Sen. Kyrsten SinemaPhoto: Gage Skidmore/via Wikipedia
Three women in the U.S. Senate — two Republicans, and one Democrat — wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, criticizing their and other media outlet’s coverage of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)’s fashion.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) derided the coverage, despite some of it not being critical, as “demeaning, sexist and inappropriate,” and claim other Senators do not receive the same treatment.
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The Times published the Senators’ letter on November 19, noting four articles from the paper, three in their Opinion sections, “analyzing the style and dress of our colleague.”
The three opinion articles were written as a series by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, a contributor to the Times who writes a subscriber-only newsletter. The other article, “Kyrsten Sinema’s Style Keeps Us Guessing,” was written by the Times‘ chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman and published in the paper’s Styles Section.
Sinema, her staff, and her allies have frequently defended her fashion choices, which have earned her praise and criticism from the moment she entered office in 2019.
The Senators quoted Sinema herself from earlier this week, when she said, “I wear what I want because I like it. It’s not a news story, and it’s no one’s business.”
They added, “We couldn’t agree more.”
The Senators call Sinema “a serious, hardworking member of the Senate who contributes a great deal to the policy deliberations before us.”
Sinema herself shared the letter published by the Times, writing, “Work Hard. Be Yourself.”
Business Insider indicates that the Times’ managerial staff is defending the articles’ publication and their overall coverage, but they have not taken issue with the Senators’ claims.
“The aim of our Opinion coverage is to invite intelligent discussion from informed people with a diversity of opinions and ideas,” the Times‘ vice president of communications Danielle Rhoades Ha stated. “We believe in open debate and always welcome reactions such as the Senators’ letter to the editor.”
Business Insider also reports that the Times’ coverage has similarly covered other politicians’ and world leaders’ fashion decisions. Capitol Hill reporter Bryan Metz found that the Times regularly publishes “stories about outfits worn by Biden, New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” and added, “The outlet also covered former President Donald Trump’s affinity for ties.”
Cottom did not issue a comment to Business Insider, but she spoke previously on Twitter about the decision to write about Sinema’s fashion, saying in part, “It is weird to think that presentation isn’t politics.”
It is weird to think that presentation isn’t politics. There is no other word for it except weird. I checked.
— Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) November 15, 2021
Cottom also shared their article after it was released.
Last month, Sinema made tidal waves when she presided over the Senate while wearing a denim vest. Her colorful hair and purses are just some of the other fashion and accessories that have earned the bisexual Senator attention — and ire from opponents.
She infamously turned heads when she wore a purple wig to fellow Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ)’s swearing-in last year, for example. She was also once derided by conservatives and derogatorily referred to as a “hooker” by conservatives for wearing thigh-high boots.
Recently, Sinema’s approval rating fell from 48 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in Arizona between the first and third quarters of 2021, At the same time, her disapproval numbers rose from 35 percent to 42 percent during that time.
It’s not just Sinema’s betrayal of her party’s priorities that are irritating Arizona Democrats. Sinema has rightly earned a reputation as someone who doesn’t even talk to her constituents. She doesn’t host town halls or hold press conferences. She goes to such lengths to avoid talking to voters that she locked herself in a bathroom when activists tried to confront her.
She has begun receiving criticism from LGBTQ activists and other out legislators, such as Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY). Last month, five military veterans who advise Sinema on policy issues sent her a scathing letter earlier this week to say they were quitting. They accused her of using them as “window dressing” while ignoring their recommendations and reneging on her campaign promises.