Name It. Change It. Sexist Media Awards and The Huffington Post

For Immediate Release
November 9, 2012
CONTACT: Rachel Larris,

WASHINGTON, DC—Yesterday, Name It. Change It., a joint project of The Women’s Media Center and She Should Run, released our 2012 Awards for Most Sexist Media Coverage of Women Candidates and Politicians.

We gave awards to:

  • Chicago Sun-Times reporters Dave McKinney, Fran Spielman and Natasha Korecki for their interview with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan interview, “Capital Tonight.”
  • Anchor Liz Benjamin for a question asked during the New York Senate Debate.
  • Fox News “The Five” co-hosts Greg Gutfeld and Kimberly Guilfoyle for insulting Debbie Wasserman Schultz with the name “Frizilla.”
  • Boston Herald opinion columnist Howie Carr for his sexist coverage of Elizabeth Warren.
  • The Huffington Post for creating sexist standards for women in politics.

Some commentators expressed concern that one of our awards was given to The Huffington Post, not to specific individuals or sections of The Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post indeed is a large organization with many different journalists and departments. We acknowledge that there is not media sexism directed at women candidates and politicians across all of The Huffington Post’s channels.

In fact, there are journalists with sterling credentials who cover issues of importance both to women and women in politics. Reporters Amanda Terkel and Laura Bassett bring sophistication to their work and have a deep understanding of sexist media culture.  Every outlet would benefit from reporters of their caliber.

But the media sexism at The Huffington Post does hurt women leaders, candidates and politicians. The research conducted by Lake Research Partners for Name It. Change It. demonstrated that sexism costs a woman candidate an average of 10 points in favorability and that mild sexism has a larger impact. You can read the full report on this research here.

Upon further consideration, Name It. Change It. is giving our Award For Creating Sexist Standards For Women In Politics to five “winners” at The Huffington Post. The award will now be shared by Ethan Klapper, politics social media editor at The Huffington Post Politics and Lauren Rothman, Christina Wilkie, Ellie Krupnick and Jessica Misener of Huffington Post Style for the cumulative sexist impact of their work in The Huffington Post that focused on the appearance of women in politics, rather than their policies. (Click here to download the awards).

Here’s the work that earned them this distinction:

  • In the Huffington Post Politics section, there was a slideshow curated by Ethan Klapper, the politics social media editor, which featured numerous blowjob jokes in reference to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This was one of the most sexist media incidents we found all year. We thank The Huffington Post for pulling down the slideshow after yesterday’s announcement of our awards, but we wish it had been taken down back in August when we first expressed our concern.
  • In The Huffington Post Style section there was voluminous coverage of the appearance of Michele Bachmann, Hillary Clinton and, more recently Nancy Pelosi. In addition, a video commentary by Lauren Rothman and Christina Wilkie critiquing Rep. Bachmann’s wardrobe during her presidential run conveyed a very sexist tone.

Lastly, while this type of coverage did not rise to an award-winning level, we were troubled when we found a series of interviews of women candidates and politicians conducted by Nina Bahadur in The Huffington Post’s Women. In each interview Bahadur asked the women “What is your favorite thing you’ve ever worn and why?” This notable difference between the types of questions asked of women who run for office and men is why earlier this year we released a Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians to explain such differences and why they matter.

The Huffington Post has a big – and important - media platform and we hope that by focusing attention where the problems are evident, we can encourage them to do better by the women they cover.

The media is one of the most powerful and influential forces in society and as such sets standards and expectations. By publishing content and images that demean, belittle or stereotype women candidates and public leaders, the media risks its credibility and perpetuates irresponsible journalism. Editors, reporters, photographers, producers and others should be held accountable for the work they produce and the journalistic ideals and ethics they are entrusted with upholding across all platforms and beats.