MEDIA
04/10/2014 01:40 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2014

Conservative Newspaper Mocks Female Candidate In Sexist Editorial

Lexington Herald-Leader via Getty Images

The conservative-leaning Washington Times has published an editorial about a female candidate for U.S. Senate that could help to explain why some women are hesitant to run for public office.

The editorial compares Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, to Hollywood's "beautiful plastic people pretending to be someone else."

"Mrs. Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, has smiled and chirped her way across the state trying to avoid debate like a terrified Dracula dodging sunlight," the editorial charges.

Grimes, who is in a dead heat with McConnell in the polls, has served as Kentucky's secretary of state for two years. During that time, she has launched a program to protect domestic violence and sexual assault victims and introduced a bill to help the military vote from overseas, among other accomplishments.

She is undoubtedly more liberal than McConnell, although she finds herself to the right of most Senate Democrats on certain issues, such as gun control and health care. For instance, she told The Huffington Post in August that while she doesn't want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" by repealing the Affordable Care Act, as McConnell wants to do, she does want to delay the coverage mandate for small businesses.

But conservatives have consistently portrayed her as an attractive but empty-headed cheerleader for Obama. The National Republican Senatorial Committee tweeted out a blog post in November that featured Grimes' head photoshopped onto the sexily clad body of "Obama Girl" -- the model who made racy videos in 2007 about her crush on then-Sen. Barack Obama. And NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring called Grimes an "empty dress" in a September interview.

In its Wednesday editorial, the Washington Times writes that Grimes' job as secretary of state "sounds considerably grander than it actually is" and has not prepared her to deal with any serious issues she might face in the Senate. The editorial calls Grimes a "nice lady" who, if elected, would only be playing dress-up as a senator, just like the Hollywood actors who have donated to her campaign.

"She’s probably wise to stick to mouthing harmless platitudes," the editorial says. "She’s an actress who wants to play senator, and that’s why Hollywood can’t get enough of her."

Aside from issues with its tone, the editorial contains at least one factual inaccuracy. It says McConnell "has few famous contributors, but nearly all of his contributors actually live in Kentucky," in contrast with Grimes, who "has raised more money from Californians than Kentuckians." But the Courier-Journal reported last fall that nearly 90 percent of McConnell's contributions come from out of state. In addition, a super PAC supporting McConnell raised over $1 million from out-of-state donors.

McConnell's campaign and national Republican operatives warmly embraced the editorial. Josh Holmes, the senior adviser on McConnell's reelection effort, and Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short tweeted it out on Wednesday. The Kentucky Republican Party followed suit on Thursday.

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said she's not surprised McConnell's campaign would share such a sexist editorial the same day he led Senate Republicans in blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act.

"Mitch McConnell and his campaign are going to desperate lengths to hide his horrendous voting record on behalf of the women of Kentucky," she said. "It is deeply troubling his campaign now opts to spread such a derogatory editorial that demeans women."

In response, McConnell's campaign said the criticism of editorial is ridiculous and brought up the fact that Grimes received a campaign contribution from former state Rep. John Arnold, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault.

"This is the most pathetic attempt to manufacture controversy I've ever seen," said McConnell campaign spokeswoman Alison Moore. "Lundergan Grimes is silent about taking contributions from a man who sexually harassed women in her own building, silent about employing the family of the man who was appointed to sweep the whole thing under the rug, but she has time to criticize retweets of an editorial?"

Grimes' campaign noted that Arnold's two alleged victims, Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper, spoke out on Wednesday in support of Grimes, telling her to keep Arnold's donation and "fight." They said they didn't want McConnell's campaign to use them as "pawns in the political game."

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