How Not to Run Against A Woman

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 6 2011 11:58 AM

How Not to Run Against A Woman

Elizabeth Warren was asked at a Monday night debate at UMass-Lowell how she paid for college; the questioner prefaced this by reminding her that Sen. Scott Brown had posed for Cosmopolitan. "I kept my clothes on!" joked Warren.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

On WZLX, Brown was asked about it.

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Q: Have you officially responded to Elizabeth Warren’s comment about how she didn’t take her clothes off?
BROWN: Thank God.
Q: That’s what I said! Hey look, can you blame a good-looking guy for, for — you know.
BROWN: Listen, bottom line is I didn’t go to Harvard. You know, I went to the school of hard knocks. And I did whatever I had to do to pay for school.

I'm just struck by how lazy this is. Brown has run against a female candidate before, and avoided any comments about her looks, so let's assume he just slipped a little here. (We can't really assume that he didn't predict the implication: Who hears that and doesn't hear the jab at Warren's looks.) Warren is older than Brown, and has grandchildren, so she's a particularly bad target for a joke like this. Also, she's attractive! She's been profiled in Vogue, with a photo that showed off her trimness and bright blue eyes. It's... just best to avoid this.

Move on from there, to the Harvard comment. Warren didn't go to Harvard! She went to the University of Houston, then Rutgers Law School, neither of them (sorry) particularly snobby or prestigious. But this lazy "elitism" attack has been central to the entire GOP campaign against Warren. Brown needs to do a lot better.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.