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September 9th, 2008
09:56 PM ET

Lipstick on a pig – now everyone's saying it

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/09/obama9.9post.jpg]

Editor's note: See Dana's full report tonight on AC360 at 10pm.

Dana Bash     
CNN Congressional Correspondent

I went to call a McCain aide about a new ad they put up hitting obama for advocating sex ed for kindergarten, but the aide didn’t want to talk about that.

Instead, he immediately asked if I had heard yet about what Obama had just said minutes earlier “about Palin.”

I said I hadn’t, and then he informed me that Obama had just said “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

With the sounds of a manic McCain war room echoing through the phone, the aide declared this a “crystallizing moment for the depths they’ve gone to now.”

When I asked about it, and our producer traveling with Obama, Sasha Johnson, sent around the full context of the quote, it became a lot less clear, to say the least, that Obama was calling out Palin.

In a riff mocking McCain for suggesting he can change Washington, Obama said:

“YOU KNOW YOU CAN PUT LIPSTICK ON A PIG, BUT IT'S STILL A PIG. YOU KNOW YOU CAN (CHEERS) YOU CAN YOU CAN, WRAP AN OLD FISH IN A PIECE OF PAPER CALLED CHANGE, IT'S STILL GOING TO STINK AFTER 8 YEARS. WE'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THE SAME OLD THING. IT'S TIME TO BRING ABOUT REAL CHANGE TO WASHINGTON.”

But Obama was barely done saying that in Lebanon, Ohio, and the McCain campaign had already arranged a conference call with former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift, who called Obama’s comments a “disgrace” and demanded he apologize to Palin.

Several reporters on the call, including myself, asked Swift why she is sure Obama was talking about Palin?

“Calling a very prominent female governor a pig is not what we want,” said Swift, “as far as I know, she is the only one of the four presidential candidates that wears lipstick."

And how does she explain the fact that the term “lipstick on a pig” has become a standard term in the political lexicon….used even by McCain in the GOP primary to describe Mitt Romney?

"I think there is a difference and I think ultimately the American people will realize that calling a prominent female governor a pig is not acceptable," said Swift.

Well, minutes after the call, anyone with google was finding quotes from politicians of all stripes using that term – even McCain used it against Hillary Clinton once.

If nothing else, the way the McCain campaign pounced on the comments is a classic illustration of the way they think gender politics can be played against Obama with Palin on the ticket – especially given the lingering bitterness among some Hillary Clinton supporters who think she got a raw deal because she’s a woman.

But privately, one McCain ally I talked to tonight suggested that the mostly men who run the McCain campaign have got to be careful to chose their battles in their gender wars more carefully.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. Shelly Spilka

    Why don't the media attack Palin for her extreme views on abortion, stem cell research, teaching Creationism in school, global warming and other issues which show her long on antiquated beliefs and short on reason and science?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  2. Tim Dugger

    Lipstick on a pig was an old saying when I was a kid. Whining it about it is nothing more than trying to play.

    It is nothing more than the McSame campaign trying to generate sympathy with false accusations against the democrats.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  3. Montice

    Ok so he said lipstick on a pig so what...if he doesnt attack hard they will try to get him first

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  4. Barbara CA

    So what is she as tough as a barracuda or as weak as a noodle? The McCain/Palin ’super-hero-agents-of-change' shtick is not working for me. Obama offers answers for serious issues that are important to today's voters, McCain/Palin answers with attacks on Obama. I want to hear what McCain/Palin's answers for the issues what will changes there changes be?. So far the media seems to be requiring very little of McCain/Palin when it comes to real answers for serious issues.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  5. Yvonne C. Raes

    The Republicans cannot have it both ways. The choice of Sarah Palin is like asking us to have a female med student do our brain surgery, instead of a qualified male surgeon, simply because she is a woman. It is pandering and patronizing, and it makes me mad as hell.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  6. Deborah

    I think it's shameful that Palin as the nerve to stand before the American People and consistently lie. I believe the Media should go after her and she should be held accountable for the lies she's telling. The mere fact that all of her campaign speeches are scripted tells me she's just a puppet!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  7. Steele

    The republicans are scared to death that Palin on her own will crumble under questioning from the press. That is why she sticks to her word for word same old scripts and one same one liners even though its been proven she's a liar. Surprise! Surprise! (Bridge to nowhere)

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  8. jeffrey DeVincent

    Oh, dear God ... more bad self-generated soap opera drama from the land that is "Palin Place!"

