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'Lipstick' War and Campaign Sexism According to Geraldine Ferraro

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," September 10, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We're joined by Geraldine Ferraro. And of course, she got a nod by Governor Palin as the first woman to be on a ticket, on the Democratic Party ticket in 1984, making all women proud from both parties and every party. Anyway, Geraldine, nice to see you.

GERALDINE FERRARO, 1984 DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Geraldine, where shall we start? Should we start with Carol Fowler, who is certainly not Senator Obama, but boy, she - - she needs to be rethinking her -- the words she used, doesn't she.

FERRARO: Well, I think that what happens is people are kind of stunned by, you know, Governor Palin, and they don't quite know how to react. And I think that's what you're seeing both, you know, from the Republican Party -- they're all excited -- and from the Democratic Party, they're rather stunned. And I -- it's a very difficult spot, I think, for Carol Fowler to be in because this is a woman who's always supported women candidates. I have not a clue as to what she was thinking. But in any event, that's not typical Carol Fowler.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let's now move to Senator Obama's statement about lipstick. How -- I mean, first of all, what's your reaction to it? And then secondly, how do women know whether it was just a joke, a bad joke, or sexist?

FERRARO: Well, you know what, Greta? During the course of the primary campaign, I was one of those people who was very, very angry not only at the press but at the media, at the Obama campaign and everybody else because I thought that Hillary had treated in a very sexist way. And in several instances where one could interpret something as being racist, the Obama campaign did. When it came to the statement that Hillary had made about Lyndon Johnson being essential to the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it would never have just happened without his signature, no matter how good a speech was given by the Reverend Martin Luther King, when Bill Clinton referred to, you know, the fact that Jesse Jackson had won South Carolina, all of a sudden, people were tagged as being racist.

Watch Greta's interview with Ferraro

Now, you're seeing the same thing happen now. People are very uncomfortable with racism and sexism in this country. And with Governor Palin in the mix now, I thought we were going to have to wait until after the election to talk a little bit more about sexism in the campaign.

We now have a second opportunity, and this opportunity is going to be a little bit more difficult for Senator Obama because Democrats will not speak up. Hillary wouldn't speak up and Bill Clinton wouldn't speak up. And Governor Rendell wouldn't speak up when they were accused of being racist. In this instance, it's going to be Republicans versus Democrats, and nobody is going to be standing back on this thing. So it's going to be a very interesting dynamic for the next two months.

But the thing about it is, you know, these are all -- you know, is there racism in this country? Yes. Is there sexism in this country? Yes. Should they be part of campaigns? No.

And what Senator Obama and all the others have to do -- certainly, he did not mean anything by this. I don't believe he was being sexist. I do believe, however, that you have to be very, very careful. You have four people on the stage, one of whom a woman, one of whom wears lipstick. And you have to be very, very careful about what you say and what you do during the course of the campaign.

VAN SUSTEREN: But maybe we're a little bit -- you know, I mean, when I first heard it, I cringed because I also remember him saying, Hillary, you're likable enough. I remember in Michigan saying to the woman reporter, I'll get to you, sweetie, or something like that, and that caused a lot of problems. And then now when we heard this one, we cringed. But maybe we seized upon the words too much, and we should instead look at the actions. What are they doing? What can they do for us, as politicians?

FERRARO: Well, to me...

VAN SUSTEREN: So maybe we in the media are a little bit rough?

FERRARO: Well, Greta, I think during the primary, you were not a little bit rough, and I think that's why, you know, you kind of slid over that. And certainly, Hillary would not complain when someone says something like, You're nice enough.

But this is a whole new story now. It is not Democrat versus Democrat. It is Democrat versus Republican, and the prize is on November 4, it's the White House. And so it's a very serious business. So what went on -- and the press was willing to let slide by during the course of the primary -- and again, as I said, I was very, very vocal on this issue - - the press this time is not going to allow it to happen, as it did...

VAN SUSTEREN: Except...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I think there was sexism towards Senator Clinton by the media, and some of the first offenders -- or the worst offenders have been the women themselves in the media. But in terms of the candidate -- I guess that's what I'm so careful about is that -- you know, is that we don't assign things to the candidate unless the candidate deserves it. And I guess we go back to my first question, is how do we know if he's a sexist or if he just made a stupid joke or made a joke that wasn't even stupid or whatever? And I guess we'll find out in November.

FERRARO: I don't -- to be quite frank, I don't believe he's a sexist. I don't believe he -- I don't even think it was a stupid joke. I think it's just -- it's an ordinary saying, obviously, in Illinois. It's not in New York City. But the point is, is that he will have to be a bit sensitive, understanding that it's a different playing field and where, you know, if you're going to look at statements that are made by people through a prism of, you know, Is it a racial slur, you have to look at it through the same prism to see whether or not it's a sexist slur.

And nobody is asking that women be given any greater rights. What they're asking is that they be given the same rights and that they be treated fairly. It's not right to be racist. Well, it's also not right to be sexist.

VAN SUSTEREN: I agree whole-heartedly. Geraldine, as always, thank you very much.

FERRARO: Good seeing you.


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