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Clinton’s Run Triggers Debate Over Gender Bias

Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke frankly this week about the sexism she feels she has faced on the campaign trail as she competes with Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. Two columnists weigh the role of gender in politics and how the media has handled the issue.

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    Finally tonight, the politics of gender, where to draw the line, and has it already been crossed? Judy Woodruff has that.


    As the presidential primaries near an end, the debate has picked up over whether Hillary Clinton's candidacy has been adversely affected by her gender.

    Have the charges raised of sexism or sexist remarks been true? And if so, how much have they hurt Clinton?

    We get different views on the question now from syndicated columnist Marie Cocco and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

    Thank you both for being here.

    Marie, I'm going to start with you. You've been writing that there has been sexism in this campaign. How so?

  • MARIE COCCO, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I wrote my first column about this last October when Clinton was the prohibitive front-runner, when not a single vote had been cast, no caucuses and primaries had been held.

    And by last October, we had already had John Edwards and Barack Obama discuss her jacket at a debate. There had already been a national discussion about her cleavage. There had already been a long-running cable TV discussion about whether her laugh was really a cackle.

    And then, by November, we had a situation where a woman got up at a John McCain event and said, "How do we beat the" — rhymes with witch. And John McCain chuckled, and didn't rebuke her in any way, and ultimately said, "That's an excellent question."

    So this has been an atmosphere that started very early. It did not start once Clinton started losing primaries; it started before any votes were cast.


    Ruth, have you seen it this that way?

  • RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post:

    I've seen everything that Marie talks about, and I think those are certainly episodes in the campaign, and episodes that I think any person would find disturbing to different degrees. And I found them disturbing.

    I'm not sure, though, that that's — whether that's the forest or the trees. I've actually been struck throughout the course of the campaign — yes, I think we can all agree there have been really unfortunate comments, comments that were not taken as seriously as racist comments would have been taken.

    But the tone — but, overall, the campaign has been relatively devoid of that kind of ugliness. And I think, overall, it's been, as Speaker Pelosi said to you last night, a lot of groundbreaking for women that's going to be built on.