Another double standard on display in politics.
Before going into the gaffe debate, here is a look at Vincent Sheheen’s record in the General Assembly: Sheheen has gotten things done
Vincent Sheheen, Nikki Haley’s primary challenger in the South Carolina gubernatorial race, was caught on video using the word “whore” in reference to the governor. (I believe Haley will win easily next Tuesday and would be surprised if she wasn’t declared the winner not too long after the polls close at 7 p.m.)
It is clear, to me any way, that it was an accidental slip of the tongue, particularly because he immediately corrected himself.
Such gaffes are to be expected from people who do so much talking during a long campaign, and I usually give most people a pass on such things.
We all have verbal gaffes; it’s just that we don’t have as many cameras pointed at us as those in the white-hot spotlight of a high-profile campaign.
Sheheen’s critics believe a man should not be let off easy for using a disgusting word to talk about a woman opponent, accidental or not.
Haley’s campaign has been tweeting about it this morning to make sure it doesn’t fall out of the headlines it has made since yesterday.
Even Ann Romney weighed in on CNN.
Does it matter that he accidentally said whore? In a sane political world - if such a thing has ever existed - gaffes of all stripes would be shrugged off unless they were being repeated and seemed to reveal something about the person’s character. Even in that context, it would be left up to a listener’s subjective judgment, so maybe there’s no real way to make reactions to gaffes seem sensible.
Just ask Rick Santorum who, during the 2012 presidential election cycle, seemed to stumble into talking about black people and welfare.
Many of Santorum’s harshest critics didn’t let him off the hook.
Why should Sheheen’s?
Besides that, is Romney right, that there should be more outrage about the use of that word?
It is fair to say that had this come from a Republican about a woman Democratic opponent, it would be used in ads about the war on women.
So why not the other way around?
In context, the structure of Sheheen’s sentence strongly suggests it was a verbal gaffe, his brain making a connection to a similar-sounding word at the end of the sentence.
But it can’t be ruled out that Sheheen, in less public moments, hasn’t been using that word to refer to Haley, especially given the fact that Haley had to beat back ugly allegations of extra-marital affairs when she and Sheheen squared off 4 years ago.
I’m inclined to believe, based on what I see on the video, that this was an accidental verbal gaffe.
But I can’t say Sheheen’s critics are wrong for believing otherwise. They may, in fact, be right.
Besides that, if his verbal gaffe was the n-word instead of whore, it would be getting more attention, no one would care that it may have been accidental, and there would be the kind of public outrage Romney is asking for in this case. His campaign would be deader than it already is.
Given that reality, why shouldn’t it die because of this?
I don’t have a good answer, other than to say we need to be careful to put all such gaffes in context and not over-react, or at least not have a double standard in which a Democrat can say something this ugly and have it shrugged off while a Republican can’t.
It’s not quite the same because it was national, but when hot-head talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a whore during the debate over contraception coverage, she received a call from President Barack Obama, women’s groups were up at arms and even advertisers fled his show.
Limbaugh was just a shock jock saying saying something shocking and received that kind of blow back.
Sheheen is the Democratic nominee trying to become South Carolina’s next governor. And even if it was just a gaffe and he corrected it, he didn’t immediately apologize or explain clearly what he was correcting. That’s more damning than the gaffe itself.