Tuesday night, as I monitored the #FITN (first in the nation) New Hampshire primary Twitter stream, I noticed some unsettling and -- what I found to be -- rather inappropriate remarks being tossed around about Jon Huntsman's daughters.
It's not unusual for people of the Twittersphere to say rude, racist, or misogynist things; like any other mostly unmoderated corner of the internet, users can spew what they want at whomever they please. And certainly, during an uneventful primary night, the twits quickly run out of meaningful things to say. Conversation tends to veer towards the snark.
I was troubled by what people were saying about the Huntsman women, but more troubled by who was saying these things. These remarks weren't coming from run-of-the-mill users, but rather journalists who we hope are held to a higher standard.
Jon Huntsman's three oldest daughters, Abby, Liddy, and Mary Anne rose to internet fame last year for their witty (and sometime off-message) tweets from their shared account, @jon2012girls, and goofy YouTube videos. Their social media smarts made them highly visible and refreshingly authentic. Regardless of the high profile their social media use has resulted in, the Huntsman women cannot be blamed for the odd types of scrutiny that have come their way.
On Tuesday night, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post tweeted:
Kind of creepy, right? This got me curious -- were other journalists and commentators saying equally strange things about Huntsman's daughters? At least two reporters from the Boston Herald tweeted questionable remarks as well. Boston Herald reporter and NECN commentator Joe Battenfeld tweeted:
And Boston Herald reporter Hillary Chabot tweeted this:
Yes, there were comments about the "Abercrombie" quality of some of the Romney boys.
But more strange than gazing at the GOP candidates' attractive spawn is the media's preoccupation with these women's dating lives. Despite the fact that Huntsman's daughter Abby has been married for over a year, all three still receive the question regularly. In an interview with the Daily Beast late last year, each daughter's status was discussed, along with what dating sites they've signed each other up for.
Then there was Wolf Blitzer's interview of the three women on primary day. Blitzer asked viewers to tweet him their questions. Instead of picking a question about their father, or the campaign, or one of the other candidates, Blitzer decided to spend the entire segment talking about the Huntsman daughters' love lives, telling them that he is an exceptional matchmaker. As Mediaite so keenly put it, "There was something in the way Blitzer asked the question which caused the ladies to recoil like their creepy uncle just said they were 'developing well.'"
It seems this campaign season the sexism is not just reserved for the candidates themselves. I find it troubling when any candidate's family comes under scrutiny, but the comments being casually tossed out by prominent members of the media is even more disconcerting. We hear a lot of talk these days about the evolution of journalism in the 24-hour news cycle of the digital age. If the media are serious about good, responsible journalism, it seems this would be a logical place to start.