Ferraro wants study on sexism, racism in campaign

The former vice-presidential nominee, a lightning rod for controversy earlier in the Democratic race, takes to the Op-Ed page.

By Alex Koppelman
May 30, 2008 8:35PM (UTC)
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Geraldine Ferraro apparently has no intention of going gentle into that good night. The former Democratic vice-presidential candidate, who provoked a furor with remarks she made about Barack Obama earlier this year, wrote an Op-Ed for Friday's Boston Globe that's anything but conciliatory.

Ferraro, who resigned from Hillary Clinton's finance committee after the controversy, writes that she and a group of other women "have requested that the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University and others conduct a study, which we will pay for if necessary, to determine three things." Those things are, she says:

First, whether either the Clinton or Obama campaign engaged in sexism and racism; second, whether the media treated Clinton fairly or unfairly; and third whether certain members of the media crossed an ethical line when they changed the definition of journalist from reporter and commentator to strategist and promoter of a candidate. And if they did to suggest ethical guidelines which the industry might adopt.

The Shorenstein Center was established by a gift in part from Walter Shorenstein, a friend of the Clinton family's who sent a memo to Democratic superdelegates this year bemoaning what he perceived as bias in the press -- specifically, bias against Clinton and for Obama.

The rest of the Op-Ed betrays what appears to be a continuing lack of self-awareness (or, for that matter, a consideration for the perception of others) on Ferraro's part. For instance, she writes:

The effects of racism and sexism on the campaign have resulted in a split within the Democratic Party that will not be easy to heal before election day. Perhaps it's because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn't an issue, but reverse racism is ...

That sexism impacted Clinton's campaign, I have no doubt. Did she lose a close election because of sexism? I don't know. But I do know that it will never happen again as long as women are willing to stand up and make sure that it is just a one-time bad experience.

The only racism Ferraro seems to consider is the racism she feels she was a victim of; she never stops to wonder whether Obama might have been the subject of racism. And she touches only briefly on the controversy surrounding her own remarks, writing, "I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama's historic campaign," which isn't an accurate characterization of what she originally said. Moreover, she ignores any discussion of the role her comments played in creating the split in the party she writes about. In short, the desire she expresses to see these problems dealt with might feel a whole lot more genuine if she had examined the fault on both sides, not just on the one she opposes.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Geraldine Ferraro Hillary Rodham Clinton Paul Shirley War Room