Last week saw one of the more blatantly offensive social media fails that I’ve ever seen. It features New Hampshire State Representative Steve Vaillancourt (R), who writes blog entries on the New Hampshire Insider. In a recent entry, Vaillancourt was discussing the race between Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D), who is trying to fend off a challenge from State Representative Marilinda Garcia (R).
In his blog entry, Rep. Valliancourt discussed how he had read information which shows that attractive candidates typically do better than unattractive ones. Then, Rep. Vaillancourt said:
Let’s be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven’t offended sin.If looks really matter and if this race is at all close, give a decided edge to Marilinda Garcia.Annie Kuster looks more like a drag queen than most men in drag.
Keep in mind there is more…this is just the highlights. Ironically, Vaillancourt began his entry by saying that he didn’t “plan to say anything really offensive.” I’m not sure what planet he lives on if he thought this wouldn’t be offensive.
Garcia blasted Vaillancourt’s comments, saying, “”Both Rep. Kuster and I have experienced this unfortunate reality of being a woman in politics. I hope that as time moves forward and more female candidates run for political office around the country, people will focus on the content of our ideas rather than what we wear and how we look.”
The New Hampshire Republican Party also attacked Vailliancourt’s remarks, with the Chairwoman of the New Hampshire GOP, Jennifer Horn, calling the remarks “reprehensible” and adding, “They undermine the healthy development of our daughters and in no way reflect our values as Granite Staters.”
As for Congresswoman Kuster, she deflected the comments on the story and pivoted it to an attack on the Republican Party:
I have thick skin…Steve Vaillancourt can say whatever he’s going to say. . . . What it leads to is a much more important conversation to have, which is frankly, what’s offensive to the voters of New Hampshire is the Republican platform
She then launched into an attack on Garcia’s on issues like Equal Pay and the Violence Against Women Act. These are issues in which polls typically show Democrats have an advantage, and they need to motivate women to vote in order to win. To that end, Vailliancourt’s idiot blog entry provided Kuster with an opening.
As for Representative Vailliancourt: In another story, it is noted that “Vaillancourt has refused to say if he stands behind his comments.”
So, what’s the conclusion here? Without question, the remarks were absurd and offensive. Vaillancourt did Garcia more harm than good, and she was obviously smart to distance herself from the remarks as quickly as possible. What I found particularly interesting is that Congresswoman Kuster didn’t take the bait or play the victim: instead, she went on the attack as an sexist remarks to attack her opponent on the issues.
This entire incident is, unfortunately, just the latest ugly chapter in the sexism that women face in politics.
The social media lesson: don’t do anything that Vaillancourt did.