McCain camp blames media for controversy

Carly Fiorina calls attacks on Sarah Palin 'sexist'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The McCain campaign came out swinging Wednesday against the media over the controversy and coverage swirling around vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

RNC Victory 2008 chair Carly Fiorina, former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift and several other high-profile GOP women accused media outlets, liberal bloggers and the Obama campaign of sexism. Palin has found herself in the middle of a swirl of controversy since Friday, when John McCain announced her as his running mate.

"The Republican Party will not stand by while Sarah Palin is being subjected to sexist attacks," said Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. In a sometimes testy exchange with the assembled reporters, Fiorina and others criticized liberal Web sites and other unspecified media outlets for accusing the Alaska governor of faking a pregnancy, being part of "fringe groups" and releasing her Social Security number on the Web. "We have seen supermarket tabloids that not only support Barack Obama putting these smears on the cover but also shout with massive headlines about sex and babies and lies," Fiorina said.

Palin's sudden thrust into the spotlight has led to a feeding frenzy among the media, which was surprised by the pick and who have been struggling as a group to find out more about her and introducing her to the voting public.

It hasn't been helped by revelations like her 17-year-old daughter's out-of-wedlock pregnancy and other rumors, which have been dealt with in varying ways by media outlets.

"Just like me, Governor Palin loves her children, and I think we need to leave  it at that," Swift said. Earlier in the day, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis scolded the media for its initial reporting on Palin and her life.

"Certainly, her record deserves scrutiny, but we ought to look at her record," Davis said. "The salacious nature of how these outlets have tried to throw dirt at our candidates has been inappropriate."

He said that things seemed to be getting better today, noting a negative reaction and backlash to some of the seamier sides of the coverage.

"I think if everybody could dial it back, everybody would benefit from that," Davis said. The hastily called news conference comes hours ahead of Palin's first sole ownership of the national stage when she speaks Wednesday night as the vice presidential candidate during the Republican National Convention. Palin hasn't spoken to the media at all since McCain picked her, and while she has been on the campaign trail and the past few days in St. Paul, except for a brief speech on Friday with McCain in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. voters haven't heard from her.

At the news conference, other women including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, said they knew firsthand about sexist treatment. They also spoke out against the way Hillary Clinton was treated during the primary process.

Marin said she was outraged by the way Palin was being treated in the media. "Who better than her to understand the challenges we have as career women, balancing career and family?" Marin asked. "No where else in the history of the nation do we have someone who can understand those challenges, who understands the fears and the joys. Yet what we have is a media that has been outrageous."