John McCain

Ann Kirkpatrick Scolds McCain PAC for 'Sexist' Hashtag Dis of Kelli Ward

If you're a Republican, you know things are bad when Democrats throw you a lifejacket by attacking your opponent.

Democratic Congresswoman and U.S. Senate hopeful Ann Kirkpatrick and the über-liberal, pro-choice advocacy group Emily's List recently stuck their noses in the Arizona GOP primary for Senate in support of Kelli Ward, who is being crushed like a June bug beneath the steel heel of the pro-John McCain superPAC Arizona Grassroots Action

AGA has spent nearly $2 million to do to Ward what McCain did to his primary rival J.D. Hayworth in 2010: obliterate any hope of a future political career. Hayworth now hosts a show on cable outlet NewsMaxTV. The way things are going for Ward, she'd better hope they're hiring. 

At any rate, Kirkpatrick's campaign recently tried to gin up some faux umbrage over AGA's sarcastic presentation of an online video, in which Ward, accompanied by her husband and surrounded by a small clutch of supporters, dares McCain to debate her, then sings a few lines of  the 1972 Eagles hit "Take It Easy." The video features Ward attempting to croon the song's signature lyrics, co-written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne:

Well, I'm a-standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me

Naturally, the video was shot in Winslow. In Standin' on the Corner Park, no less.

After Ward posted the clip on Facebook, AGA swiped the footage, altered it slightly at the end by slowing it down, and uploaded it to YouTube on August 10 with the title "#StreetCornerKelli sings her heart out."

As of this writing, AGA's video has amassed 376 views.

That didn't stop the Kirkpatrick campaign from lashing out, blasting the McCain superPAC for its "sexist" hashtag and calling on McCain to distance himself from the group (which by law he is forbidden from coordinating with anyway). 

In a knee-jerk press release, Kirkpatrick is quoted as saying:
"I'm appalled that John McCain would stand by and let any woman be treated with such disdain and loaded language. This video should be taken down immediately and McCain must apologize to Kelli Ward. There is no place for sexist antics like these and for McCain to allow it to happen shows again that he has changed after 33 years in Washington.”

A day later, the pro-choice PAC Emily's List, which has endorsed Kirkpatrick, doubled down, issuing a statement calling on McCain to denounce the hashtag and claiming that the "anti-woman rhetoric on display by Donald Trump at the top of the ticket" is "guiding John McCain and Republicans down the ballot."

Ward spokesman Stephen Sebastian told me that the Ward camp "agreed with the point they are making, but we don't particularly want the help coming from them." He also accused McCain of "a long history in this race of sexism," but when I asked him to offer other examples, he mentioned AGA's referring to Ward as "Chemtrail Kelli," because Ward once sponsored a public meeting with her constituents to address the tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory
Of course, I reminded him that I had called Ward "Chemtrail Kelli" as well. It's not a sexist attack, it's knocking Ward for humoring the nutballs in her district. I wondered if Sebastian, a wry young Southerner, was going all PC on me, and pointed to the lyrics of the Eagles song and the fact that Ward had in fact been "standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona." 

Sebastian admitted to being only "vaguely familiar" with the Eagles. (Well, the guy is a millennial.) But he argued that the hashtag #StreetCornerKelli, with its street-walker overtones, was at the very least "sloppy."

"It's not a good idea to attack a female opponent with anything regarding street corners," he added. "It's clever, and they may or may not have intended it to imply prostitution, but when you're on a national stage like this, you've got to be more careful."

Fair point, though Ward's campaign has had numerous not-ready-for-prime-time moments of its own, including ripping off an old 2008 Mitt Romney ad attacking McCain and substituting Ward for Romney at the very end. And if we're gonna get all PC, appearing on wingnut radio shows like those of Alex Jones and Rick Wiles, as Ward has done, doesn't fit that bill either. 

I called Kirkpatrick's flack D.B. Mitchell, who told me Team Kirkpatrick felt the need to weigh in because the hashtag was offensive and sexist. "Is there room for this kind of language in the public conversation?" he asked.

OK, if "#StreetCornerKelli" is so sexist, why did the Kirkpatrick campaign embed the entire YouTube video, which includes the hashtag in question? 

"We called it out for what it is: a sexist attack," Mitchell told me. "And we called on them to take it down. So I'm a little confused on how you think we're perpetuating anything?"

Which brings us back to those 376 page views. Without Kirkpatrick's clamor, who would even know about this? 

AGA founder Jon Seaton laughed off the criticism from the Kirkpatrick camp, saying that the YouTube zinger was only intended to "highlight [Ward's] rendition of an Eagles classic." As far as the denunciation by Emily's List, Seaton seemed actually annoyed.

"This is fake outrage from the same liberal group that used racially charged language to attack Arizona Hispanic leaders who support Senator McCain," he said, "and they should know better."

Indeed, in October of last year, Emily's List criticized a McCain event that featured his local Latino supporters, calling it "no more than the customary politico 'taco stop' where out-of-touch politicians visit Latino businesses for a photo op." The group also claimed that McCain was putting on "his Hispanic sombrero" to pander to Latino voters.

Hard to enforce political correctness when, like the folks at Emily's List, you've been politically incorrect yourself, or when, as in the case of Kirkpatrick, you republish the alleged sexist comment you claim to be so offended by.

In other words: pot, kettle, black.
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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons