Last week, I went on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show PoliticsNation to talk about extremism in the Republican Party. As a socially liberal Republican, this happens to be a topic I know a lot about. On the show, I told Sharpton that many Republicans treat me like a freak, especially the extreme-right members of my party. I went on to say that I don’t understand the appeal of extreme bloggers such as Michelle Malkin and the late Andrew Breitbart. That’s all I said, but it only took a few hours before my comments were posted out of context on a variety of blogs that suggested I was viciously attacking Breitbart. My Twitter feed exploded with insults, including the suggestion that I should kill myself.
Instead of ignoring the hate projected at me, I elected to retweet some of the most vile responses. I wanted to show people what happens to me when I go on TV and voice my opinion. The Internet trolls weren’t interested in having a discussion about my opinion; they just wanted to eviscerate me. Here’s a watered-down version of some of the most hateful comments:
I am fat pig. I am ugly. I am disgusting. I am an embarrassment to my family, and they should be ashamed of me. I am an anti-American extremist. I am a clueless whore. I should drink a bottle of alcohol and pills and kill myself.
That’s only a small sampling, but you get the idea. You would think that by now, having gone through a presidential election with my father in 2008, I would be numb to this kind of name-calling. But I’m not. It hurts, it rattles me, it (understandably) concerns my mother, and it keeps me up at night. In a single day, Dan Abrams’s Mediaite found it necessary to post two full columns about me, questioning my career and suggesting I’m a problem for the Republican Party. By the way, each of the “columnists” behind these posts also vomited up a series of nasty Twitter posts following their columns. And they are supposed to be professionals.
Of all the blog posts I’ve seen in the last few days, my favorite headline is that I “slammed Andrew Breitbart as a hateful extremist.” I did not. It doesn’t matter what I actually said on television. All that matters is that Andrew Breitbart’s name came out of my mouth and I didn’t applaud him. His followers and the rest of the right-wing blogosphere saw blood—and went on the attack.
It’s no secret that the blogosphere is more vicious on women than it is on men. Recently, a Photoshopped picture of conservative pundit S.E. Cupp with a phallus in her mouth was printed in Hustler magazine. When Sandra Fluke talks about birth control, Rush Limbaugh calls her a “slut.”
I am often invited to speak at colleges, and whenever I do Q and A’s, a question that inevitably comes up is, how do you put up with the blogosphere? It’s a valid question, and I don’t really know what answer to give. The truth is that I don’t know what to do. When people don’t like my politics, I am happy to have a political discussion with them. But when they don’t like my politics and call me fat and say I should die, what’s left to say?