Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, turned heads on Sunday when he said that women's issues, such as access to contraception and abortion services, are nothing but "shiny objects" of distraction.
"Mitt Romney is pro-life," Fehrnstrom said on ABC's "This Week." "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
Fehrnstrom's comment echoes an increasingly common Republican talking point, which is that Democrats' complaints about the so-called "war on women" -- an umbrella term for legislative attacks on contraception coverage and abortion, attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, ultrasound mandates and opposition to the Violence Against Women Act and equal pay laws-- are a trivial political ploy meant to distract voters from the issues that matter.
Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said that efforts to minimize political issues affecting women are offensive.
"I think that the conservative assumption was that they could aggressively dismantle womens rights under the radar, and they're peeved that they've been caught out, so one of their responses to being caught out is to chastise women for paying attention and to really chastise men for paying attention," she told The Huffington Post. "To tell us we can't have our birth control covered and then to scold us for complaining about that is disrespectful and dismissive, and I hope women will really show their disapproval in November."
The Huffington Post put together a slideshow of recent incidents of Republicans calling the debate over women's issues a distraction, pairing them with selections from our War On Women playlist.
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, said on Sunday that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, called the equal pay issue "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, delivered a floor speech in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus said in an April interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."
HuffPost Politics and Spotify are teaming up to DJ key moments in 2012. Here's how it works. Spotify users: Open your app, scroll through our slideshow, click on the song tracks and let the music do the rest. Non-Spotify users: Get set up here for free.
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