- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has been on the receiving end of an avalanche of negative press since taking center stage in the battle for the U.S. presidency.

"Some in the media have been treating Katherine Harris like the next Linda Tripp," said Richard Noyes, director of the Pro-Market Project of the Media Research Center. "It's been a combination of attacking her as a partisan and attacking her personal appearance."

In the cases of Mrs. Tripp and Mrs. Harris, the media have focused on their looks and their Republican politics. Both have been the subjects of late-night television jokes and skits.

"One of the reasons Harris is so easy to mock is because she, to be honest, seems to have applied her makeup with a trowel. At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship," wrote Robin Givhan, fashion reporter for The Washington Post.

On the "Imus" talk show on MSNBC Thursday, voter.com's Laura Ingraham advised Mrs. Harris: "Lighten up on the funeral parlor makeup… . It's like Madame Tussaud's."

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is one of several pundits who have compared Mrs. Harris to Cruella de Ville, the villain in "101 Dalmatians."

The media also reported that Democratic political strategist Paul Begala called the Florida official a "partisan political hack" and that Chris Lehane, spokesman for Vice President Al Gore, compared her to a Soviet "commissar" and labeled her a Bush "lackey."

Gore campaign official Mark Fabiani has said the Florida Secretary of State is a "crony of the Bush brother" who is "trying to steal the election away."

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a member of O.J. Simpson's defense team, who is working for the Gore camp in Florida, has called Mrs. Harris a "crook," "corrupt" and "a functionary of the Republican Party."

Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, denounced Mr. Dershowtiz's name-calling in an interview yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition."

"Alan Dershowitz should apologize to the secretary of state. It's totally irresponsible for a Harvard professor to say something like that," said Mr. Dole.

But Tom Rosenstiel, head of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, cited what he called "a lot of press" about Mrs. Harris that has portrayed her as a "lightweight" who is "overtly political," and that has focused on her "lack of interest in election stuff" and her ambition.

He believes such coverage is justified. "A person who has demonstrated a lack of interest in election matters who has been depicted as someone who is using her current job as a steppingstone" to other positions "is basically in the position of deciding who will be president of the United States," Mr. Rosenstiel said yesterday.

As for claims that the media are giving Mrs. Harris a hard time because she's a Republican who actively participated in the Bush campaign, he said, "Give me a break."

Grace Terzian, vice president of the Independent Women's Forum and publisher of the IWF's Women's Quarterly journal, said Mrs. Harris is being "treated unfairly" by much of the press.

"This reminds me of how Marilyn Quayle was treated [when her husband became vice president in 1989 under President George Bush]. She was made great fun of by the media" for her pro-family views, said Mrs. Terzian.

She went on to say the "undignified, below-the-belt personal diatribes" the Gore camp and the media are hurling at Mrs. Harris are "a desperate effort to bring her down."

Phyllis Schlafly, president of the conservative Eagle Forum, said the treatment Mrs. Harris is receiving is the "same treatment they gave all women who crossed [President] Clinton."

"The media want [Vice President Al] Gore to steal the election, and Katherine Harris is standing in the way. She's like Horatio at the bridge," Mrs. Schlafly said in a telephone interview yesterday from her home in the Midwest.

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