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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. Brenda Mathews

    The republican love to give a "punch", but they sure can't take one.
    They are so rude. Didn't their parents teach them it's rude to interrupt someone when they are speaking?

    The bull dog with lipstick attitude (bring it on) has gotten us in a world of trouble. People take your blinders off!!!!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  2. Charles

    Does CNN have any new stories. I'm about to unsubscribe to the CNN channel. You guys are a broken record

    Charles, BC

    September 9, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  3. mike, Texas City, TX

    What do you expect from him? He didn't have a TelePrompTer in front of him! As a talk show host once said, "When a fool starts to talk, get out of his way and let him talk and make a fool out of himself." Keep it up Obama, between you and Biden, you make Laurel and Hardy look like geniuses.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  4. Sonya

    I can't believe how dense some of you women are being offended by lipstick on a pig. What's the difference between a pitbull and a pig? Pitbulls can kill. Pigs are adorable. Ladies think what you are saying when you claim to have been a Hillary supporter and now support McCain / Palin. Stop being so narrow minded!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  5. Julia

    I am so disheartened by the media in covering the 'pigs in lipstick' as big news for the day. The Republican party unfortunately speaks to many in this country that are like sheep and don't require a lot to be prodded in the direction they choose. Wake up America, is this the best we have to talk about in light of our real issues in this country. As for Palin, should we really be too concerned about her feelings in relation to sexism when she is condescending, patronizing and dishonest to the American people; should we go easy on her because she has ovaries? Do you think the same treatment will be given if it were a terrorist let's say. Anderson, please don't dumbdown your broadcast in the future.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  6. vincent

    I think it is disgraceful to compare Mccain/Palin to a pig.
    Pigs dont deserve that insult.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  7. raymond

    can you answer this question for me, how come a governor of a state with a degree in political science and journalism, does not know what the duties of the vice president and hates the press. isnt that what she went to collage to learn. I feel sorry for those student of the university of Idaho enrolled in those programs,

    September 9, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  8. Aurale Huff

    Obama simply mis-spoke. He should have said pitbull instead of pig. Not hard to figure where that came from, is it?

    Seems the media could do the right thing and mention that she herself started this lipstick stuffl

    Aurale – (Leehuff in Texas).

    September 9, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  9. Denise

    Obama doesn't know what to do. He is grasping at straws. Why is he saying anything about Sarah Palin. She is running for VP not President. He makes himself look stupid every time he tries to attack her. He should stay on message, otherwise he will loose.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  10. Tiffany

    you know people who dont use their brains deserve to have another bush in office. people who are racist desreve to have McBush in office racist people in OHIO deserve to have McBush, an im from OHIO an a lot of whites (not all) here are very racist. but im stomping the trails here for OBAMA 08

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

    Everyone better watchout! Sarah Palin is just a distraction to what the issues really are. She's very untruthful...Oh, what about that investigation she is under at this time. I have not heard a lot about that.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  12. paula bucci

    Yes, he's right. She is still a pig–a corrupt, hypocritical, unethical, reactionary pig. Yup, he's right on the money.

    Barrack Obama should stress his forward thinking message: jobs for Americans, the economy, alternative energy development, illegal immigration, control of our borders, and an end to the war in Iraq.

    Hammer it home Barrack!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  13. brian

    And still the democrats have yet to learn the EVIL of GOP campaigning. You would think after the way they got B1tched slapped the last two elections they would learn to fight. Are there ANY DEMOCRATS out there with a SPINE AND MOUTH. This should be the first two things the democrats should look for in a canidate. Please Obama, it is the year 2008, not 1848, you don't have to take a whooping you can turn and face your opponent and whoop back!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  14. Jim

    This election seems to be more about popularity and they are Very Childish, than it is about getting real with real problems that America is facing.

