ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports from St. Paul, Minn.: Six Republican women, including the former governor of Massachusetts and Sen. John McCain’s top adviser accused Democrats and supporters of Sen. Barack Obama of what they called demeaning, sexist smears against the Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
In arguing that Palin should be judged on the merits of her executive experience (she’s not currently, they said), the women, in a press conference at the Republican convention, used the word "sexism" or "sexist" no fewer than 12 times, and invoked what they called the sexism suffered by Sen. Hillary Clinton and several others.
McCain top adviser and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said she has talked to Democrats about how "disappointed they were in their own party for not standing up to the sexist smears suffered by Hillary Clinton" during the Democratic primary race.
Fiorina complained that Democrats are trying to write Palin off as a "showhorse, not a workhorse."
"Liberal Web sites are accusing Palin with faking a pregnancy … being a nazi sympathizer … associating with fringe groups … and supermarket tabloids shout about babies, lies and scandal."
Asked later why it was sexist to question her political affiliations, Fiorina said those things in themselves aren’t all sexist, but she wants to have a debate on Palin’s track record. In the meantime, she said the word "sexist" again.
Asked if she would have hired Palin to succeed her as CEO of HP, Fiorina said the point is that Palin’s executive experience trumps Obama’s. "The size of the company, just like the size of the state, is less important than … Sarah Palin has made executive decisions. Barrack Obama has not."
Former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift said the women were not asking for Palin to get votes just because she is a woman.
"I don’t think anybody is saying you should vote for her because of this," Swift said, adding, "but the good people of America won’t stand for the sexism that is being applied to Gov. Palin."
Swift invoked the failed vice presidential bid of Geraldine Ferarro in 1984, saying, with a little help from a staffer on the math, that it has been "24 years since we’ve had a woman run … and if more women had stood up 24 years ago … there might have been more women running in the interim."
She noted, in Palin’s speech before the Republican National Convention tonight, Americans will see a woman who is "just doing her job."
Fiorina was pushed on the Clinton question later, after again accusing Democrats of being sexist toward the New York senator. A reporter asked if Clinton had ever suffered sexism from Republicans.
"No, I think the Republican Party took her on her stand on issues," Fiorina said. "Took her on hard on her stand on issues. I have differences with her stands, but I have great respect for Hillary Clinton. All women owe a debt of gratitude to Hillary Clinton."
Swift said she was speaking as a working mother "who sent her daughters off to the Massachusetts public schools for the first day this morning."
Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn said there is a special expertise that working mothers gain in their experience as a "PTA chair or a girl scout cookie mom."
Blackburn said it is unfair "the way the media continues to attack conservative women to demean their record."