Election 2020

Sarah Palin Could Take The Heat; Why Don't Democratic Party Operatives Think Kamala Harris Can?

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Last week, a number of female Democratic operatives sent a memo to media organizations warning them to be careful in how they cover Joe Biden’s running mate. As Tammy Bruce noted, the memo essentially warns media organizations that “any criticism of the expected woman will be considered racist and sexist.”

Did they really need a memo to be told this? Has the liberal media forgotten this was their default explanation for criticism of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Of course not. The media, which is already dishing out glowing coverage of Kamala, already “has her back,” so to speak. Yet, the implication of the memo was clear. “Any critical coverage deemed unfair (and all would be deemed so) will be declared racist and/or sexist,” Bruce explained. The memo even invoked George Floyd. “Our country — and your newsrooms — have learned a lot since the [death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody] and the subsequent protests for racial equality that his death spurred … We know from public reporting that many of your newsrooms had internal conversations about your coverage, your diversity and your editorial judgments,” the memo read.

“A woman VP candidate, and possibly a Black or Brown woman candidate, requires the same kind of internal consideration about systemic inequality as you undertook earlier this year,” the memo continues. “We are here to help you with this challenge … We intend to collectively and individually monitor coverage and we will call out those we believe take our country backwards with sexist and/or racist coverage. As we enter another historic moment, we will be watching you.”

Is that not a threat? Because it certainly looks like a threat.

President Trump has often been accused of being anti-First Amendment for being critical of the media’s biased coverage. Having a free press, however, doesn’t mean the media is above criticism. But threatening media organizations in order to prevent criticism is completely antithetical to the notion of free press. “What’s being attempted by these Democratic women operatives is the ultimate in sexism,” Bruce explains. “A demand that Democratic women in the arena, of any complexion, be treated differently, as though they can’t handle the heat.”

The memo also reeks of hypocrisy given the way the media treated Sarah Palin in 2008. “Nothing has come close in its ugliness, its mendacity, its complete lack of restraint and, given Palin’s status as the second woman ever to appear on a major-party presidential ticket, the abject hypocrisy of a media establishment that purports to champion women’s rights and equality,” recalls John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist.

Joe Biden’s attitude toward Sarah Palin even now is tinged with the very sexism the writers of the memo warn against. Back in February, Biden trashed the format of the Democratic debates and noted, “We haven’t had a debate yet. We had a-minute-and-15-second assertions. You call these debates? I’ve been in debates! I debated Paul Ryan. I debated that woman from Alaska who could see Russia. Okay? I did pretty well. They were debates — you can answer questions. Look, folks, come on,” he said.

“That woman?” He was either unable or unwilling to say her name (even though he was able to mention Paul Ryan by name) and then dismissed her as a candidate whose only formidable quality was actually something that Tina Fey made up while satirizing Palin on Saturday Night Live in a skit designed to make Palin look silly.

That SNL skit mocked Palin after the airing of an interview with Charles Gibson on ABC News, where she was asked about the insight she gained by being governor of a state so close to Russia. While several states share a border with another country, Alaska has the unique distinction of being a mere 51 miles from an adversarial country (51 miles at the narrowest point of the Bering Strait), which certainly gave her more insight into foreign relations than most governors who run for president have. Palin responded by saying that  “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

Sarah Palin gave John McCain’s presidential campaign a huge jolt of optimism and momentum. She was a threat to the Democrats’ lust for power, and they sought to destroy her, so sexist attacks weren’t off the table. Palin was a popular governor with bipartisan support in her state, and a rising star in the party until the Democrats and the media painted her as a brainless dingbat somewhere between Edith Bunker from All in The Family and Cher Horowitz from Clueless.

And yet, Sarah Palin held her own quite well during the campaign. She gave an incredible speech during the Republican National Convention, one of the best I’ve seen. In fact, watching that speech left me convinced McCain-Palin would win in November. She also exceeded expectations when she debated Joe Biden, arguably winning the debate because Biden, a 35-year veteran in the U.S. Senate at the time, never got the best of her. She proved herself to be a formidable candidate for vice president, but the Democrats and the media persisted in painting her as a clueless dummy.

“Their sexist attacks helped batter a young female rising star deemed as an existential threat,” wrote Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast. “Where does Sarah Palin go to recover her career?”

The endless assaults on Palin continued after the campaign, as liberal groups barraged her with bogus ethics complaints that were costing the state a lot of money, prompting her to resign after only serving 2 1/2 years in office.

It’s safe to say that Kamala Harris will not suffer the same fate as Sarah Palin. Mentions of how she advanced her career will be off-limits. Inconvenient facts about her career as California’s top prosecutor will be described as unfair. Barack Obama famously avoided tough vetting by the media because any criticism of him or his record was written off as racist. Kamala Harris has a race card and a sex card to use as a shield. But if the media does their job, they’ll ask her tough questions and dig deep into her record, regardless of the threats by the Democratic Party.


Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trumpand the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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