Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has a problem with female reporters, that seems pretty clear. But the fact that he has repeated his condescending behavior during what he calls “contentious” interviews is a bigger issue.
The Jheri-curled candidate most recently tried to talk over NBC reporter Savannah Guthrie, suggesting a better way for her to conduct her interview.
“Why don’t we let me explain instead of talking over me, OK? Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question: ‘Have I changed my opinion?’ That would be a better sort of way to approach an interview.”
This comes just a couple of months after, during his run-up to throwing his hat in the ring, he actually shushed CNBC’s Kelly Evans when she tried asking him a follow-up question about his proposed corporate tax holiday. Both incidents were accompanied by the dreaded finger- or hand-wagging.
It’s not unusual for a politician to pivot, obfuscate, or even attempt to talk over a reporter. Chris Christie, yet to formally declare, is known for his abrasiveness with both interviewers and constituents, especially those who won’t let him speak. But Paul appears eager to call out what he considers to be “rude” behavior when these female reporters are doing exactly what they’re paid to do.
Whether true or not, the impression he is putting out there is that he doesn’t respect women, or at least intelligent ones asking intelligent questions. While he has insisted he is an “equal opportunity” grump, no one has noticed his inflammatory interviews with male reporters, or those interviews simply are not going viral. Google or Youtube “Rand Paul testy interview” and you won’t find anything but his confrontations with female reporters, and others calling him out for his behavior in those interviews.
“I’d rather not have contentious interviews,” he told Fox’s Megyn Kelly in his defense, claiming that Guthrie was yelling during the interview (she was not, as Kelly noted). “I’d rather do 30 minutes with Charlie Rose, laid back in a lazy boy chair.”
This from a man running for the highest office in the land, a drag-down fight to the finish that leaves only those with the thickest skin standing after a grueling 20-month campaign that has barely gotten out of the starting block.
To her credit, Kelly points out that the women reporters in question are more than capable of standing up for themselves, and don’t need other journalists to come to their defense, noting the sexism inherent in critics’ response to perceived sexist behavior by the candidate.
However, any political campaign rests largely on impressions. If Sen. Paul is so obtuse to not realize the impression he’s making among not only women voters but the men who respect them—and to not fix the problem pronto—he’s not fit for the office of president.
Guest contributor, Gary Frisch is president of Swordfish Communications, a public relations agency in Laurel Springs, N.J.