Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants you to know she isn’t “very polite.”
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate is seizing on a moment from a Fox News town hall on Sunday when host Chris Wallace chastised the New York Democrat for attacking the right-leaning network’s coverage of abortion.
Gillibrand, after a nurse asked her about late term abortions, defended her pro-abortion rights views and, while looking at Wallace directly, accused Fox News of pushing a “false narrative” around the issue and saying its coverage was a “problem.”
Wallace responded: “I understand, maybe to make your credentials with the Democratic base who are not appearing on Fox News, you want to attack us, but I’m not sure it’s frankly very polite.”
Women candidates, more than their male counterparts, are often criticized for appearing impolite or not smiling enough. In 2016, then-GOP candidate Donald Trump referred to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman.” The phrase later became a mantra for the Women’s March after Trump’s election.
Gillibrand responded to Wallace by saying she will criticize the network “in a polite way,” but argued that “what happens on Fox News is relevant” because of its influence, especially on loyal viewers.
Democratic candidates have publicly debated whether to go on Fox News, including for town halls hosted by the network. The Democratic National Committee declined to give Fox News a primary debate, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has publicly rejected an invitation to participate in a town hall on Fox News, saying the conservative network is a “hate-for-profit racket.” Other candidates have said they would happily take a town hall on the network. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg used his Fox News town hall to attack the network’s primetime lineup.
Following the town hall, Gillibrand’s team quickly worked to turn the moment into momentum, which her campaign needs. Since announcing her candidacy earlier this year, Gillibrand has built a serious campaign and rolled out a series of policies but has failed to gain much traction in polls or in fundraising.
On Monday morning, the senator tweeted a video of her exchange with Wallace.
“I’m never going to stop fighting for women and for our progressive values – whether or not it’s considered “polite.” That’s why I’m running for president,” she wrote.
Also that morning, her campaign changed her Twitter bio to reflect the comment.
“Mom to Theo, Henry and dog Maple. Wife to Jonathan. U.S. Senator from NY and candidate for president. Not ‘very polite,’” read the new profile.
And, shortly after that, her campaign began selling a tote bag that read, “Frankly, not very polite.”
Gillibrand, along with a handful of other presidential candidates, have joined the fight against a string of restrictive new abortion laws in states like Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, among others, hoping to turn the backlash into a rallying cry for Democrats in 2020. These Democrats have accused Trump’s support for the laws as a “war on women.”
The clearest sign of this happened in May, when a string of 2020 candidates took to the steps of the Supreme Court to rally with Planned Parenthood and other progressive groups in opposition to the new laws.
“This is something that President Trump has unleashed,” Gillibrand said during an interview with CNN at the rally. “He apparently wants to have a war on women in America, and if this is a war that he wants to have, he will have it, and he will lose it, because American women are not going to accept this.”
A spokesperson for Fox News did not respond to a request for comment on this story.