On Tuesday evening during an Anderson Cooper 360° segment on CNN, the panel featuring Powers and Jason Miller, the former adviser, discussed Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ testimony on Russian interference of the 2016 election. Miller asserted that Sessions had “knocked away some of the hysteria from Kamala Harris and some of the Democrats who wanted to make this a big partisan show.”
Miller referred to Harris’ intense line of questioning—a trait for which she was commonly praised as a prosecutor in California, but for which she has now been cut off and chastised, such as during Sessions’ testimony by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). McCain had also interrupted Harris last week during the questioning of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.
Powers promptly circled back to Miller’s word choice—hysteria—to point to a bigger issue of sexism in U.S. politics, particularly for women of color.
“How was Sen. Kamala Harris hysterical? I don’t really understand that. She was asking some tough questions,” Powers pushed back.
“From my… objective perspective, it didn’t seem like there was any effort to try to get to a real question or to the bottom of things,” Miller responded, saying Harris was shouting, to which Powers in turn interjected.
“I think she asked a lot of questions,” Powers said. “She was very dogged. I wouldn’t say she was any more dogged than Sen. Ron Wyden was, would you say that?”
“Look, my opinion on that, I think she was hysterical. I don’t think Sen. Wyden was trying to get to the bottom of answers either,” Miller said. Wyden (D-Oregon) also had a contentious moment with Sessions during his line of questioning.
“But he wasn’t hysterical and she was,” Powers said pointedly. “OK, just wanted to clear that up. Got it.”
“No, because she was trying to shout down Attorney General Sessions, and I thought it was way out of bounds. This is the second hearing in a row,” Miller said, referring to Rosenstein’s hearing.
” … I think calling her ‘hysterical’ is a little gendered thing to say,” Powers said.
Hysteria is an extremely gendered term—it originates from the Greek word for womb and was believed to be a psychological disorder that only originated in women because of the uterus. Women were believed to be exhibiting hysteria if they were anxious, faint, or even sexually “deviant.” While hysteria is no longer believed to be a real disorder, women are still referred to as hysterical when they’re emotional or upset.
Jeffrey Lord, a CNN Trump surrogate who recently blamed, in part, Ariana Grande for the Manchester bombing, seemed to have missed the lesson on the sexist term, however. Lord chimed in, saying, “Hysteria is a neutral quality.”
“And yet, it’s just women that usually are called hysterical,” Powers replied, not missing a beat.
Views the full exchange between Powers and Miller below:
Jason Miller: Sessions knocked away "hysteria from Kamala Harris"— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) June 14, 2017
Kirsten Powers: “How was Sen. Harris hysterical?” https://t.co/ivRYRNSzBZ
Correction: A previous version of this article included a misspelling of Kirsten Powers’ first name.