Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders supporters staked out Hillary Clinton’s George Clooney-hosted fundraiser in San Francisco and threw actual dollar bills at her motorcade as she drove by. They did so to decry the corrupting force of money in politics, but Clinton’s campaign has actively painted it as a misogynistic attempt to liken her to a “whore.”
This narrative likely stems from a comment made by Sanders supporter and prominent health-care activist Dr. Paul Song at a recent rally. “Medicare-for-all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us,” Song told the crowd. Following the event, Sanders was forced to apologize, calling the statement “inappropriate and insensitive.”
Now, a series of media commentators, echoing insinuations they have heard from Clinton’s campaign, lump those two incidents together to frame Sanders supporters as sexists who view the former secretary of state as a sex worker.
Playing footage of the protesters on Sunday, MSNBC commentator Joy Reid described “people throwing dollar bills as if in a strip club.” She added, “This coming on the heels of a Bernie Sanders surrogate having to apologize for using the term ‘Democratic whores’ at the Washington Square Park rally.”
“That visual there, of throwing dollar bills at a woman as she’s going by in her motorcade, has the Democratic race gone over the edge?” Reid asked.
Monday morning on CNN, NY1 host Errol Louis, who served as a moderator at last week’s Democratic debate, suggested to New Day host Chris Cuomo (brother of Clinton supporter and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo) that Clinton strategists have been “quietly” talking to him about how “sexism” has affected her unnervingly high disapproval ratings. “You know, everybody raises money from all types of sources,” he said. “She’s the one they throw dollar bills at.”
This statement led Cuomo, later in the morning, to broach the subject with Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon.
Echoing the charges he said he has heard from Clinton advisers, Cuomo asked, “Did you see them throwing dollar bills at her in the car? Why dollar bills? Was that some kind of sex trade reference? And did you hear that guy say ‘Democratic whores,’ do you think that’s a coincidence?”
Asked if he believes “sexism” plays a role in Clinton’s negative perception, Fallon said he would “let others make that judgment,” urging Sanders and his supporters to focus on the issues for the sake of party unity.
And finally, during an interview with Rep. Charlie Rangel, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin again brought up the sexism charge in relation to the dollar bills. “She’s the only female running for president, and it’s dollar bills,” Baldwin said. “It’s imagery—I’m curious if you read anything more into that?”
The congressman declined to take the bait.
If this “Bernie treating Hillary like a whore” narrative is something the Clinton campaign is trying to push in the final days before New York primary voters cast their ballots, it is clearly working. And on cable news at least, there are plenty of hosts throwing fuel on the fire.
As for George Clooney, he casually brushed off the protests during a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press, joking about how one Bernie Sanders supporter told him, “You sucked as Batman,” to which he responded, “Well, you kind of got me on that one.” But at the same time, Clooney admitted that the amount of money in politics has become “obscene” and that Sanders is “absolutely” right to reject it.
Clooney did not, however, say anything about turning Hillary Clinton into a stripper.