And the Award for the Most Sexist Media Coverage in the 2010 Elections Goes To…

By Jenny Schlesinger

Nov 4, 2010 6:44pm

ABC News' Sherisse Pham reports:

The Women’s Media Center announced the winners of its “Would You Say That To Your Mother?” awards Thursday. The “awards” were given for the most sexist media coverage in the 2010 elections.

Online media took the cake, scooping up three of the total seven prizes. Political blog Virginia Vitucon  made the list for leaking the shocking, sexually suggestive photos of Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball. Gawker was recognized for running an anonymous account from a man claiming he had a drunken sexual make-out session with Delware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. The most “revolting” prize for online media, according to the Women’s Media Center, went to the conservative website Human Events, for posting an audio feature called “Babes of the DNC Calendar.” The post promised listeners a “feast of wrinkled flesh,” and described Senator Dianne Feinstein as “mesmerizing spiced beef,” and former Attorney General Janet Reno as a “beastly, unshaved, Danish carnival.”

Attacks against female candidates prompted the Women's Media Center along with the Women's Campaign Forum and Political Parity, to track sexist attacks in the media against female candidates in the 2010 midterm election campaign. The groups launched their effort in September, researching and fielding calls from tipsters around the country. Thursday’s awards highlighted the group’s findings.

More traditional forms of media were also recognized alongside online websites. WRKO Boston's Tom Finneran and Todd Feinburg were called out for their endorsement of a Massachussetts Republican State Treasurer candidate Karyn E. Polito. On air, Kingsley said, “I think she's hot. She's tiny, she's short. She's got a banging little body on her. Facial wise, I give her about a seven. Body wise, I give her about an eight-and-a-half. Tight little butt.” Finneran, a former Massachusetts House Speaker, laughed and repeated the “tight little butt” comment.

Television news was spared, but late night host David Letterman was not. In this election season, he listed the ‘Top Ten Signs There’s Trouble in the Democratic Party.’ Number two: “Nancy Pelosi found in hotel room drunk and naked with Charlie Sheen.”

The Boston Herald and the Los Alamos Monitor split tied for the print award. In Boston, reporter Jill Radsken consulted stylists to criticize gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein’s fashion. The title of the article: “She’s a great candidate…for a makeover!” One stylist said Stein’s hair looked like, “a Brillo pad that’s seen better days,” while another complained about her clothes. In New Mexico, columnist Ned Cantwell compared gubernatorial candidates Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez to mud wrestlers. Cantwell compared the two female candidates challenging one another's positions to "bitch-slapping." Instead of mudslinging, the debates led Cantwell to describe images of "mud wrestling" instead: “So far these ladies have displayed such lack of class we’re beginning to think, ‘strip down and get ‘er on, gals’,” he wrote.

The point of the awards, said Yana Walton of the Women’s Media Center, is to hold media outlets accountable for sexist coverage. When media concentrates on a candidate’s hairstyle or his or her past, instead of policy positions and qualifications, voter confidence goes down across the board.

 “We hope that this will not only shape how media cover women candidates, but will also change the way campaign managers handle campaigns of male and female candidates,” she said. “Because this is harmful for everyone.”

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