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Barack Obama on the Sarah Palin 'lipstick' brouhaha: 'phony outrage'

September 10, 2008 |  8:47 am

Barack Obama today forcefully scoffed at the bid by the John McCain camp to make political hay out of his now-notorious "lipstick on a pig" comment, dismissing as "phony outrage" the flap over what he called an "innocent remark."

He also called it "the latest made-up controversy" and "catnip for the news media" that serves to distract attention from the serious issues of the day (he gets credit for not referring to the dust-up as, dare we say it, a pig in a poke).

Appearing in Norfolk, Va., Obama prefaced a speech on education policy to confront the umbrage taken by the McCain forces over the crack he made Tuesday in another part of Virginia (he also noted that the Republicans had been quick to produce what he termed an "outrageous" Web ad that calls him to task on the matter).

[UDDATE: The ad, while still available on the McCain web site, has vanished from YouTube, due to a copyright claim. See below for more detail.]

Given the proximity of Obama's "lipstick" imagery to Sarah Palin -- in her speech that swept the GOP off its feet last week, referring to herself as a pit bull with lipstick -- McCain aides and other Republicans were quick to trash him for what one called a "schoolyard insult."

They also, of course, demanded an apology. But Obama, not surprisingly, would have none of that. This is how he explained what he said: "I’m talking about John McCain’s economic policies. I say this is more of the same. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. And suddenly they say, 'Oh, you must be talking about the governor of Alaska.'"

Not so, he said. Indeed, he called the insistence that he was none-too-charitably referring to Palin part of the "lies and phony outrage and 'Swift boat' politics" that mark Republican campaign tactics.

Coincidentally, Palin and McCain headlined a rally in northern Virginia just minutes after the Obama appearance in the southern part of the state. Palin, in introducing McCain, made no reference to the lipstick cause celebre.

We doubt, however, that this will be the end of it.

-- Don Frederick

[UPDATE: The ad, after juxtaposing Palin's pit bull/lipstick joke with Obama's lipstick/pig comment, flashed to CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric decrying sexism -- a snippet from a high-profile commentary she delivered months ago about media coverage of Hillary Clinton! Without making that clear, that ad's narrator says of Obama: "Ready To Lead? No. Ready To Smear? Yes." YouTube yanked the spot because CBS claimed a copyright violation. The McCain folks, The Times' Maeve Reston reports, dispute that, arguing the Couric clip is not covered by a copyright protection.