    All the GARBAGE needs to STOP and get real with the issues facing all Americans and our country!!! Neither candidate is really about what is best for the country. It seems to be ONLY about Me, me, me. Not what the real issues are and what the plans are to get America out of the mess we are in. SOMEBODY GET REAL... NOW!!!!!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  15. spro

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Halperin's assertion that giving the "lipstick on a pig" even 10 seconds of airtime is OUTRAGEOUS.

    CNN and the rest of the mainstream media are failing miserably in their obligation as the 4th estate to the public interest. By not providing (enough) facts and issue based reporting, they are plyaing right into the Republican's hands. Sometimes I wonder if one hand may be washing the other.

    What was at one time a serious and substantive debate on real issues at this vital time in our country's history has turned once again into a three ring circus of freak show characters and garbage. I'm disgusted!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  16. joe

    i understand why the republicans are upset but i dont belive that Obama was derecting his comment to sarah palin. it was towards to the republican party in gerneral. the republicans cant say anything about being sexist because sarah palin is only john mccains running mate because she is a women.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  17. Damian - Atlanta, GA

    That is disgraceful, McCain will say anything to get ahead. McCain has become the most shrewd and pushy politician I have ever seen. He is stooping to Mitt Romney levels of divisiveness. hope America does not fall for these false promises and rhetoric.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  18. Peter, Dallas, TX

    This sounds like old republican politics – just as they waited for democrats to choose a running mate first and also have their convention. Who is this Serah Palin of a woman? I'm sure all Americans are asking the same question. She needs to come out of the same well drafted convention speech and let's hear her unrehearsed rherotic. May be she will let us know what she meant aboout her own lipstick at the convention.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  19. Dana H. from Bay Area

    I thought that was a pretty funny comment Obama said. I guess that would be better then talking about a Pit bull with lipstick. I'm still trying to decide which one is cuter. I think it's odd that Palin still still refusing to talk to the media. And what's with her charging 40 or 50 thousand to stay in her own home? Obama needs to be more patient. Let Biden take care of Palin. Eventually she's going to have answer a question, either to the media or during the debates. It's only obvious why McCain is sticking by her side. One because people will show up to his town hall meeting if she is there, and also because she will have issues if she is alone and forced to talk to the media. People will start to find out that the things she's been so proud of is not such a proud accomplishment after all. Most people that are happy with her just don't know much about her and they are eating up everything she says. I wonder if people here know that Palin also disagrees with strengthening the protection status of the beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska, where oil and gas development has been proposed, that she is apposed to making the Polar Bears endangered because it would hurt oil and gas development in the bears' habitat off Alaska's northern and northwestern coasts and the oil pipeline she is so proud of wont be build until 2018 and will be owned by TransCanada Corporation? I hope people will do some research and find out if all this is true. I'm glad at least cnn is trying to dispel what's true and what's not.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  20. Patrina McKinney

    After watching the speech I didn't take it that Obama was refering to Palin. It's just low of the McCain campaign to play the gender card.
    I wish the Obama campaign would stop worrying about Palin and get back to talking about issues. McCain is not change and they need to concentrate on that message why are we wasting time talking about lipstick. As a woman I'm offended that they are wasting time making a issue of something so stupid. I'm tired of everyone having a hands off approach when it come to her. Her family is an issue because she paraded them in front of the American. She needs to get in the game. And Obama needs to get every female Democrat out on the campaign trail from Pelosi, Clinton, Sebillus, to Maxine Waters. The whole spectacle of this woman in the media makes me sick and I think it's time to go hunting!!! Sick the woman of the Democratic party on Palin and let them speak to the gender issues. Get back to reminding this country why McCain is four more years of Bush policy.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  21. joanne

    my opinion is that if shes running for vice president she should take the heat like a man. we all know what he meant by that and im not a true democrat im a liberal i vote for the person that @ that time is right for our country, and thats not mccain or palin thats for sure. they only picked her to cover theyr own isuued that theyr changin just for this race and shes doing the same , she started with the lipstic so there. do they think we would pick her just becouse shes a woman wer smarter than that , palin is taking us back in woman right to choose, some of us are for pro life we earned that right

