Dana Loesch and the Dirty Secret About Being a Woman in Politics

A new video shines a light on the extreme and scary harassment that many high-profile females face online

by Heather Hunter | Updated 14 Nov 2017 at 3:43 PM

The cost of becoming a high-profile woman in politics is no longer just angry phone calls, political disagreement, and event protesters. The internet has allowed the true dark side of public discourse to emerge, one that can make life feel menacing in the spotlight.

The Women’s Media Center recently released a four-minute video entitled “Silencing Women in Politics: The Costs to Democracy of Gender-Based Online Harassment.” The video shares accounts of online insults and threats directed at politically famous Democratic and Republican women — including former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, Republican National Convention delegate Rina Shah Bharara, former Iowa Democratic congressional candidate Kim Weaver, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Weaver, who ran as the Democratic candidate in Iowa's 4th Congressional District, recounted receiving the threat: "It's women like you that make men like me want to rape and kill women like you."

Shah Bharara found herself inundated with emails and messages "hurling obscenities" at her.

Related: Juanita Broaddrick: It's Rewarding to Be Believed

The Women's Media Center was founded by Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem as a progressive nonprofit organization to raise the visibility of women in the media. Despite their politics, the point in their video is fair and valid.

Online harassment has turned cruel, malicious and violent, particularly toward women. This discussion is not about women in politics suffering from being snowflakes or being hypochondriacs, but many women do have legitimate gripes about the vile commentary and abusive physical threats sent their way because of their gender.

Progressive actress Alyssa Milano was shocked to learn on her Twitter feed, after she called for more diversity in the Republican Party, that many conservative minorities receive insults and attacks.

The internet and social media have become the new, no-filter Wild West in the political landscape. The anonymity it affords its users can be liberating, but it can also embolden users to new depths of depravity and cruelty.

Conservative commentator and National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch was forced to move her family out of their home after receiving threats.

"Spent my weekend preparing to move due to repeated threats from gun control advocates," Dana Loesch tweeted to her followers in October.

In a series of tweets about the threats she's received, Loesch shared how one person threatened to shoot her in her front yard; another person posted photos of her house and threatened to rape her to death. She admitted the threats caused her to contact law enforcement and hire private security to ensure her kids were safe, even at school.

The NRA spokeswoman said she and other Second Amendment women are regularly "sexually threatened" and "abused on social media."

"It feels as though progressives sanction by silence threats and vitriolic rhetoric against conservative women because those threats serve a purpose: To silence those who challenge progressive convictions without the effort of real, civil debate," Loesch told LifeZette. "For the media to report it would mean admitting that the hypocritical Left has a fascination with violent response towards diverse thought, particularly when expressed by empowered, conservative women."

New York magazine contributor Yashar Ali had to apologize to Loesch for mistakenly suggesting that she wanted to "fist" The New York Times in an NRA ad when she had actually said "fisk." In his apology, he admitted that the abhorrent, misogynistic language used against conservative women always bothered him.

Ali felt bad for Loesch becoming a target of "misogynistic attacks" because of his tweet.

Loesch is not the first conservative female to leave her home because of violent threats.

Michelle Malkin moved her family from Maryland to Colorado after receiving numerous threats.

"[We had] people posting photos of our past house ... people urging their minions to come and stake out my house ... I had tons of people email me and tell me they were going to come to my home. They posted my private phone number and I had dozens of people calling and leaving crude messages ... Yeah, it was one of those things where you think about your family, you think about your safety, and you do what you have to do. But, does it stop you? No," Malkin told Townhall's John Hawkins.

Several conservative women in the Washington, D.C., area told LifeZette off the record about how they have purposely increased the number of guns in their homes and added a panic room in case of emergency.

Conservative blogger Rachel Lucas told Right Wing News that she doesn't have a picture on her blog because she's "seen what they do to Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. They Photoshop them. Do nasty stuff to them. Like pictures of Michelle Malkin hanging from a noose."

Progressive actress Alyssa Milano was shocked to learn on her Twitter feed, after she called for more diversity in the Republican Party, that many conservative minorities receive insults and attacks.

African-American Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) has experienced the brutal nature of social media first-hand.

One Twitter user told Love she was "just a house nigga playing puppet for massa."

Another Twitter user called Love "Aunt Tom" during her 2012 Republican National Convention speech.

When black Republicans aren't being targeted at GOP events, the spouses of political candidates are being told to kill themselves. One Twitter user said he wanted to murder Ann Romney, wife of former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

When conservative commentator Katie Pavlich appeared on Piers Morgan's former CNN show and pointed out the hypocrisy of the DNC's support of women while embracing Ted Kennedy, she received numerous vile tweets.

Being a high-profile conservative pundit trumps being a widow when it comes to horrid treatment online.

Matthew Dowd, ABC News' chief political analyst, told Mary Katharine Ham, the mother of two young children whose husband died in a cycling accident in 2015, that she "must lead a sad existence."

In another Twitter exchange, a user tried to call Ham's personal story of how ObamaCare has impacted her family a "bs claim."

The lack of class and respect toward women grieving for the deceased didn't stop with Ham. GQ sports writer Nathaniel Friedman said he wanted to beat Pat Smith, the grieving mother of one of the men killed in the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

"I don't care how many children Pat Smith lost I would like to beat her to death," Friedman wrote in reaction to her speech at the 2016 GOP convention.

There is no end to the unnecessary, unprovoked, and inappropriate comments that women in politics face and would rather do without on social media.

NBC's Katy Tur recently wrote in her new book about the odd comments she gets on Twitter.

Related: Joe Scarborough: 'Women Need Not Apply' to Trump Administration

"Twitter is not my thing. What's the point of posting my work when all I get back are gross replies from men? A couple of years ago I tweeted a story about a brain-eating amoeba that killed a young boy in Louisiana. 'Nice story on the brain-eating,' some guy tweeted at me. 'You looked really hot.' That was the only reply I got," Tur wrote.

Her CNBC colleague Meg Tirrell replied, "@KatyTurNBC nicely sums up the Q so many women reporters have asked themselves at times about this medium."

The video by the Women's Media Center is an important discussion piece as we evaluate our political discourse online. An industry of faux outrage has been created on social media, but there are legitimate grievances regarding tasteless comments and real concerns over physical harm. We cannot march forward with this experiment of politics on social media without seriously addressing this very real issue.

Heather Hunter is a LifeZette contributor and talk radio show producer. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

  1. online
  2. dana-loesch
  3. harassment
  4. threats
  5. women
  6. womens-media-center