It is remarkable that in the Trump era, where the issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexism have garnered so much well-deserved attention, certain male members of the press think it is OK to mock White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ appearance and mannerisms.
But that’s the world in which we live. It’s the one where Sanders is subjected regularly to oftentimes cruel and outright sexist critiques, while we speak simultaneously about the issue of sexual misconduct in multiple billion-dollar industries.
This week, for example, Los Angeles Time columnist David Horsey referred to the White House press secretary as a “slightly chunky soccer mom.” That wasn’t even the worst of it.
His remarks, which have since been removed following well-earned criticism, came in the broader context that President Trump surrounds himself with only Fox News-style “Barbie dolls.”
Let’s review Horsey's remarks as they originally appeared:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not look like the kind of woman Donald Trump would choose as his chief spokesperson. Much like Roger Ailes when he was stocking the Fox News lineup with blond Barbie dolls in short, tight skirts, the president has generally exhibited a preference for sleek beauties with long legs and stiletto heels to represent his interests and act as his arm candy.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and wife Melania are the apotheosis of this type. By comparison, Sanders looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games. Rather than the fake eyelashes and formal dresses she puts on for news briefings, Sanders seems as if she’d be more comfortable in sweats and running shoes. Yet, even if Trump privately wishes he had a supermodel for a press secretary, he is lucky to have Sanders.
Let’s see: “Blond Barbie dolls,” “sleek beauties,” “arm candy,” “slightly chunky soccer mom.” Damn. One more example and Horesy would’ve won sexism Bingo.
Horsey issued an apology Friday after his editors amended his article, claiming he didn’t really mean to pen a sexist putdown of Sanders.
“I want to apologize to Times readers — and to Sarah Huckabee Sanders — for a description that was insensitive and failed to meet the standards of our newspaper,” he wrote.
Horsey added, “It also failed to meet the expectations I have for myself. It surely won't be my last mistake, but this particular error will be scrupulously avoided in my future commentaries. I've removed the offending description.”
Well, that’s a load of garbage. The entire buildup to his now-removed comments was basically him saying, “Trump surrounds himself with babes. So what’s Sanders’ secret?”
Also, it's still inexcusable that the first version of that story even made it past an editor. At any rate, and sadly enough, Horsey is hardly the first person to go after the press secretary in this fashion.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, for example, had a go this week at her Southern accent, writing, “She’s awful at [being White House press secretary], but that makes her an excellent fit for an administration in which mediocrity, inadequate experience and nepotism run rampant.”
Bruni added, “Besides, she’s serving a function other than communication, which turns out not to be her forte. (To listen to her pronounce ‘priorities’ is akin to hearing the air seep out of a flat tire, and she leaves half of the consonants on the curb.)”
Ah, yes! She's not only incompetent and undeserving of her position, but she's also an unrefined country yokel.
To be fair to Bruni, his region-based prejudice is not nearly as sexist as what Horsey wrote, and neither of them are guilty of writing anything nearly as bad as when the Daily Beast’s Ira Madison tweeted in July that Sanders looked like a “butch queen.”
Madison apologized later, saying on social media, “Apologies to Sarah H. Sanders for the ill-judged joke tweeted Fri, deleted this AM. I didn't mean to offend anyone & I'm sorry that I did!”
We understand and appreciate that Sanders' harsher critics appear capable of feeling shame and remorse. Good for them! But what we can't understand in each of these instances is what led these guys to think saying those was ever OK. Grown men indeed.