I don't know Jeri Kehn Thompson (shown left with her husband), but she used to be in my Rolodex when I was a new reporter in Washington, D.C. She was young professional, a contact on the Hill, a senate aide and an RNC spokesperson. Now, as the 40-year-old wife of likely presidential candidate Fred Thompson, 64, she has been labeled a "trophy wife."
In today's Washington Post, Robert Novak pens a piece with the headline, "Thompson's Top Advisor." Meanwhile, blogs, chat rooms and a story in The New York Times by Susan Saulny, "Will Her Face Determine His Fortune", focus on her looks: "youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair ... much of the brouhaha around Mrs. Thompson, 40, is being stirred by photos of her in form-fitting gowns circulating on the Internet."
NPR just aired a story on "Candidates' Spouses: Use and Abuse" that describes how Bill Clinton, Judith Giuliani, and Mrs. Thompson are being covered. Here's an NBC story about Michelle Obama, who Vanity Fair just named one of the best-dressed women in America. Vanity Fair also just published a story on "Guiliani's Princess Bride."
Are spouses fair game? Is the coverage of them sexist? Crass? Are Democratic and Republican candidates' spouses getting the same treatment? Was Jackie O. a trophy wife?
Julie Kirtz Garrett is a writer and television reporter. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and three children.