The Corner

This Lady, That Woman, and Our Linguistic Double Standards

Per The Hill, Elijah Cummings is not impressed with Secret Service Director Julia Pierson:

The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee said it was “very difficult for me to sleep last night” after the director’s testimony before the committee on Tuesday

Cummings said he came away from the meeting “extremely disappointed.”

“I’ve come to the conclusion that my confidence and my trust in this director, Ms. Pierson, has eroded. And I do not feel comfortable with her in that position,” he said on MSNBC. 

Later, Cummings expressed himself a little more forcefully:

His comments were even more blunt during a radio interview with Roland Martin on Wednesday. 

“I think this lady has to go,” Cummings reportedly said, referring to Pierson. 

Cumnings has every right to take this view. That, by and large, is his job. But I couldn’t help but notice the language he used: “this lady has to go.” What do we think would have been the reaction had a Republican said this? Would it perhaps have been part of the “war on women”? Look back, for example, at what happened when Bill O’Reilly suggested that Jen Psaki was not up to the job:

“With all due respect…that woman looks way out of her depth over there,” he said of Psaki. “It just doesn’t look like she has the gravitas for that job.”

At her daily press briefing, Harf said O’Reilly was being sexist for calling out Psaki’s performance.

“I think that when the anchor of a leading cable news show uses, quite frankly, sexist, personally offensive language, that i actually don’t think they would ever use about a man, about a person that shares this podium with me, I think I have an obligation and I think it’s important to step up and say that it’s not OK,” she said. “And quite frankly, I wish more people would step up when men say those things about women in public positions and say that it’s not OK.”

As far as I’m concerned, there was absolutely nothing wrong with what Cummings said. In fact, his language was refreshingly straight forward. He thinks that a lady who works in the government should be dismissed. So he said, “I think this lady has to go.” He is sufficiently unimpressed by her tenure that he is worried for the president’s safety. So he said that he is having trouble sleeping and conceded, “I do not feel comfortable with her in that position.” He was straightforward, honest, and clear — everything that a politician should be. And yet there are many — Marie Harf among them — who regard such candor as a character flaw and who like to “step up when men say those things about women in public positions.” Why the silence here?

I am struggling to work out what was so different about Bill O’Reilly’s comments and Elijah Cummings’s comments. Is “gravitas” a dog whistle? Is it in some way more offensive to suggest that someone is “out of their depth” than that they are so incompetent that they keep you up at night? Or could it be, perchance, that Cummings is on the right side? Last week, I wrote about Joe Biden, and I noted the considerable “leeway that having the ’correct’ political platform can afford those who err”: 

Frustrating as it can be to witness, it stands to reason that a journalistic class that overwhelmingly leans to the left will react differently to their enemies than they will to their friends. To hear a Republican say something ugly is to hear revealed a rotten and antediluvian worldview; to hear something ugly from a politician who is “on the right side of history,” by contrast, is to hear an anomalous mistake at variance with an otherwise virtuous political platform. At times, one can almost hear the cogs whirring: “There’s no way that he could have meant that; he’s supportive of Planned Parenthood and the NAACP.”

Thus are remarks about ”this lady” ignored by all and sundry while criticisms of “that woman” provoke responses on the official State Department Twitter account. Ugly.



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