WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s new campaign manager, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, was recently tapped to help the loose-lipped candidate repair his reputation and defeat Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party in U.S. history.
Conway is an interesting choice for that role. Just two years ago, she defended Clinton against unfair media coverage of her appearance and questioned why reporters didn’t cover the “bad combover” of male politicians instead.
“The coverage of female candidates, particularly at the national level, when Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin ran, was disgraceful,” Conway said at a panel on women in politics.
“To have a 746-word article in a major newspaper discussing Hillary Clinton’s cleavage, and about five months later, having a major commentator on a major cable station say, ‘The best way ― this is brilliant to pick Sarah Palin, because that’s a great way to market her. I want to get in bed next to her’ ― where are, where is the comparable coverage, ladies?” Conway asked.
“Where is the comparable coverage about the beer belly, paunchy beer belly and the bad combover? Where is that? You know, you’re never going to read those articles.”
Conway, of course, did not realize then that she would run the campaign of the presidential candidate with the most notorious (and likely the most expensive) combover in history.
And her wish came true, sort of: Vanity Fair published an illustrated history of Trump’s combover. Gawker investigated how much its upkeep costs. Yahoo assembled a slideshow of cats with Trump’s hair. The real estate mogul has even had to defend his signature hairdo on social media.
“As everybody knows, but the haters and losers refuse to acknowledge,” Trump tweeted, “I do not wear a ‘wig.’ My hair may not be perfect, but it’s mine.”
Where is the comparable coverage about the beer belly, paunchy beer belly and the bad combover? Where is that? Kellyanne Conway in 2014
Of course, Trump is also known for his numerous sexist comments about female politicians and other public figures. He said in a recent interview with ABC News that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look,” and he criticized former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina last year for her appearance.
“Look at that face!” he said of Fiorina in an interview. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
Trump later defended his comment about Fiorina by comparing it to negative coverage of his hair. “When I get criticized constantly about my hair, nobody does a story about, ‘Oh, isn’t that terrible? They criticized Donald Trump’s hair,’” he told “Fox & Friends.”
Studies show, however, that media coverage of male politicians’ looks does not do as much damage to them as it does to female candidates. One 2013 survey by the Women’s Media Center found that any mention in the news of a female candidate’s appearance, whether positive or negative, made voters less likely to vote for her. Men “paid no price for the same kind of coverage,” the survey found.
Conway’s advice to female candidates in 2014 was to call out sexist media coverage of their looks and shift the focus to other traits that give women an advantage over men. “Play to our strengths as being seen as less corruptible, more ethical, more able to negotiate, to forge consensus, to listen,” Conway said. “And also, to work on issues, you know, I call them the ‘she cluster issues.’ Social security, health care, education.”
The Huffington Post asked Conway whether she has a problem with Trump’s jabs about his female opponents’ looks. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.