Former Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli, whose history of working to undermine the rights of women and LGBT people is well-documented, allowed his sexism to really flare when he referred to Republican strategist Ana Navarro as “shrill” on CNN.
Navarro, one of the few Republicans in the public eye who’s been outspoken about her disdain for Donald Trump and his administration since before he took office, was part of a panel hosted by Don Lemon that included commentator Van Jones and Cuccinelli.
The discussion became heated when it came to comments White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made in which he said that some Dreamers are “too lazy to get off their asses.” Dreamers are undocumented immigrants brought here as children and eligible for legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program set up by President Barack Obama and threatened with repeal by Trump.
Cuccinelli — who as Virginia’s A.G. famously filed a petition asking the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reinstate Virginia’s “Crimes Against Nature” law, which would have made oral and anal sex illegal for all the state’s residents — argued that people on the left had mischaracterized Kelly's comments.
"We've defamed General Kelly here in this segment," Cuccinelli said. "'Maybe some people might have been afraid to sign up for [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program]. Other people might have been lazy.' And both of those are true."
But Jones reminded him that Kelly’s remarks accused Dreamers of being “too lazy to get off their asses” and added that people may have been fearful of signing up for DACA "with good reason."
"Who cares? I care that people are breaking the law," Cuccinelli retorted. That’s when Navarro interjected to explain just who does care.
"Let me explain to you who cares," Navarro said as Cuccinelli talked over her. "Can I answer your damn question about who cares? The people who care are the immigrants who are sick and tired of having this White House attack us and bash us on a daily basis."
At that point, a flustered Cuccinelli invoked an adjective often used to demean women for speaking up for centuries.
“I’m sick and tired of listening to your shrill voice in my ears without a bone of truth to it,” Cuccinelli blurted.
The use of that hackneyed, sexist word reached a fever pitch during the run-up to the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton was deemed “shrill” whenever she raised her voice, whether she was attempting to telegraph excitement, passion, strength, or disagreement. Shrill became a one-size-fits-all moniker for her voice.
Given Cuccinelli’s history with women’s issues as A.G., it’s no surprise he’d toss out a sexist term at a woman who dared to disagree with him on the CNN panel.
Among his greatest hits as A.G., Cuccinelli opposed abortion for survivors of rape and incest, refused to support the Violence Against Women Act, actively worked to close abortion clinics, and endorsed “personhood” laws that would have limited access to birth control.
The show’s host, Lemon, chastised Cuccinelli for his outburst, saying, “OK, Ken. Words matter. You just sat here and called a woman 'shrill.’” That’s when Cuccinelli whined that Lemon, Navarro, and Jones were ganging up on him.
“Look, Ana yells us all down, and you tell the rest of us to be quiet," Cuccinelli said. “It's three on one here. I go last.”
Cuccinelli may have felt outnumbered on Lemon's panel, but lashing out at women on CNN is not new for him. During a discussion about the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville last summer, Cuccinelli told Symone Sanders, a woman of color who disagreed with him, to "Just shut up!"
Watch the exchange below.