Mark Penn: “I think the media’s got a lot of damage to repair with the women in this country.”

Mark Penn talks with GQ’s Lisa DePaulo about Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and has a few things to say about the media:

GQ: So let’s talk about sexism. Where did you see it?

PENN: From the beginning, I thought she would get a tremendous amount of support from women. Women are 54 percent of the electorate. For all the talk about more young people coming out? More women came out. Millions more women came out than ever before. It was the largest increase. They’re really energized. But you know, at the time that Obama said, you know, “She’s playing the gender card,” the media played into that, you know? She wasn’t playing the gender card. If anything, there was a lot of other stuff going on here. Not from the Obama campaign, but just in society generally. And I think Chris Matthews owed her a major apology, and eventually delivered one. The media had been outrageous.

GQ: You mean Matthews’s comment about “The reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around”?

PENN: Right. And the kind of nutcracker dolls you could find at the airports. You know, the kind of stuff that would just never be allowed against anyone else was almost commonplace against Hillary. And I think, actually, after New Hampshire, women woke up to that. They supported her from that time on very solidly. And I think they saw her as both qualified for president and their champion, and I think that they became increasingly upset at the media over time. I think the media’s got a lot of damage to repair with the women in this country.

More excerpts after the jump…

GQ: When you talk about the media and the treatment of her, you know, part of it–in the beginning of the campaign, back when it seemed like she was the inevitable nominee–she was really distant from the press. Don’t you think that had something to do with the fact that the press fell in love with Obama?

PENN: Well…no. [laughs] The press fell in love with him, period.

GQ: Why?

PENN: The press always falls in love with the new cool intellectual candidate. You know, he is their kind of candidate. Go back through history. They didn’t like Al Gore. They loved Gary Hart. They love those kinds of candidates, always have. But–but–but look, I think that he was the first African-American, you know, credible presidential candidate was a factor behind how much the press was enthusiastic about him. But she was also the first woman candidate. But the standard… You know, the microscope that they put her under, that they did not put her opponent and opponents under, was just incredible. I don’t think anybody has ever been put under this kind of microscope running for president. There were certain times early in the campaign where she would try to be…do what people tell her, and say, “Hey, I’ll be more relaxed, I’ll tell a little joke.” But every time she told the joke, it became a, you know, a federal case. Her words are parsed. Every single word is parsed. By the right, by the left, by the press. In a way that makes it kind of…difficult to just, quote, go out there and let it all hang out. And so she is naturally careful and precise in the things she goes on to say. But I think that during that same time, there were a lot of off-the-record sessions with the press, a lot of behind-the-scenes work she was doing. And over time she gave, you know, she did a lot more going back to the press, and she was great. See, if you go back to some of the myths of the campaign, I’m sure, if you check, that she has far more availabilities than Obama’s had. That she has been far more accessible to the press, overall. So the question is who had the impression of who’s accessible.