I was quietly excited to see Nikki Haley announce her presidential campaign on Feb. 14.
As members of the media, we often joke that we are skeptical of both the red and blue equally. My reality is to try and live purple – consider both sides equally, ascribe to some liberal and some conservative ideology, and find a common-sense approach that works best for me.
I respect politicians who respect me and my media colleagues. You know, people who follow the whole Golden Rule about “doing unto others” that most of society seems to have forgotten these days.
But even amidst my own neutrality, I see Haley as someone potentially inspiring – a woman not much older than me, the daughter of Indian immigrants, ex-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican governor of South Carolina. This woman brings a lot of experience, in politics and in life, to the GOP, which seems to have been stuck with the same old, same old ever since my personal hopeful Paul Ryan walked away from the scene.
So of course, it comes as no surprise that we already have drama.
In her official campaign launch speech on Feb. 15, 51-year-old Haley called for term limits and “mandatory mental competency tests” for politicians over the age of 75. It did not go unnoticed that current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who purports to be Haley’s chief rival for the GOP ticket, both fit in this category.
Haley’s speech prompted discussion on CNN’s This Morning, where host Don Lemon decided to share his insights with co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.
Lemon, no newcomer to media controversy, said the “talk about age” makes him uncomfortable.
Amen and duly noted, Don. If only your comments stopped there.
No, instead Lemon decided to impart his wisdom, which he says is backed by research from google.com, which indicates that women are in their prime in their 20s, 30s, maybe 40s. His genius conclusion: Haley, at age 51, is past her prime.
Whoa. Shame on you, Mr. Lemon, for several reasons.
As a 56-year-old Black man in America, it is likely that at some point in your life someone judged you on something out of your control – the color of your skin – and now you dare impose judgment based on age and gender?
And what sort of prime are we talking about? Because the original topic of discussion was the ability to lead the United States of America. Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that candidates must be at least 35 years of age to run for president.
I’m not sure I would want a 20-something woman or man running our country. I’m not even sure early 30s is the answer – and clearly our Founding Fathers agreed back in the day when they drafted the framework of our nation.
Yet Lemon’s ideal female ages are “20s, 30s, maybe 40s” – so it seems his notions of a woman in her prime have nothing to do with leading the country whatsoever but, rather, Lemon’s misguided Google sources have led him to the optimal age for bearing children. Or, worse, an incorrect timeline of when a woman is at her sexual peak.
(It should go without saying that this is why most journalists are extremely wary of Google research.)
There are incredible female leaders all around us. Most of them are, in fact, of a mature age.
And while women across the U.S. and around the world have made great strides in politics, business and more, there is still work to be done.
As a voice representing mainstream media, Lemon’s sexist, ageist remarks show that the gender imbalance is still very prevalent in society. But he has received significant backlash. Apologizing for his comments, Lemon criticized himself as “inartful and irrelevant” and will receive formal training.
It’s likely going to be impossible to ignore age in the upcoming election – Haley is making it a point already – but let’s hope her opposition has a more reasonable, intelligent retort than what google.com thinks a woman in her prime should be.
After all, she’s just a few years older than me, and I’m feeling like my prime is now – and the best is yet to come.
Jennifer Sharpe is deputy editor for The Journal Record, a division of BridgeTower Media.