Media Scrutiny of Wardrobe-gate 'Eats Up' Another Day of Coverage

When the Obama campaign issues a statement about a controversial issue, the media accept it as fact.  No such courtesy for the McCain camp.   

Case in point: the media fascination with the $150,000 spent by the Republican National Committee to upgrade the wardrobe of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family, compared to allegations of a close relationship between Barack Obama and domestic terrorist William Ayers. broke the story of the RNC expenses on Tuesday night.  Despite a statement from the McCain campaign saying, “with all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses,” evening and morning network news shows leaped on the story.

Thursday morning, on ABC's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos reported, “The problem for her is not only these questions from Governor Schwarzenegger, but all those questions yesterday, about the Republican National Committee spending about $150,000 to outfit her and her family since the convention, eat up another day of coverage, in a way that's just not helpful.”

Stephanopoulos didn't mention that “Wardrobe-gate” could “eat up another day of coverage”only if the media let it, which they did.  

CBS' October 22 Early Show coverage of the story, included this statement from correspondent Meg Oliver: "This is what she's [Palin] wearing these days on the campaign trail, expensive designer clothes, apparently paid for by the Republican National Committee. Spending records filed with the Federal Election Commission showed the RNC paid for campaign accessories from upscale department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, where nearly $50,000 was spent, Neiman Marcus, $75,000, and $4700 for hair and makeup.”

As an aside, Kyle Drennen at Newsbusters noted that CBS, in a story about where Barack Obama buys his suits, declined to apply the “upscale” label to Nordstrom and Bloomingdales.

Wednesday night's CBS Evening News also devoted a segment to the RNC clothing expenditure.  Correspondent Nancy Cordes acknowledged that it was “perfectly legal,” but still questioned the validity of “Palin's carefully cultivated Joe Six Pack image.”

Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan wrote yesterday:

Unlike a man, a woman can't easily get away with a wardrobe of a half-dozen virtually indistinguishable suits, a gross of red or blue ties and a suitcase full of white dress shirts.  A woman's wardrobe will cost more, and putting it together will be more time-consuming. But it should also be one that reflects the person, her demographic and her message. And it's always nice if she actually buys it herself.

But a look at Givhan's initial critique of Palin's clothes from September 28 reveals that Palin's clothes, regardless of how much they actually cost, do convey her message.  Givhan wrote, “Palin's clothes are common.  Everyone knows someone who dresses like her, which is partly why so many folks seem to think that they know her.” 


In a web chat on September 29, Givhan also noted that Palin's clothes, “reflect the fact that she is not influenced by the sort of sleek, urban sensibility that informs the style of someone like Nancy Pelosi.”  In other words, her clothes reflect the fact that she's not part of the Washington establishment.

To be fair, ABC, CBS, NBC and Givhan did all note that the clothing will be donated to charity after the campaign ends.

It is fair for the media to question the RNC's reasoning for allowing such an expenditure, especially during these economic times, but it's a frivolous issue when compared to the nature of Obama's relationship with William Ayers, a man who founded a group responsible for bombing the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon and killing cops.  On that issue, the media have simply accepted, swallowed and regurgitated the talking points set forth by the Obama campaign, as CMI Senior Editor Brian Fitzpatrick detailed in “Media Drink Obama's '8 Years Old' Kool-Aid.”

At least the RNC gaffe didn't result in the deaths of police officers.