    September 9, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  22. Monty

    Did you really expect the republicans to do anything different? They have no game so they have to create drama any way hey can. I have a sister in law that does the same thing. I think they are trying to bring out the "angry black man" and the problem is obama is rattled. He needs to focus on the old guys, the one in the white house and his protege running for President. Sarah Paln is paper thin other wise she wouldnt still be spewing the bridge to nowhere story. Thats all shes got, The media needs to nail her on it about a dozen times and show her for what she is, a snake. With or without lipstick.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  23. Gwen Ballard

    I agree, that if Sara P. can not stand the heat she should get out. This is almost a comical situation with Palin and McCain, reminding me of the old organ grinder and monkey routine, and who is the monkey?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  24. Darlene

    Enough is enough. I cannot beleive how low Obama has stoop.
    Anderson you must think we (women ) are stupid. That was a cheap shot @ Palin. This is exactly what Obama said he was not going to do.
    Well I think Obama & Biden should just continue their bashing crying
    & sexism comments it will just work towards helping our party unite &
    become stronger for McCain/Palin in Ohio Pa MIch Va Co ETC it is States like those that do not like those kind of personal comments.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  25. diane roberts

    Well, well, well, the pit bull is angry. Well I say, if she can't even meet with the media to answer some basic questions about her views and where she stands, how in the H is she going to run a country when or if the old man dies.

    She can't even defend her own self without someone from the McCain holding her hand or feeding her lines. I am terrified that this woman may one day become VP or worse yet President of our country.

    How can we know if she's capable of leading if she can't even stand alone. So far every time I've seen her, McCain was holding her hand. He won't let anyone, especially the media, get within 10 feet of her, but yet he want us to believe she's ready to be chief on day one. I think not.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  26. john raztis

    its obvious hes talking about the lies coming out of the mccain camp. they just keep lying about themselves and everytime someone asks about issues they just smear the dems, its rediculous..

    September 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  27. Bernard Howard

    The republicans need to stop crying every time someone saids something about Mrs. Palin. If she would stop lying about herself and the things she did it would not seem like people are targeting her.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  28. Monica

    The remark was clearly intended as a double entendre (the audience certainly got it); as such, either interpretation is valid. Senator Obama is accountable for his choice of words. Press and commentators who refuse to acknowledge the duality should consult the Oxford Dictionary regarding the double entendre: "A double meaning; a word or phrase having a double sense, especially as used to convey an indelicate meaning. In these cases, the first meaning is presumed to be the more innocent one, while the second meaning is risqué, or at least ironic, requiring the hearer to have some additional knowledge."

    September 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  29. Rob

    So the Republican platform is a pig in a poke with lipstick.. what I want to know is why Paulin had a baby at the convention for that many hours and that late? Judgement issue?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  30. Bruce Marano

    Why is it the media and comedians are allowed to continually mention John McCains age and its not considered age discrimination, yet Barrack Obama (himself) mentions he doesnt look like anyone on a dollar bill from years past (clearyly a reference to his race) and he gets a pass on not playing the race card. He took his Senate oath on a Koran and not a Bible yet he claims to be a Christian?
    Today you heavily discuss McCain and his seven lobbyist, however you make very little mention of Biden and his lobbyist buddies. And last but not least Obama who promised not to practice "old style" politics and a attack based campaign is absolutely on the attack. His use of the word "lipstick" was a direct dig at Palin and everyone knows it yet CNN tries to defend him and make it appear to be something different than what it was.
    Why doesnt CNN bring up the Obama tickets warts? Because CNN is Obama's strongest LOBBYIST of all. The Obama ticket should write a BIG check to CNN for all the FREE campaigning or doing on his behalf.
    Nice to watch you guys over the years however i am one of many who will now watch FOX. Thanks for the memories.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  31. Walley2

    They just remolded the bathroom at my office a few months ago and just changed the tile and painted, people in the office were calling it Lipstick on a Pig, it is nothing... Good Grief lets look at the issues and the problems

    September 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  32. Jerry

    If anybody owes anybody an excuse, it's the McCain campaign. Their repetitious lies (excuse me – exaggerations / misrepresentations / misstatements) about Palin’s bridge to nowhere veto (just to name one example) is insulting to anybody who can tell a pig from a polecat. But that isn't likely to happen.

