Three Networks, Two Candidates, One Problem: Sexist News Commentary During Hillary Clinton’s Presidential and Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential Campaigns
This paper examines the political commentary of three major U.S. television news networks for their portrayal and criticism of and sexist commentary on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin during their 2008 presidential campaigns and Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. I reviewed coverage by CNN, the news source “bordering the neutral zone” (Langlois); MSNBC, the news outlet with a “slightly more liberal audience” (Blake); and Fox News, the “perceived as right-leaning” media outlet (Rothwell). While I originally sought to assess imbalances in criticism of these women from opposing parties on each network (would one woman “catch a break” on a certain network but not from others), I instead found an even display of criticism and negative portrayal based on sexist commentary across all three. This finding suggests a connection between openly biased and sexist news media coverage of female candidates for national political office and underrepresentation of women in congressional and presidential politics. Through negative commentary on female politicians’ appearance, family roles, and competence based on stereotypes like “emotionality,” mainstream news media play a powerful role in women’s continuing struggle to occupy the White House.
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