At the third presidential debate, Donald Trump undermined his own claim that "nobody has more respect for women than I do," when, in a conversation about social security and the national debt, he called Hillary Clinton a "nasty woman." For many watching, it was proof of the gender dynamic that has been ongoing for months — Hillary Clinton, an immensely qualified candidate for the presidency, has been serially disrespected by a man completely unqualified for the job he is applying for.
"Nasty woman" has become a rallying cry for women enraged by the seemingly unending sexism that has typified the 2016 election. In the week following the debate, we can probably expect it, along with Trump's strange, maybe-racist use of the term "bad hombres" to describe immigrants, to monopolize a lot of the post-debate discussion.
This isn't the first time that a weird turn of phrase has backfired for a presidential candidate. After hours of debate prep, a line that should have been good can steal the spotlight and make a candidate look pretty darn dumb. Here are a few examples from past elections, when a stray line went nasty:
1. McCain Called Obama "That One"
A big part of John McCain's pitch in 2008 was that he had the experience to run the country, while his opponent was just a first-term senator. With Barack Obama running on "hope and change" as the first African-American nominee, he had to walk a fine line of not dismissing him too rudely. When he addressed Obama not by name, but just as "that one," some felt he had crossed the line into disrespect.
2. Obama Said Clinton Was Kinda Likable
People complaining that Hillary Clinton isn't "likable" is far from new. In a primary debate in 2008, she responded a question about it pretty ably — and likably — by saying it hurts her feelings and pointing out that she, too, liked Barack Obama. Obama responded in the worst way, saying "you're likable enough" to his opponent, without even looking at her. It made him look much less likable than her.
3. Romney Put Women In Binders
Wow, 2012 feels like a simpler time, doesn't it? Mitt Romney got in lots of trouble for treating the idea of employing women for jobs as just contents of a binder, a terrible response to a question about treating women equally in the workplace, and hundreds of great Halloween costumes were born. Compared to "nasty woman" it feels pretty quaint, but it's a sign that Republicans had some problems talking about women's advancement before Trump.
4. Al Gore Waved Around A Lock Box
Al Gore was widely considered a boring, and often elitist debater. In a 2000 debate against George W. Bush, he spent a startling amount of his time repeating that he'd put money in a "lock box" for the Social Security fund. The fact that "lock box" was perhaps the most boring-sounding imaginable phrase to repeat a bunch of times was not lost on comedians of the day.