Gillibrand becomes latest candidate scrutinized for how she eats on campaign trail

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMaloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process MORE (D-N.Y.), who is exploring a run for president, this weekend became the latest candidate to draw scrutiny for how she eats food on the campaign trail.

In this instance the litmus test was posed by plate of fried chicken during a weekend campaign stop in South Carolina.

She made a Saturday visit to Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles to meet with a small business roundtable of about 20 African American leaders, according to CNN’s Jasmine Wright, who chronicled the episode.

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When the plate of chicken came, Gillibrand started eating it with a fork before pausing and noticing that her tablemates were eating less formally.

“Um Kiki, do we use our fingers or forks for the chicken?” she asked.

Kiki suggested the candidate use her fingers.

The moment prompted an incredulous response from New York Times national political correspondent Jonathan Martin, who asked on Twitter, “Could this really be the first time in 50 years she ate fried chicken?”

Longtime New York Times columnist and New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich pounced, tweeting, “Is there anything Gillibrand has done that is not contrived and opportunistic? I ask the question seriously. Replies welcome.”

The criticism was met with pushback from others in the media sphere.

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Soledad O’Brien, who anchors a weekly political television show, tweeted, “Oh God. It’s starting again. Please, journalists. Don’t do this. Nobody cares how she — or anyone — eats fried chicken.” 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE was at the center of a similar mini-uproar during the 2016 campaign when he was mocked for eating Kentucky Fried Chicken with silverware aboard a private plane.

Scrutinizing candidates for how they eat has almost become a national political pastime.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Elizabeth Warren tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan Warren 'fully committed' to 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Mass.), another White House hopeful, took flak last month for downing a beer on an Instagram livefeed.

Trump tweeting a picture of himself enjoying a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo in 2016 prompted an outpouring of criticism from people who opposed his immigration policies.

Former Ohio governor and White House hopeful John Kasich (R) became a target in 2016 when he was photographed eating a slice of pizza with a knife and fork in Howard Beach, Queens.

The New York Post summed up the outrage with a headline demanding to know “WTF is wrong with John Kasich?”

Four years earlier, then White House presidential candidate Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah MORE, whose net worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, was mocked for snacking on Regular-Joe staples.

The New York Times observed the “self-initiated product-placement regiment in his campaign — to sometimes awkward effect — branding himself with less-than-luxury everyman labels” after Romney praised Carl’s Jr. jalapeño chicken sandwich.

Romney also took some ribbing from The Atlantic for enjoying a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair. 

Former Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannWhite House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations Klobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' MORE (R-Minn.), who briefly stood atop the polls early in the 2012 presidential campaign, suffered her own corn dog scandal at the Iowa State Fair when she was photographed taking a big bite out of a footlong cornmeal encrusted sausage.