Samantha Bee Skewers Media for Focusing on Female Presidential Candidates' Likability

Samantha Bee-Publicity-H 2018

With a number of women having already declared that they're running for the Democratic nomination for president, Samantha Bee is hoping that the media won't be able to make gender a defining characteristic. 

"Now that there are so many ladies running, maybe we can stop talking about the tone or volume of their voice, their outfits or their marriages and instead judge them based on their ideas and experience," the host of TBS' Full Frontal said on Wednesday's episode as she began to laugh. "I'm just joking. No, no, no. It's gonna be a total nightmare."

In fact, as Bee discovered in a number of outlets' coverage of the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, "likability" is still a focus.

Bee shared a clip of Gillibrand being interviewed following the announcement of her candidacy. The interviewer asked if her likability is a selling point. "Kirsten, I'll take this one," said Bee. "Fuck off! How is this your first question? You had two years to think of something less sexist."

The host then criticized Politico's story that questioned Warren's likability and asked how she can avoid being seen in a negative light. "Here's one way — by not writing a whole fucking article about a candidate's likability before her campaign gets off the ground," she said. "Stop wondering aloud what the media will or will not do when you are the media. This is up to you, bitch."

A clip of Tucker Carlson followed in which he said that the criticism is not gender-based because he is often called unlikable himself. "Yes you are, but don't sell yourself short. You're also a white supremacist," said Bee.

"People who are definitely not sexist like to point out that men can be unlikable, too," she continued. The host then compared former presidential candidate John Edwards, who commentators have said was unlikable and who, as Bee put it, "cheated on his cancer-stricken wife, then spent donor money to keep his pregnant mistress a secret," to Warren, who is simply running for president.

News clips followed of TV commentators criticizing Warren for drinking a beer. Many media personalities said that she was trying too hard. They also compared Warren's drink to the time Bill Clinton played the saxophone, which some believed was more genuine.

"If there's one thing we remember about Bill Clinton, it's his saxophone performance, which proved he really is a cool guy that's real," Bee joked.

She said candidate Kamala Harris has "the added bullshit of being a black woman." Bee explained that news outlets are treating Harris' race "more like a branding decision than her identity."

"The real problem is that men don't have to worry about this crap. I mean, Jesus. They barely need to worry about being Democrats," the host said as a headline about former Independent New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg considering a run as a Democrat flashed onscreen.

Bee pointed out that all of this coverage happened in the past three weeks. "We are not off to a good start! When we frame women candidates like this right off the bat, it becomes impossible to actually discuss them with nuance down the line," she said. "This is a real fucking problem.

"And it's not that women are too sensitive, or that they don't want the same tough treatment that male candidates get," she continued. "The same treatment is exactly what we want. Don't talk about women's voices, hair, children, husbands, volume or so-called likability."

The host touched on each of the candidates' flaws and urged the media to ask questions that matter. "Press them on their refusal to apologize to tribal communities, concerning history as a prosecutor, a bad pre-Senate record on guns and immigration, where they are on healthcare," she listed. "Oh, [candidate] Tulsi [Gabbard], honey, no. There's just too much.

"Bring whatever political fire you want. Just make sure you're going just as hard on their male counterparts," Bee beseeched of the press.

"Most of you are probably too young to remember this, but there was a presidential election in 2016. It should have been exciting to cover the first major female presidential candidate, but because of the way people talked about Hillary [Clinton], it was actually agony," the host said. "Every day was like death by a thousand think pieces that all said, 'Smile more.'

"When you talk about female candidates this way, it hurts all of us, so please, please, please, let's all do better this time or so help us God, we are all gonna learn to play the saxophone," Bee concluded.

Watch the full segment, below.