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  9. Annette

    They are doing just what Mark Halpern just said on AC's show..anything they can to take away from the message and put the spotlight back on them. As long as the media keeps feeding off them, they will continue to do it. Demand they answer questions about her stand on the issues. Demand they quit telling distortions and lies about the "bridge to nowhere" and all the earmarks she got in Alaska and watch them turn tail then.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  10. Nicole

    Enough lies about bridge to no where, I am so sick of hearing that. Somebody needs to stop her!!!! Obama said exactly what he is supposed to say!!!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  11. Charley

    I think the lipstick on a pig comment is inappropriate,

    Sarah may more aptly be descibed as "Dubyah" in drag without the intellectual honesty.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  12. Martin Solomon

    Why do your guests keep saying the media has not had achance to vett Palin. When has Obama been vetted by the media? Mr Cooper , have you or any of your guests asked Obama about his friend Bill Ayers? Why does he get a pass and Palin does not? Give me a break?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  13. Erika

    After Sarah Palin referred to herself as pitbull with lipstick, she nor the women and men who have embraced her can cry about sexism. She called herself a female dog (I would use the popular term, but you can't say it on air), and one of the most viscious and dangerous one has ever seen.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  14. Renata Smith

    I loved the comment I don't care if he was referring to Palin or to the fact that McCain campaign in general. Palin is the one who brought up lipstick and so no I don't think its sexist and no I don't think the McCain ticket offers change. Palin's mouth is dripping with so much bacon grease I can't see how she can say she is against pork. Also the media needs to vet this woman. You vetted everyone else and now it is her turn. You must do you job, you owe it to the American people. She doesn't deserve special treatment.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  15. Sharon

    Between Biden and Obama everyday graffe or downright sexism (sexism all thru the primary) this is getting beyond believable. Can you imagine 4 years of 'ahs'. I guess you can say Obama is a little better than Bush – at least Obama can read. This 40 year Democrat now Independent is voting for a Republican for the first time.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  16. Montice

    I think that the fact sara palin accepted the nomination for vice president leaves here fair game for any investigation or "back ground digging"...I mean come on she is attempting to be next in line to run the country...doesn't that require an darn good background check. but also i think that everyone should take all the candidated off of their god-like pedistals and lets take a look at the issues and how the economy can be fixed.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  17. Susan Helton

    Ridiculous! I was at the rally in Virginia. He was not talking about Palin....actually I was upset that he did not take her on more!! How ridiculous that we women are trying to pull the gender card with Palin...I want to HEAR HER!! Why is she hiding behind these political games????Why is the press not pushing her? It was totally open when HIllary was running...why do we have to tiptoe around with her? It is truly embarrassing that she is trying to represent the women of America...

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  18. Diane, Chapel Hill NC

    McCain is clearly cynical, which is overwhelmingly supported by the sole decision to make Sarah Palin his runningmate. He is just jumping at the change to play the gender card and make her seem like a victim. The McCain camp. needs to stop campaigning so cynically. This is petty and pathetic. McCain will, obviously, do anything to avoid talking about the real issues that affect this country.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  19. Bill

    I tend to believe that Obama has enough moral character to not reference Palin as a pig. Didn't the same Obama mention it was unfair to target Palin's daughter? Apparently, McCain/Palin don't have the intestinal fortitude to focus on the issues rather than potential insults. Either that, or McCain/Palin's staff cannot understand the context of the statement. Could it be Obama was talking about disguising the truth as change? Hmmmm, I wonder.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  20. Alicia, NY

    This remark was tastesless. Another example of Obama trying to be coy and cutting at the same time and doing it very badly. But once again, the media brushes this off and proclaims that 'snot what he meant. The polls reflect a reality that the "talking heads" have yet to grasp. The didn't think Rev. Wright mattered either.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  21. Ann Delaney

    I have to say that the McCain campaign is anything but unifying. This is going to be the most divisive fight ever. I find myself hating them – because they so outrageously lie. Shame on McCain.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  22. kimberly patrice

    Thank you to the man calling the republicans tears crockadile tears, for Gods sakes all the candidates lives have been gone through with fine tooth combs since the beginning of time, all of a sudden this Sarah Palin comes along and its become like an untouchable subject, but only for her. She wants to run like a man she will be treated as one, shes in her own words a pitbull with lipstick, hmmmm cant recall any pitbulls crying over everything said to and about her, get over it woman

    September 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  23. Charles from Oxnard, CA

    Much to do about nothing..

