How a Koch brothers operative played the sexism card against MSNBC

Ladies, if you’re wondering how to use that sexism card you swore off in the 1970s after you got liberated, I suggest you take a look at the masterful performance of one Jennifer Stefano, a regional director of the Obamacare-hating, Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity.

She appeared as a guest on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program “All In” Wednesday night to talk, ostensibly, about AFP’s objection to the two-week Obamacare deadline extension.

The conversation quickly devolved into a one-sided screaming match, with Stefano working herself into the kind of tizzy any parent of a teenager would recognize as phony. Let’s put it this way: Any interview about health policy that ends with the guest demanding “How dare you?” has the ring of a set-up.


And Hayes, who could have handled himself better, walked right into the buzz saw.

He made the rookie interviewer error of patronizing his guest in the introduction (which starts at the 4:25 mark of the video below): “She’s one of these people who I really think genuinely wakes up every day and thinks about how to destroy Obamacare,” he said, giving her her first opening.

“The thing I wake up and think about every morning is my children,” she harrumphed, before telling Hayes that Obamacare is removing the choices that 85 million American mothers would like to be able to make for their children. (Because there are 85 million mothers total in America? That was never explained. But they all hate Obamacare, she said.)

“Why does extending a deadline for two weeks take away the choices you have for your children?” asked Hayes, who was having trouble penetrating Stefano’s wall of sound.

“Because it continues to not allow people to go back and change this law,” said Stefano. Making it easier for people to sign up, in other words, will ensure Obamacare’s survival ....

The pair went back and forth about the healthcare law’s Medicaid expansion, and who qualifies for subsidies under federal poverty standards. Stefano claimed that allowing people earning 133% of the poverty level in states like Pennsylvania would mean that families earning $94,000 would qualify for Medicaid.

“I have a real problem when you talk about raising the poverty level, that’s people making $94,000 a year,” Stefano said at about the 7:48 mark. “They’re not poor. That is taking resources from the poor. The expansion of Medicaid is a moral issue, not an economic one. It is not right and not fair.”

Hayes, as any normal person would be, was flummoxed: “That’s a math trick.”

Not really. It’s more of a flat-out lie.

As reporter Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner noted in a tweet just after the program, a household would have to contain more than 15 people for an income of $94,000 to be considered 133% of the federal poverty level. Klein, who describes himself as an Obamacare opponent, linked to this Health and Human Services chart.

Stefano’s tour de force was her final attack on Hayes (at the 9:15 mark), who tried to insist that Stefano and Americans for Prosperity don’t really care about poor people, but have suddenly become their champions as a matter of tactics in the fight against Obamacare.

“Jennifer Stefano from Americans for Prosperity was not doing anything to get people health insurance, was not concerned about the plight of people on Medicaid, was not sponsoring bills before Congress,” said Hayes. “It’s not like you care about people on Medicaid, or that’s the thing that made you go into politics. And I don’t understand, why not just be honest about it?”

Whether that was true is beside the point. And certainly, Stefano was not about to answer the question. Instead, she whipped out the sexism card and threw it in his face.

“You know nothing about me,” Stefano said. “You don’t know what I wake up and fight for and believe in .... You know nothing about my family. You don’t know if I was born and raised in a trailer park. You don’t know what I did. And how dare you, like Harry Reid, try to undercut the voice of a woman simply because she disagrees with you. Now you may not like where I am coming from on public policy, but you have no right to undercut my voice.”

Hayes, befuddled: “I put you on my TV show!”

Stefano: “You are undercutting my voice because you’re making it personal .... Stick to the facts …. Talk about facts, logic and reason. How dare you personally attack me and what I believe in.”

Well played, Ms. Stefano.

Hayes seemed to grasp what happened. By the end, he was chuckling.


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Twitter: @robinabcarian