In the wake of the Charlottesville attacks that left many injured and one woman – Heather Heyer – dead, heated discussions have been erupting on many major news outlets. One conversation on CNN about President Trump’s inability to openly condemn white-supremacist and white-nationalist groups in the face of violent protests got ugly this past Monday.
Symone Sanders, Bernie Sanders’ campaign spokeswoman, and Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican politician, discussed the matter on CNN’s New Day. Sanders insisted that Cuccinelli was “dismissing” the notion that the hate rally is an “egregious symptom” of a nation-wide racism problem. She believes that the current administration is riddled with issues, the most prominent being the presence of “white-supremacist sympathizers” in the White House, such as Stephen K. Bannon, who is Trump’s former chief strategist. After Sanders briefly interrupted Cuccinelli’s explanation for his position, the former Virginia gubernatorial candidate shot back.
“Can I finish, Symone? Can you just shut up for a minute and let me finish?” said Cuccinelli. After that comment, chaos erupted on cable television. Cuccinelli attempted to move on after his disrespectful outburst, but Sanders was having none of it. “Pardon me, sir,” she shouted back, while Cuccinelli continued to talk. “You do not get to tell me to shut up on national television. . . Under no circumstances do you get to speak to me in that manner. You should exhibit some decorum.” The two talked over each other for an uncomfortable amount of time as Chris Cuomo, the moderator of the debate and a CNN host, tried to keep the peace.
Like a frustrated parent, Cuomo tried to guide the two away from any further arguments and said, “You need a reset. Ken, you don’t want to use language like that when you’re talking to Symone. You can disagree, but you don’t talk like that on this show. You know better than that, Ken.” Cuccinelli was later given the chance to apologize, and said he would if Sanders apologized for interrupting him, but Sanders said plainly, “I don’t have an apology for you.”
Cuccinelli’s actions have been labeled sexist by many, and he has been accused of mansplaining. There is evidence showing that women being interrupted or shut down in the workplace by men is much more common than the reverse. In a study at the University of California, Santa Barbara, test subjects were asked to have normal conversations with members of the same sex and the opposite sex. In the two same-sex groups combined, the authors found seven instances of interruption. In the mixed-sex group, however, they found 48 interruptions, 46 of which were instances of a man interrupting a woman.
Since the incident however, the two have come to an understanding that more civil discourse is crucial to progress. “I called Symone and apologized for telling her to shut up,” Cuccinelli later said in an interview with The Washington Post. “As someone who would like more civil discussion, I need to make sure that I try to contribute to that effort.”
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