May 30, 2008 — -- In what seems to be the twilight of her campaign, a number of Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters are saying that sexism helped torpedo her bid for president.
It's a sentiment that has been voiced by the Democratic candidate and her husband.
"Nobody told Ted Kennedy he should drop out in 1980. Nobody told Jesse Jackson he should drop out in 1988," former President Bill Clinton said in a May 25 speech. "Nobody told the people who ran against me in 1992 that they had to drop out. This is really interesting. Why are they doing this?"
And in a May 18 interview with WashingtonPost.com, Hillary Clinton herself said "so much of what has occurred that has been very sexist."
Women, especially, are debating the impact of sexism on Clinton's campaign.
Organizations like the National Organization for Women and many female writers and bloggers say Clinton's campaign has brought latent gender bias out of the closet.
They point to a number of examples: Detractors can buy a Hillary Nutcracker with stainless-steel thighs online, or join the Facebook group called Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich.
When two men shouted "Iron my shirts!" at a Clinton campaign rally in New Hampshire, she shrugged it off, saying, "Ah, the remnants of sexism, alive and well."
On the other side, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan calls the sexism charge "sissy, blame-gaming."
The Women's Media Center, which doesn't endorse a specific candidate, has put together a "greatest hits" video called Sexism Sells.
Press reports have frequently focused on Clinton's appearance, from her figure to her hair to her wide array of pantsuits. Many people have pointed out that male candidates don't face the same kind of scrutiny when it comes to their looks.
After Clinton appeared on his show "Hardball With Chris Matthews," Matthews said, "She was calm, she was charming, just to be cosmetic, her hair looked great."
When a particularly unflattering photo of Clinton appeared online and in a number of newspapers, conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh asked on his radio show, "Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?"
Clinton is frequently portrayed as shrill, hard and strident instead of strong and aggressive, say supporters.
Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson took this jab at her: "When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."
ABC News asked Matthews and Carlson to comment, but they didn't respond. Only TV and radio host Glenn Beck would discuss his previous comments about Clinton.
On one of his radio shows, Beck said, "Excuse the expression, but this is the lady who is a stereotypical bitch, you know what I mean? She's a stereotypical, nagging … Know what I mean?"
Beck told ABC News that he meant the word more in reference to the stereotype than to Clinton herself.
"I hope I wouldn't call her that. Hope I've never called her that," he said, adding that he was "saying sounds like the stereotypical … Probably a better word would be 'nag.'"
"We were watching one of her interviews, or whatever she was doing, a speech. And she had that tone of voice. She just sounds like … I can't, because it sounds like my wife saying, 'Take out the garbage,'" said Beck.
Although she's a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, feminist writer Naomi Wolf thinks Hillary is feeling unfair pressure.
"I never see a white man, you know, being bracketed as, 'How dare he dream, how dare he have this dream, how dare he take himself seriously, even if he is a way out there long shot,'" Wolf said.
Wolf also says, however, that Clinton accusing the media of sexism is self-defeating.
"When you are saying, 'I want to be the president of the United States of America,' what you have to also be telling the American people is 'I can handle anything,' and you can't expect fairness," Wolf said.