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  24. Jane Stelboum

    Thank you Mr. Halpern for saying that the media needs to hold Sarah Palin accountable for not speaking to the press. This is such an obvious sign that even her own ticket thinks she's not ready. The bloom will be off the rose when her issues are made more clear.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  25. Helena

    I agree... I thought it was clever. I love Obama's sense of humor. She is so anti-progress... and I thought Bush was bad. How are we going to move forward if our laws won't let us?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  26. SHaron

    Palin just acting like a baby. As they say if you can't handle the heat then stay out of the kitchen. She can attact the (D) but when the (D) hit back..it not ok...goes she is not ready to deal with the BIG BOYS...

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  27. Carol

    OMG! Obama, Mr. Ivy League, smarter than smart. How stupid! Every moment of the remaining days is important. You've just had your time slot on the nightly news reduced to the pig comment. So the Republicans stole your "change" mantra, don't be trying to steel the "lipstick" one. It doesn't work...unless you and/or Biden have a little something you have to tell us about how you like wearing lipstick. The bigger they are the harder they fall. . .call the fire dept, Obama needs the giant trampoline because his campaign was so high and now it's burning up all around him. . . he's jumping!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  28. Mike

    This is a common expression. We have all heard it and know what it means. Lets move on.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  29. Shalee

    I am so sick of people crying sexism and defending this broad everytime somebody says something questioning her credentials. If Sarah Palin can't stand the heat, she needs to get out of the kitchen!!!!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  30. Cate

    CNN is starting to sound like MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!

    PLEASE STOP REPEATING YOURSELVES!

    It's time to get back to investigative reporting. CNN is starting to sound like every other channel, and I expect more from CNN. Silly me.

    Cate
    San Francisco

    September 9, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  31. sara

    i absolutely love this quote. (lipstick on a pig) we use it a lot in the retail world in reference to our stores. It was interesting to hear it used in that context.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  32. Myra Moore

    Tell Sarah Palin to put the big panties on. If she wants to play with the boys, then she needs to grow up. This is what she wanted. She started the lipstick story so now he just continues. Why is it when she says it, the story is hilarious and oh so charming, but when he mentions the word all of a sudden it is sexist. Oh my goodness, maybe the entire McCain camp needs to put big panties on. I can see it all now. Just envision it all.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  33. Wren, FL

    As a woman, I don't find the "lipstick on a pig" comment offensive–it's part of an old saying that you can put lipstick on a pig, dress it up, and even put perfume on it, but at the end of the day it's still a pig and will run back to the hogpen. The saying is implying that McCain's "Change" message is no different than the pig–McCain is trying to take his hide his history of not changing within a new message, just like the old fish in a new wrapper saying. Aren't there more important political issues to discuss?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  34. Santiago, Michigan

    The comment is very offensive considering that the majority of women use lipstick. In my opinion Obama believe women are inferior to him.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  35. Mary Evans

    Give me a break. Lipstick on a Pig was a horrible thing to say. Who on earth doesn't know that? C'Mon CNN, get with it. I'm a conservative but I've watched CNN faithfully for years because I hate Fox. But this is starting to swing too far like Fox. STAY IN THE MIDDLE, PLEASE. We love you Anderson!!!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  36. ron

    This is absolute nonsense. What the hell is CNN becoming? Faux News? To spend any time on this non-story while ignoring the discussion of the reduction in troops from Iraq, the Freddie and Fannie takeover, record deficits is just beyond belief. Give me a break. Why don't the "news media" just merge with American Idol and get it over with. When CNN starts covering this crap, it's all over. I'm back to the radio and the Internet for my news.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  37. Danny

    Hey. Wait a minute! Isn't this the exact same thing McCain said about Hillary Clinton! Nothing came out of it. Why now?

