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Palin questions media's light handling of Caroline Kennedy

Governor asks if favorite for Senate seat is getting 'kid glove' treatment

Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. - She messed up her first interviews, didn't show much of a grasp of the issues and, dontcha know, had a speech pattern that was widely mimicked.

Sarah Palin? You betcha. But Caroline Kennedy also fits the bill.

The difference is that while the conservative Republican Palin was ridiculed in the press and on "Saturday Night Live" in her quest to be vice president, the liberal Democratic Kennedy, after early criticism in the media, remains the perceived favorite in her bid for a Senate seat from New York.

In an interview with conservative radio talk-show host and filmmaker John Ziegler, Palin questioned whether Kennedy was getting better treatment than she did as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate. Clips from Ziegler's interview were posted on YouTube this week.

"I've been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope," Palin said.

Some of the critics see the issue as a liberal or Democratic bias. Others see background - Palin from Alaska and Kennedy from Manhattan - as the reason for what they consider different treatment of the women.

Palin herself suggested class issues could be behind the differences in coverage, saying "... we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be."

"There is clearly an urban centric, or urban elitism, attitude that pervades much of the media as we know it on many issues," said Nancy Larraine Hoffman, a former journalism instructor and New York state senator.

"You have the combined effect here of a stereotypical expectation of successful women, going to Wellesley, holding law degrees like Hillary Clinton," she said. "Caroline Kennedy perhaps is more in tune with many of the people in the media rather than someone who can quickly be cast in a whole other light because she happens to live in a rural area."

The difference in treatment could also be explained by the position each woman had been seeking. Palin was hoping to become the nation's first female vice president, just second in command to 72-year-old Sen. John McCain. Meanwhile, Kennedy is vying to be named one of 100 Senators.

But the media's criticism of Kennedy has started, first during a brief upstate tour on Dec. 17 when she evaded reporters and questions on issues - leading to comparisons to Palin. She got hit again in interviews with news organizations beginning Dec. 26, in which she was pilloried for her use of "you know" and "um," much in the way Palin was mocked for her "you betcha" responses and other casual phrasing.

New York news media also have published or broadcast numerous stories containing criticism of Kennedy's lack of experience in elective office and whether she is the best choice to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been asked to join the Obama administration as secretary of state.

In a news release issued Friday, Palin's office said the governor was dismayed that her comments in the Ziegler interview were being taken out of context in the media "to create adversarial situations."

Regarding her remarks about Kennedy, Palin said: "I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective U.S. senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office. In fact, I consider Ms. Kennedy qualified and experienced, and she could serve New York well."

In the interview, Palin criticized the news media's coverage of her and her family, telling Ziegler that CBS News anchor Katie Couric and comic actress Tina Fey had been "exploiting" her. Palin gave Couric a rare interview at the beginning of her campaign for vice president, and Fey frequently impersonated Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

Palin singled out the Couric interview as condescending, particularly a question about what she reads and, according to the governor, "What do you guys do up there?" In fact, Couric never asked that question but did press, unsuccessfully, for the governor to state specific newspapers she read, which Palin never answered fully.

Palin also complained about reports suggesting that Trig Palin was not her son and said she was "frustrated" by rampant rumors about her and her family. However, mainstream media stayed away from such rumors, which were fueled by bloggers and others online and the supermarket tabloids.

"It wasn't believed that Trig was really my son," she said. She called it a "sad state of affairs."

"What is the double-standard here?" she asked. "Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst?"



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