Skip to main content

Stop promoting 'Slap Hillary' abuse

By Donna Brazile, Special to CNN
updated 7:06 PM EDT, Fri August 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A website, Slap Hillary, invites the public to slap a cartoon face of Hillary Clinton
  • Donna Brazile: Promoting violence and applauding abuse is going too far, even in politics
  • She says it's wrong to promote "slapping" or "shooting" of any public official, female or male
  • Brazile: We have to make our civic discourse civil again; virtual violence is toxic for all of us

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- Satire and mockery are part of politics. Sometimes they attack not the policy but the person, going from nuanced to nasty. But surely not "everything goes." Promoting violence and applauding abuse -- there's just no excuse for it.

The latest uproar occurred at the Missouri State Fair, when a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask invited the crowd to cheer if they wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull."

"As they were bringing the bulls into the chute and prepping them," Perry Beam told USA Today, "...they bring out what looks like a dummy. The announcer says 'Here's our Obama dummy, or our dummy of Obama. They mentioned the president's name, I don't know, 100 times..." Beam was there with his wife and a foreign exchange student who got a lesson in American political "civility."

The reaction was bipartisan. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a and Sen. Claire McCaskill, both Democrats, weighed in with disapproval. And Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, said on Twitter he found the performance "disrespectful."

That's an understatement. "We are better than this." One hopes so.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

What are we to make, though, of a Slap Hillary website, suspiciously resurrected by an anti-Hillary PAC? The PAC sent out tweets to reporters in hopes, I suspect, of stirring up the red meat base, get publicity, and solicit money. It provocatively asked journalists, "Have you slapped Hillary today?"

First posted 13 years ago, the site shows a cartoon of Hillary's face. When a button is pressed, a hand slaps her so hard she reacts like a bobble doll, her head bouncing from side to side as her eyes cross.

The "SlapHillary Team," which hosts the "game," says they are "a grass roots, nonprofit organization." BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski did some research and found its treasurer, Christopher M. Marston, is a Republican campaign finance consultant and former member of the Bush administration.

The Super PAC defended itself and posted a link to a "Slap Palin" website. The PAC isn't contrite, saying on its website, "We didn't see the liberal media bemoaning this "Slap Palin" game when it came out! They only care when it's the candidate they support for president."

There's something suspicious about the "Slap Palin" site -- a paucity of comments, just 19 in 2008 and only two last year, indicates a set-up. A little more research revealed that the "Slap Palin" is hosted on a computer at the same address in downtown Washington that hosts a "Slap Clinton" and "Slap Obama" site.

'Slap Hillary' online game causes uproar
Rodeo clown's act starts political fight

We can perhaps relegate the "Slap Palin-Clinton-Obama" anonymous owner to the fringe. But what are we to say when a former administration official and current campaign consultant to one of the major parties promotes violence against public figures?

It doesn't matter if the website -- or rodeo clown -- encourages violence against a Democrat or a Republican, a male or female. It's wrong. It's vile. It's one of the few true evils in politics.

Those who promote or approve "slapping" or "shooting" or "running over by a bull" any public official should be shamed and shunned. Virtual violence needs to be denounced and never justified because it's political.

Still, given the extent of domestic violence -- 25% of American women will experience domestic violence in their lives -- encouraging people to slap or abuse female elected officials is particularly pernicious. Slapping women so hard their heads bobble is not a game, not even virtually.

We need to go further, and condemn activities that show no respect for elected officials.

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas' 36th District issued an invitation to the rodeo clown to appear at a rodeo in his district. "Liberals want to bronco bust dissent," Stockman said. "But Texans value speech, even if its speech they don't agree with." This isn't about liberals or conservatives, Congressman; it's about respect for elected officials, and coupling violence with ridicule.

It's one thing to use free speech to parody or satirize a politician, and another to couple violence with a deliberate showing of disrespect.

When Harry Truman was campaigning in his home state of Missouri (where the rodeo clown performed), he took questions from a high school audience. A teenage boy asked him a question about their town councilman, called him, "Our local yokel."

Truman lit into the boy. Politics is a noble art, Truman said. It's difficult to forge consensus and lead fighting factions for the common good. But this is what politicians do. They deserve respect. The boy was chastened, and apologized.

Knowing, however, that a public scolding by a man of his stature could affect the boy's self-esteem for a long time, Truman talked with him after the assembly, and invited him to write and tell him about his grades. They corresponded until the boy graduated college.

We have to make our civic discourse civil again. We have to recognize that virtual violence masquerading as ridicule is vicious; it's a toxic atmosphere we allow by our silence. We hear a lot about what's wrong with Washington. What's wrong isn't Washington. It's us.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT