Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has drawn his share of unflattering news coverage, but it’s the journalist in his family who is the more outspoken media critic.
Brown’s wife of nearly 25 years, Gail Huff, is a longtime television reporter who now works for ABC’s Washington affiliate. When the couple appeared together at a Newseum event Saturday on politics and the media, Huff sharply criticized political coverage in the Beltway, particularly involving Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee.
“I thought the coverage of her when she was on the ticket was sexist,” Huff said in response to a question from the moderator. “I found it difficult many times to watch. The kind of questions she was asked were very different than the kind of questions [Sen. John] McCain was asked.”
Palin faced intense criticism during that campaign following a shaky interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, when she struggled to answer a question about what newspapers she read.
“Part of that I understand is cultural and social. But still, we as journalists have to be above that,” Huff said. “We have to ask the important questions.”
She said the media should “back off [Palin] coverage unless she decides to be a candidate.”
“If she wants to be a candidate, great, then she will get the same fair coverage that every other declared candidate gets,” Huff said.
Sen. Brown was considerably more circumspect about Palin. He said she “obviously plays a role” in the political process but that he wasn’t sure what her plans for 2012 would be. “I wish her well,” Brown said. He is supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.
Huff, who said she does not cover politics because her husband is a U.S. senator, said the media could become “complacent” in states where one party controls political power, as Democrats do in Massachusetts.
While Brown said there is “a lack of trust between the ordinary citizen and the federal government,” Huff said she didn’t know if it was the media’s job to help tamp down the partisan rancor in politics.
She also acknowledged that it’s difficult for broadcast journalists to adequately cover the financial crisis. “It’s really hard to tell a numbers story on television,” she said.
The event had its lighter moments, and it became clear at one point that Brown is not in danger of following Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) into a social media scandal. Describing his office’s attempts to reach out to engage with people through the Internet, Brown, who is one of the Senate’s younger members, stumbled.
“We have I think over 200,000 Facebook people, and Twitter, whatever ... I have no idea what I’m even talking about,” he said as the audience erupted in laughter. “But we take advantage of the young bright minds in our office and on our team to help us with the new social media and how we move forward with communicating.”