By Brigitte L. Nacos
I have no idea how NBC news honchos selected those audience members who questioned Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their separate appearances before veterans on Wednesday night. But at the end of the town hall-style event it was clear that the chosen ones had hurled far tougher questions and accusatory statements at Mrs. Clinton than at Mr. Trump.
Moderator Matt Lauer, too, pressed Hillary Clinton hard--especially on the so-called email-issues and what they might tell us about her judgement and competence; he interrupted her repeatedly instead of allowing her to address important policy issues.
Lauer was not at all as tough in questioning Donald Trump who was not once interrupted by the moderator. Even when the GOP candidate repeated his bold-faced lies about his alleged opposition to the Iraq invasion and the military action again Libya’s ruler Muammar Gaddafi, Lauer did not interrupt and contradict Trump.
Thus, neither certain audience members nor Lauer had problems talking tough to Mrs. Clinton and being softer on Mr. Trump.
It seems that they might have feared Trump’s wrath while expecting no such reaction from Clinton.
After all, male politicians can act tough and bully challengers and get away with it without consequences, whereas the same actions by female politicians will result in accusations that they are shrill and emotional and unfit for public office.
Mrs. Clinton and other women in politics know the rules of this game.
What unfolded at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum showed once again that in the 21st century many Americans continue to have gender biases that are deeply seated in our culture and their reflection in news and entertainment media.
It was particularly telling that on the problem of sexual assaults on female members of the military Trump stood by his 2013 tweet that made the integration of women into the military responsible for these assaults. Ah, blame the victims. Yet, Lauer who had no calms to go after Clinton let this go unchallenged as well-- in spite of Trump’s pitiful record of degrading women.
This man who wants to be president and commander-in-chief once told a reporter of New York magazine that as far as women are concerned, “You have to treat’em like shit.” The chairman of his campaign, Stephen Bannon, was accused by his now ex-wife of beating her, and his close advisor Roger Aisles was fired as Fox News boss because he was accused of sexual harassment by a number of female anchors and reporters.
When it comes to questioning male and female candidates for the highest office in the land, there should not be a double standard in questioning qualifications, character, and values. But this double standard was obvious the other night on board the Intrepid.