    Everyone is trying to make news where there isn't. But, why not see how much we can play the SEXIEST card.

    Anderson, listen to David and Mark. Get over this issue! Stop it!

    There are a lot more things more important here. Palin is consistently lying about issues and no one is really going at her. Could it be that the McCain camp has gotten to CNN. Referring the refs. I sure hope NOT!

    Your are reporters so let's report. Who cares who it affects or gets mad at you. You are to good for that!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  38. Barbara Ann

    Palin is doing what all politicians do... pander, spin, lie.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  39. Karen

    I was a Indiana Hillary Clinton voter in this election and I am now shocked. Shocked at what the media and Obama and his running mate who seems to be nameless most of the time has done.. I have listened very carefully to both sides BUT THIS takes the cake... I was raised a Democrate my whole life for generations back but now because I'm part of the working mom's of America I am now a pig in lipstick... WELL this vote in Indiana will got to McCain / Palin... It's a sad day for women in this country and a sad day that Biden thinks this is a "Step Backwards for women" He can step back without my vote....
    I guess us women that work and raise families are "Pigs in Lipstick" OH except Oprah....

    September 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  40. Dale Ward

    If this woman can't take the heat then get out of the kitchen,Quit ,babying her and ask the hard question,the reugs are so radical all they talk about is war,terrorist am sick to death of there whining,He is afraid to put out there by her self because they know she would screw up the whole rheotric that they love to do.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  41. Brenda, Hohenwald, TN

    The allegation by McCain's campaign that Obama was refering to Sarah Palin as the "pig with lipstick" is ridiculous. Don't you remember, she's the "pit bull with lipstick".....she said so herself! There's another quote here in the South...."you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"....Get real McCain campaign, grow up. You want to bully and run Obama and Biden down, but you can' take it when the going gets rough......newsflash.....it will get tougher!

    Look, if Palin is this defensless little woman that has to be protected from the "big boys" how do you ever expect her to be VP..... send her back to the Alaska wilderness where she belongs.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  42. Melissa R, Louisiana

    I don't believe that Obama was talking about Palin at all. The McCain Campaign is simply grasping at straws. I wish they'd spend as much time talking about the issues. If it's a battle about personalities then McCain and Palin loose hands down, neither has the personality of a mop as far as I'm concerned.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:06 pm |
  43. ALICE

    she calls her self a pitbull, what's the difference between a pig and a pitbull they both stink, she called herself a dog

    September 9, 2008 at 10:06 pm |
  44. Annie Kate

    McCain's campaign needs to get a life and quit taking things out of context. If they do that I'm sure the Obama campaign can find a host of things to turn back on them. The slinging of barbs is very unattractive for both sides; its the old politics as usual and it doesn't have any allure. Instead of talking about what the other side did that wasn't good, they need to talk about what they will do to change America. All I've heard since the RNC is accusations flying back and forth. Get over it.

    Lipstick on a pig – I haven't heard that one in years. Here's another one for them if they want a little variety – you can put a mule in a horse harness but its still just a mule.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 9, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  45. Laila

    Goodness...if he doesn't fight he is going to lose and if he fights...they will spin it and try to make him a sexist. How sickening.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  46. ACK

    McCain knows he can't win if he talks about real issues. He's going to use anything he can to divert our attention

    September 9, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  47. iepeters

    So, its ok with McCain says same about Hillery!

    McCain criticized Democratic contenders for offering what he called costly universal health-care proposals that require too much government regulation. While he said he had not studied Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's plan, he said it was "eerily reminiscent" of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the 1990s.

    "I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said of her proposal

    September 9, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  48. Tish,NC

    Obama has always been a gentlemen everyone knows he wasn't attacking Palin! She can take it! Remember she said she's a pit bull with lipstick!!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:03 pm |
  49. Anita Waters

    This is not a campaign for senior class president. I thought the era where airlines marketed stewardesses as sex symbols went out in the seventies. Enough with the photo ops of Palin. Start showing pictures of dead wolves or botched abortions instead of designer glasses. GIVE ME A BREAK!!! This woman is a right-wing conservative fundamentalist who will take us back decades in women's rights, civil rights and economic justice.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:01 pm |
  50. Courtney, Fl

    I thought i was a clever.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
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