Cindy McCain: Sarah Palin Coverage Is Sexist

EXCLUSIVE: "If [Palin] were a man, these questions would not be asked at all."

ByABC News via via logo

Sept. 3, 2008 — -- Prospective first lady Cindy McCain tells ABC News' "Good Morning America" she "absolutely" believes sexism is behind critical coverage of her husband's vice presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- even though Palin months ago slammed Hillary Clinton's "perceived whine" in making similar complaints during the Democratic primary.

Speaking to Diane Sawyer, Cindy McCain blasted the overall coverage of Palin as sexist -- and specifically an Us Weekly cover headlined "Babies, Lies and Scandal."

"I think it's insulting," McCain told Sawyer. "I think it's outlandish. And for whatever reason, the media has decided to treat her differently, because, I believe, because she's a woman."

While McCain believes sexism has fueled much of the criticism against Palin, she didn't disagree with conservative commentator and radio host Rush Limbaugh's assertion of the governor.

"We're the ones with a babe on the ticket," Limbaugh said.

"She is. She's lovely. I think she's beautiful," McCain said in response to the comment.

McCain has taken particular exception to some critics questioning whether Palin should take on the responsibility of being vice president given her five children, one of whom has special needs and her 17-year-old daughter Bristol, who is five months pregnant.

"As a woman, as a mother… with a big family and a busy family, and running a business and everything else, I'm insulted that they would even suggest she couldn't do the job," McCain said.

McCain also insisted that her husband was aware that Palin's teenage daughter pregnant and described the pregnancy as "wonderful."

"This is family — and families have issues," McCain said. "And what a joy. They're going to have a new grandbaby — I mean, a new life. It's wonderful."

Palin accepted the GOP's vice presidential nomination Wednesday night in a prime time address at the Republican National Convention.

Watch ABC News' Prime Time Coverage of the Republican National Convention at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Women and Politics

Upon McCain's complaints about reputed sexism in the media, Sawyer pointed out that Palin, in a months-old video interview with Newsweek magazine that has been posted on YouTube, once said of Hillary Clinton's sexism complaints, "I think she does herself a disservice to even mention it, really. I mean, you've got to plow through that."

Palin also said in the Newsweek interview, "When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or, you know, maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, 'Man, that doesn't do us any good -- women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country.'"

Cindy McCain responded, "I don't ever remember her saying that. But that doesn't mean it didn't occur. But in my opinion, what's going on right now, I truly believe, is sexism. If she were a man, these questions would not be asked at all."

Differing Stances

While McCain whole-heartedly supports Palin and her husband's No.2 pick, she doesn't agree with some of Palin's stances.

Palin has taken a more conservative stance than John McCain on issues like abstinence-only sex education for kids and abortion rights.

"I don't agree with that aspect, but I do respect her — her views," McCain said of Palin's stance on abortion rights, which doesn't allow for abortions even in the case of rape of incest.

McCain said she and her husband do not favor a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

"It is a state issue. We both believe that these are state issues, and that the states should make the decision."

As for abstinence education, which Palin favors, McCain favors for a more comprehensive approach.

"I taught my children at home about this. I believe that the message should come from the parents and from the family. With that said, our school offered sex education, and I was a large advocate for all — also offering abstinence in sex education. I believe it's two-fold, and I think all of it should be taught," she said.

Cindy McCain: Watch John's 'Marvelous' Speech

McCain said she believed in her heart "a while back" that Palin was the right choice to be her husband's vice presidential running mate.

"I really did," McCain said. "You know, I knew all the other people very well. And of course, we knew her. And I just, in my own head, just kept coming back to her as did my husband, obviously. They're mavericks."

McCain told Sawyer that Americans should stay tuned for her husband's convention speech Thursday night, which she has already heard.

"It's marvelous," said McCain, who added she sometimes gives her husband pointers on his speeches.

"He sometimes takes my advice and sometimes doesn't," she said.

But after what some called a dynamic performance by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama during his convention speech last week in Denver, McCain wouldn't be able to compare whether her spouse's speech is better than the Illinois senator's because she didn't watch it.

"We were traveling," she said. "Honestly, we were out and about and didn't get a chance to see it."

As the convention focuses on John McCain tonight, so will his wife, who said she can tell when he's nervous.

"I can tell when he's nervous, or when he's bored, too," she said. "But he's really in good shape for this speech. He's excited about giving it."

McCain too is enthused about formally introducing herself to the nation. She speaks ahead of her husband this evening to ensure people get to learn more about her.

"I'd like people to know what makes me work and what makes me tick, and who I am, what I'm all about. And where I came from because I have an interesting story to tell as well. And that it combines the two of us and makes us a couple, and maybe what we will represent to us," McCain said.

ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Michael S. James and Eloise Harper contributed to this report.

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