    So I would be happy just to see both sides to focus on telling us about some specific ways they would address key issues like the economy, healthcare, energy independence, securing our borders, education, etc. to name a few.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  33. Britton

    It is time for all democrats to stop talking about this smoke screen that McCain has thrown up in the face of Americans! The issues are what is being clouded by this smoke screen and that is what will win this election! Who cares about Palin

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  34. Tamil Selvi

    Come on people, everyone knows he is talking about Palin, look at the context, or just look at the crowd, how loud they cheered! BTW, one of the guest n Larry King’s show even acknowledged that probably the crowed “mistook” that Obama was talking about Palin!

    Well, wait till tomorrow and see how Rush is gonna play this clip again and again and again until the entire nation knows how pathetic Obama has stooped down to just another Chicago Politician, just as McCain said, a man who will go to any extent to win the election (in his dreams, now!) even at the cost of denigrating and behaving like uncivilized brute calling a woman a pig!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  35. Kwame, texas

    Enough attacks on Obama! Why can Palin talk about the community service Obama did in his 20s but we cant talk about Palin or critisize her. they say we are being sexist if we do. Look McCain said Obama is using change to promote his career. Since he wants to be president so badly he chose her so get attention. Look we need to hear about the issues and not heroic biographies in the past and and how tough she is its about the issues. i would want my son to be a community organizer when he is 20... to help people get back on their feet.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  36. SBrantley

    Am not sure Obama meant to call Palin a pig, but if the shoe (or lipstick color) fits .........

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  37. Ms. Ann

    I agree with you Anita.

    It is sad that sometimes the biggest oppressor of women is other women. It's very Stepford Wives. I notice Palin is pushing a big Christian issue (pro-life)- but she doesn't want to try to make cheating on your wife/husband (which is in the ten commandments) illegal. Just to clarify I'm not for that either- I just think it's very convenient Palin's religious views mainly push her fundamentalism on women.

    By the way Anderson. Some of these rumors (if they are rumors) about Palin are not just made up by her pundits. They are coming from the Christian network or whatever that show is. Seriously look it up.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  38. Joanne

    I think this whole thing about the "lipstick on a pig" comment is being blown out of proportion. It is outrageous how something so small is being made so big. The Republicans can throw a punch but they cannot take one. The minute someone says something about them, they go on the attack. No one made a big deal when Rudy Guiliani made fun of Barrack's community organizing career. Gee-whiz! Give me a break!
    Can we just stick the real issues like healthcare, the economy, taxes, gas prices, the housing market, education, social security? Hello, remember those things?? Enough of the name calling! This isn't high school.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  39. flo davis

    Would it be better for the offended if Obama had said, "A pitbull with lipstick" in reference to "hockey moms"? Please... the double standard is not what I want more of.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  40. kathy mccarthy

    McCain's shown himself to now be the real PIG..........wallowing in dirty filthy, muddy politics

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  41. Steele

    I think Obama has the right to throw one or two lines at Palin but mostly stick to the issues and McCain.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  42. Joe, IL

    I think this comment is being blown way out of proportion. More controversy should be spent on Palin's comments towards Obama on being a community organizer. That is bashing Obama's service to this country. A Columbia degree carries a lot of weight all over the country for different job opportunities. People talk about McCain's POW story and the character that was shown through that story. I think people are missing how Obama passed up on many high paying jobs on Wall Street to be a community organizer which I also think shows his great character. If someone trashed McCain's POW story, the news would be all over it. I don't think enough time was spent on how low Palin's comments were toward Obama and his story.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  43. Amy

