Republicans Are Very Invested in Painting Older, Powerful Democratic Women as Frail

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On Thursday night, Donald Trump tweeted out a misleadingly edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. First aired by the Fox News blowhard Lou Dobbs, the video is edited to show Pelosi stumbling over her words in quick succession—a clear attempt to paint her as someone whose mental faculties are declining with age.

“PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE,” Trump wrote, in a caption accompanying the tweet.

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The Fox Business clip came shortly after another widely circulated—and doctored—video of Pelosi, which was slowed down by 25 percent and voice manipulated to make it appear that she was slurring her words to imply that she was drunk. (As Pelosi’s daughter Christine dryly noted on Twitter, her mom doesn’t even drink.)

The video quickly spread through conservative, rightwing social media accounts on Thursday, racking up millions of views and tens of thousands of comments. In a tweet that has since been deleted, human piranha Rudy Giuliani posted the video and asked, “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.” (On Friday morning, Giuliani attempted to apologize for sharing the video in a tweet that is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and is certainly... something.)

This Washington Post comparison clearly shows how the video was doctored:

None of this is new. Republicans love to paint powerful Democratic women as frail and failing, often relying on a noxious mix of conspiracy theories to justify their misogyny. During the 2016 presidential election, Republicans regularly peddled claims that Hillary Clinton was suffering from some sort of brain injury and regularly had seizures. The conspiracy theory spread through the rightwing ecosystem all the way up to Fox News and Trump’s spokespeople, one of whom alleged that Clinton had dysphasia. Trump regularly attacked Hillary Clinton’s “stamina,” portraying her as a weak woman who wasn’t “strong enough” to be president. Even her coughing became an obsessive rightwing talking point, with Trump’s campaign painting it as a sign of her frail health.

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For all that Clinton and Pelosi are valid targets of criticism, I think we can all agree that the one thing that these women are not is weak. And it’s certainly rich that these attacks on someone’s perceived mental acumen are coming from a narcissistic, paranoid liar who often rants and rambles incoherently. Pelosi is clearly a woman who gets under Trump’s extremely thin and mottled skin. With these videos, he and other Republicans are just pulling a page from the oldest playbook in the world—painting powerful women as “crazy” or weak or both in an effort to discredit them.

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