CNN’s Jake Tapper asks if Harris couldn’t ‘steamroll’ as much as Pence because she’s a woman

CNN anchor Jake Tapper pondered if Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was at a disadvantage during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate with Vice President Mike Pence because she’s a woman.

During the network’s post-debate coverage, Tapper pivoted the conversation to “something that we can’t ignore,” which was “the concept of gender.”

“We’re so used to seeing white men, but definitely men on the stage when it comes to being on the ticket,” Tapper said. “Senator Harris is only the [fourth] woman to be on the ticket… And I wonder if a woman candidate feels like she can’t push as much or steamroll as much as say Mike Pence can for fear of seeming and offending some segment of the electorate. I’m not saying it should be that way but I’m wondering if it is that way.”

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Tapper’s colleague Dana Bash responded by telling the panel about the text exchange she had with a Black male friend during the debate who told her that because Harris is a “Black woman” she had to “pull her punches.”

“I’m not sure if that’s true. I mean, she was tough and she certainly had her moments,” Bash said. “But there were times when maybe there could have been more followup and I don’t know if that was something that was going through her head. I hope it wasn’t.”

CNN correspondent Abby Phillip, who is Black, responded by acknowledging “this line” female politicians and Black female politicians “have to thread.”

Phillip said she was texting with “people close to [Harris]” who alleged that Pence was “taking advantage of the rules” and was “able to flout them” regarding interruptions and speaking beyond time limits.

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“I think that’s where debate prep comes in,” Phillip continued. “There are ways to do it in ways that don’t sort of present in a certain way but this is a line that only women really have to thread, to be honest.”

“And in fairness to her, she didn’t get a lot of help from the moderator,” Bash replied. “Susan Page, you know, she was just very by the book. She followed the rules, followed the time, that’s it.”

Tapper and his panel weren’t the only ones who thought gender had a significant role in the vice presidential debate. ABC News anchor George Stephanopolous took the opposite approach, accusing Pence of “mansplaining” Harris, which was rebuked by female panelists.

“Sara Fagen, let me bring that to you,” Stephanopolous pivoted to the female panelist, a former member of the George W. Bush administration. “Because obviously, Mike Pence is a former television commentator, does have a very calm demeanor, but I think that a lot of people were noticing some ‘mansplaining’ going on tonight.”

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Later on, Stephanopoulos’ colleague, ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz also dismissed the notion that Pence was “mansplaining.”

“When I hear people say- talk about mansplaining and talk about these things with Kamala Harris and ‘a man shouldn’t interrupt her and it’s going to look bad’… Kamala Harris is a vice-presidential candidate. She should be able to stand up for herself,” Raddatz told Stephanopoulos. “Yes, it’s history-making. Yes, you can talk about her history and who she is and she’s a woman of color there but a man can interrupt another vice presidential candidate. It is up to that candidate to talk back, to interrupt themselves, or to hold on to that debate in any way they could.”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see it that way, George. I didn’t come across to me,” Fagen responded. “I do think that he should have stopped talking a little quicker, but I don’t think he was disrespectful of either woman.”

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