    Attention Media: It is very apparent that the media is leaning toward the Obama campaign. All panelists located on your shows are now touting "crocodile tears" *yes I am watching live* from the Mc Cain campaign- why all the sudden mudracking? All of a sudden the mighty Obama seems to not be taking all headlines in the media and the microscope is taken out on the person who is. The media is acting like an aggressive attack dog protecting their interests: Obama.
    I just watch now amusement (comments from University of Alaska staff- ironic isn't it?). If I want real facts, I will research on my own.
    It is unfortunate, Anderson. I really enjoy your show and panels.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  44. Christina, FL

    Am I missing something? Have the republicans forgotten they are the incumbent party? Sarah Palin is running for a public office. She should be explored fully. Doing so is not an attack and not sexist we need to know where she stands on issues. The republicans have manufactured this idea that the media is after Sarah Palin. The media should be responsible for the facts. If she is as tough as she says she is and not swayed even by her party she should be more than willing to speak. I think the more we learn about her the less we will like why else will they not let her speak.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  45. WA

    Dana exactly. Also the fact that McCain chose Palin for VP "is a classic illustration of the way they think gender politics can be played against Obama." They think Obama and Biden are just going to smile and bow down to their political gender games. Think again. Obama was pointing out that the McCain Camp have moved from experience to the Obama Camp's Platform of Change in a quick nano second when Palin took office! What does that say about Country First?

    But regarding Obama's comment , if the shoe fits wear it! And I think it's exactly Palin's size! And let's be truthful, given McSame's age, this is his last kick at the Big Cat and it's obvious his only concern is WINNING at any cost and reaching his long desired political goal – President! And I believe wholeheartedly his Country and it's people are a the furthest thing from his mind in this Campaign!

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  46. Barbara Ann

    Palin wants it both ways? don't they all?

    September 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  47. Lauren, Northern California

    The word lipstick being used is not a patent for Sarah Palin.

    Putting lipstick on a pig is an old fashioned saying. Anyone can use it.

    He didn't say putting lipstick on a pitbull or a dog.

    The McCain campaign is taking things out of context and being too sensitive.

    If you can't take the heat then get out of the campaign.

    I also have a suggestion or a request for this AC360 blog. I love blogging with you but I wish it would go an hour longer or later.

    It is now 7:17 in Northern California. I don't know what time it is back east or even mountain time. But I have to leave the TV and Anderson Coopers show in order to blog. I don't have a laptop computer. I can't both watch and blog so I have to make a choice. Please Anderson let the blogs go an hour later than you have.

    I love your show. Thanks for all you guys do.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  48. olivia

    Lipstick on a pig is an old saying, which has nothing to do with a woman. Sarah Palin is the one who called herself a dog wearing lipstick. The two aren't related, nothing sexist about what Obama said.

    About this experience issue, why hasn't anyone ever questioned candidates like Fred Thompson or John Edwards experience. Obama has more elected experience than both of them, yet their experience was never questioned but his was, just saying.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  49. DRE

    In my opinion, this race is all about race. No matter what anyone says its very obvious that we have a lot of racism that remains.
    Sarah Palin is basically untouchable but Obama and his family have been attacked throughout the entire campaign so much that they had to spend an entire night proving that they were patriotic. That is one of the most ridiculous degrading things that a Black American could be put through. The fact is that there are people that can't see themselves voting for a black person and thats the only reason why McCain leads the race and will probably win the presidency. Its ashamed and we need to stop calling ourselves such a great country and forcing others to say it.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  50. James

    Anderson, I keep hearing complaints from the McCain campaign about sexism. However, I haven't heard anything about the sexism statements presented by Gov. Palin herself. The statement, "What is the difference between a hockey mom and a Pitbull? Lipstick" is sexist. Just because a women says it doesn't change that fact. But more importantly, talk about the statement by Gov. Palin, "If you want something talked about give it to a man. If you want something done give it to a woman." That is sexist! Either things are given to her or Sen. McCain has to have an operation and put on a skirt or the VP must run things from "day one." When she made that statement she opened up the flood gates. Democrats and anyone else has free run.

    September 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
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