Megyn Kelly Isn't The First Journalist Newt Gingrinch Has Gaslighted
The 1990s nostalgia trend is everywhere. Flannel is in for fall, chokers have made a resurgence, and Newt Gingrich is glibly spewing sexism on national television. In an exchange on Fox News Tuesday evening, Gingrich, a Donald Trump campaign surrogate, attacked Megyn Kelly for having reported on sexual assault allegations leveled against the Republican presidential nominee. "You are fascinated by sex and you don't care about public policy," Gingrich said, with a straight face.
Kelly, who appeared more amused than hurt by the accusation, responded, "I'm not fascinated by sex, but I am fascinated by the protection of women." She explained calmly that she covered the allegations because they were a matter of public interest and involved a candidate for president. Gingrich then pivoted, demanding that Kelly call former president Bill Clinton a sexual predator. Unsurprisingly, Kelly refused, noting that her show had also covered these allegations and describing previous interviews she held with women who have accused the former president of sexual assault.
It's a familiar tactic for politicians, especially Gingrich, who are put in a tight spot by difficult questioning: Attack the questions themselves, or the questioner. Gingrich previously stole the show during a debate for the 2012 Republican presidential primary when he attacked John King for asking about comments one of Gingrich's ex-wives had made.
"To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine," Gingrich, who's had no qualms about employing a similar attack against Hillary Clinton, told King in 2012. Perhaps other Americans are also catching on to the irony.
Gingrich lost the nomination in 2012, even though the showdown with King temporarily boosted his poll numbers. Former Mitt Romney staffer Katie Packer, now a political consultant focused on messaging to Republican women, strongly criticized Gingrich's technique. Such tactics, she tweeted, "turn women away from the GOP." She added that Bill Clinton's "bad behavior" cannot be used to defend Trump.
Questions about the Trump sexual assault allegations (which he has consistently and adamantly denied) are perfectly relevant to his campaign, and no amount of self-righteous anger on the part of Trump spokespeople can alter that fact. Whining about the nebulous concept of "the media" instead of answering hard, important questions is no longer a viable strategy. Neither is the sort of dog-whistle sexism that comes from accusing a successful female journalist of being "fascinated by sex."
If those strategies worked, after all, Gingrich might be running for a second presidential today.