Did Juan Williams go too far by slamming Ann Romney as 'corporate wife'?

Fox News pundit Juan Williams has angered conservatives with his slight on Ann Romney. Many Americans could be upset at the jibe, given that they tend to give political wives a pass.

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    Ann Romney is greeted on stage by her husband, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, after her speech to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.
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Juan Williams is drawing a lot of heat for calling Ann Romney a “corporate wife." The Fox News commentator made the remark after watching Mrs. Romney’s generally well-received speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.,  on Tuesday night.

“The stories she told about struggles, it’s hard for me to believe,” said Mr. Williams in the midst of a Fox panel discussion. “She’s a very rich woman. I know that and America knows that.”

Asked what he meant by calling the wife of the GOP nominee “corporate,” Williams continued by saying she “looks like a woman whose husband takes care of her, and she’s been very lucky and blessed in this life. She’s not speaking for the tremendous number of single women, or married women, or separated. She did not convince me that, ‘You know what, I understand the struggles of American women in general.’ ”

Hmmm. We’ll say this in Williams’ defense – it’s hard to have an instant and profound opinion about every political event you see, and doubly hard if you know that opinion is being televised. It would have been one thing if he’d simply said that he did not believe Romney’s speech would sway many votes, or that struggling single moms might not relate to her.

But the “corporate wife” label, the “husband takes care of her” judgment – that’s going further. Those assertions are going to drive some people nuts.

Conservatives were quick to pounce on the implication that the spouses of business executives tend to be pampered automata. Maybe that subtle denigration would make sense if Mitt Romney had divorced Mrs. Romney and married a younger trophy spouse, writes editor Ed Morrissey on the conservative Hot Air! website. But Romney has been by her husband’s side from the beginning of his career.

“Maybe Juan Williams needs to start listening with his ears rather than his agenda,” writes Mr. Morrissey.

Commentator Michelle Malkin was even more pointed. “Ann Romney = Class,” she tweeted. “Juan Williams = [rhyming expletive]."

Democrats, of course, have long portrayed the GOP candidate himself as a rich buy-out artist who doesn’t care about the troubles of everyday folks. And there’s evidence that US public agrees with this depiction: Mr. Romney’s favorable numbers are very low for a major party nominee. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that only 35 percent of US adults have a favorable view of Romney, with 51 percent holding an unfavorable view.

But Mrs. Romney polls better, to the extent that Americans know about her at all. A USA Today/Gallup survey released this week has her favorable rating at 42 percent, with 24 percent unfavorable. Fully a quarter of respondents said they had no opinion about Mr. Romney’s spouse.

And Democrats are unlikely to make much electoral headway by trying to portray Mrs. Romney as a mirror of her husband, Richita Rich. The voting public distinguishes between politicians and their spouses, and as long as the spouse does not take overt policy positions, generally gives them a pass. That’s one reason why Michelle Obama’s favorability ratings average about 9 points better than her husband’s.

But for those conservatives landing on Juan Williams today, remember that once the right defended him against what it perceived as the forces of political correctness. Two years ago he got fired from NPR after saying that he got nervous on airplanes when he saw people in Muslim garb.

“Clearly, NPR only wants opinion journalists that agree with the opinions of NPR, and I mean totally agree,” wrote – who else – Ed Morrissey of Hot Air! at the time.


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