Hillary Clinton helped turn her political fortunes around in New Hampshire by flipping a tasteless shock jock stunt – two guys shouting “iron my shirts!” – into a case study of male oppressors blocking her route to the presidency.
The two yahoos, who interrupted one of Clinton’s last speeches on the Monday before the New Hampshire primary, were later identified as Nick Gemelli and Adolfo Gonzalez Jr., who are associated with Toucher & Rich, a white-guy-oriented talk show on Boston’s WBCN radio.
Upon hearing the chants of “iron my shirts,” Sen. Clinton called for the lights in the auditorium to be turned up. Then, seeing the two young men near the front of the audience, she said, “Oh, the remnants of sexism alive and well.”
As security guards escorted Gemelli and Gonzalez from the auditorium in Salem, Clinton added: “As I think has just been abundantly demonstrated, I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling.”
She later joked, “If there’s anybody in the audience who wants to learn to iron his own shirt, we can talk about that.” [See New York Daily News’ blog.]
Clinton’s comments drew a standing ovation from the crowd as well as widespread media attention on New Hampshire’s news shows in the hours before the first-in-the-nation primary.
One source inside the Clinton camp said the “iron my shirts” comment appeared to anger and energize women in particular, boosting Hillary Clinton’s share of the women’s vote and pushing her to a narrow upset victory over Barack Obama.
The Clinton source said Hillary Clinton’s tearing up at another Monday event seemed to play better with men who suddenly saw her as more vulnerable and appealing. The two incidents together were viewed by Clinton insiders as helping to explain how Clinton succeeded in righting her foundering campaign at the last minute.
Though her deft reaction to the “iron my shirts” taunt may have helped her politically, her depiction of it as an example of male oppression holding her down would appear to be a gross exaggeration.
Rather, the disruption looks to have been the tasteless act of two juvenile publicity seekers who work for WBCN’s Toucher & Rich show, which prides itself in broadcasting content intended for “immature audiences.”
On Wednesday, the host opened the show by running down the roster of its participants and referred to Gonzalez as someone who “single-handedly changed the course of American politics.” But instead of explaining how Gonzalez achieved that feat, the show veered off into a mocking discussion of “Afros” worn by black baseball players.
The show’s Web site lists a few “fun facts” about Gonzalez: “He weighs 345 lbs. … He couldn’t speak ANY language until he was five. …He has never had health insurance. … He talks to himself. … He has a very messy room.”
Rather than male oppressors protecting the presidential glass ceiling, the two hecklers come across as dumb-guy losers.
Still, by angering New Hampshire’s women with their “iron my shirts” chant, these two losers may have helped turn Hillary Clinton into a winner.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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