A few weeks ago, we wrote that whatever the outcome of the Democratic Primary, Hillary Clinton's candidacy helped start a conversation about sexism. Well that conversation is on the front page of the New York Times this morning, with a discussion of the possibly sexist way Clinton was covered by cable news networks and the rest of the mainstream media. The litany of examples of blatant sexism from media outlets corralled by the Times is pretty damning: " Cable television has come under the most criticism. Chris Matthews, a host on MSNBC, called Mrs. Clinton a 'she-devil' and said she had gotten as far as she had only because her husband had 'messed around.' Mike Barnicle, a panelist on MSNBC, said that Mrs. Clinton was 'looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court.' Tucker Carlson, also on MSNBC, said, 'When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.'"
Then there was the NPR comparison of Hillary to Glenn Close's bunny boiling psycho in Fatal Attraction and the Times mocking of Clinton's cackle. Of course, as the Times points out, Clinton's campaign had flaws that had nothing to do with her gender, and there have been many, perhaps just as many, attacks on Obama's race as there have been on Hillary's gender (see yesterday's baby mama drama).
Keith Olbermann denied that the coverage of Clinton was sexist overall. There were "individual, sexist, mistakes," Olbermann admitted, but there was also "constant reflection and analysis at MSNBC, and I must say there was constant good faith in trying to make certain Senator Clinton was not treated unfairly."
It's impossible to say whether or not Olbermann is right, whether the coverage of Clinton did not affect the eventual outcome of the primary. But the mere fact that Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, told the Times that the media treatment of Hillary shows that the U.S. is in need of a "national discussion" on sexism shows that if nothing else, sexism has wended its way back into the American limelight.