Sexist Attacks on Hillary's Laugh

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

A writer named Patrick Healy yesterday critized Hillary Clinton in a tabloid-type trash article in the New York Times because of her laugh which he calls a "cackle." The implication: Hillary is a witch.

The weirdest moment was with Bob Schieffer on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" when Mr. Schieffer said to Mrs. Clinton, "You rolled out your new health care plan, something Republicans immediately said is going to lead to socialized medicine." She giggled, giggled some more, and then could not seem to stop giggling — "Sorry, Bob," she said — and finally unleashed the full Cackle.

As Media Matters has reported, Healy has been doing hit pieces on Democratic candidates for years while giving Rudy Giuliani a pass. More inexplicable is that Maureen Dowd, whom Atrios named Wanker of the Day yesterday, chimed in:

As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: “She’s never going to get out of our faces. ... She’s like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won’t stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone.”

That’s why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.

Then there's Frank Rich who writes:

Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer.

Excuse me? How should a woman laugh? The inherent sexism in these characterizations should be obvious. And the point needs to be made that this is not really about how Hillary laughs because however she laughed, it would be criticized. If she snickered, "tee-heed", gleefully clapped her hands or raucously bellowed, all would be jumped on as inappropriate. As Ann at Feministing writes, "If they weren't using witch or schoolgirl allusions to describe the laugh, they'd no doubt be calling it "mannish."

What will happen when a sad event occurs? How is Hillary or any woman candidate expected to cry? Should she just let her eyes well up or should she gently wipe away a tear? Is she allowed to let a few stream down her cheeks? Can she make any noises? Remember Pat Schroeder? Will writers always fall for this style of commentary?

The truth is, if Hillary had only cried a little, back during The Troubles, she might not be seen as the ice queen.

It's a laugh, people. That journalists hungry for a hit piece make it into more warrants comment and criticism. I hope the New York Times dumps him. If you'd like to weigh in, you can do so by e-mailing the editorial department of the New York Times at

(Jeralyn Merritt blogs daily at TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime.)