Stalwart Bernie Sanders supporter Killer Mike is catching flak for using a fellow Sanders supporter’s quote—“a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States”—in a speech he made on behalf of the candidate in Atlanta on Tuesday.
At Morehouse College, the Run the Jewels rapper took aim at Hillary Clinton:
When people tell us, ‘Hold on, wait awhile.’ And that’s what the other Democrat is telling you. ‘Hold on, Black Lives Matter. Just wait awhile. Hold on, young people in this country, just wait awhile.’ And then, and then … she have your own mama come to you. Your own mama say to you, ‘Well, you’re a woman.’ But I talked to [activist] Jane Elliott a few weeks ago, and Jane said, ‘Michael, a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to be—you have to have policy that’s reflective of social justice.’
The implication, of course, is that Clinton isn’t qualified to be president based on her actual accomplishments, and that her supporters have only rallied behind her because she’s a woman—specifically, one with a uterus. Now, Killer Mike is protesting that he can’t be held responsible for the crude phrasing because he didn’t think it up—he just parroted it. “I didn't say that,” he tweeted on Tuesday night. “A progressive activist woman said [it] to me.” His fans are saying “haters” are “distorting his words” and quoting him out of context:
But Killer Mike did say that. He made a vaguely sexist, incendiary remark that paints a woman politician as little more than a 3D printer for fetuses, then absolved himself of all accountability because another woman said it first. In this case, context doesn’t make things better. If Killer Mike had said something like, “It’s a shame that our own backers have been saying some weird things lately, reducing female candidates to a collection of reproductive organs. For example …” or “I would never say something like …” he’d have an argument for contextual nuance. But he didn’t! He set up a straw man about gender-related arguments for Clinton’s candidacy and used the “uterus” rebuttal to knock it down. When a campaign surrogate quotes a fellow supporter to support his own statement, it’s safe to assume that he agrees with the sentiment. If he’d actually thought the wording was insensitive, he could have paraphrased.
Killer Mike and the Sanders campaign are using the same logic employed by Donald Trump, who repeated one of his fans’ remarks—that Ted Cruz is a “pussy”—but called it “terrible,” and retweeted a guy who called Megyn Kelly a “bimbo,” then claimed he’d never call her a “bimbo.” Elliott, for her part, told the Huffington Post that that “uterus” remark would have been “no problem” if she’d said it, but because a man repeated her comment, the blamestream media called it sexist. That’s not true—neither men nor women should make their political arguments based on biological sex characteristics. The “uterus” comment was a thinly veiled reminder that Clinton is but a woman, one of those moon species whose unruly emotions are ruled by the tides. (Besides, unless Killer Mike and Elliott have access to Clinton’s private medical records, they do not know—nor should they care—whether or not she has a uterus.)
Elliott’s response does illuminate the strategy behind Trump and Sanders’ secondhand sexism, though: If you want to belittle an opponent through misogynist rhetoric but don’t want the backlash, don’t do it yourself—repeat someone else. But as Killer Mike’s case demonstrates, it’s hard to keep sexism at arm’s length while reaping its rewards.