.
“If we start going around checking who had sinned about everybody who was once in politics, we’d be busy,” he said. Mr. Schieffer said losing candidates also always complain about the press.
The comments followed a tribute to the late Tim Russert, who was recognized for his dual roles as NBC’s Washington bureau chief and host of “Meet the Press.”
The tribute was introduced by Mr. Brokaw, who said Mr. Russert exemplified the kind of journalism the center encouraged.