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A Pulitzer-winning columnist took jabs at Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s weight and appearance. He then apologized.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
By Rachel Siegel Washington Post

“Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not look like the kind of woman Donald Trump would choose as his chief spokesperson.” So began the Wednesday morning column of Los Angeles Times writer David Horsey.

That opening sentence, and the five that followed, have since been replaced by a plea for forgiveness.

“I want to apologize to Times readers – and to Sarah Huckabee Sanders – for a description that was insensitive and failed to meet the standards of our newspaper,” Horsey’s statement reads.

“It also failed to meet the expectations I have for myself. It surely won’t be my last mistake, but this particular error will be scrupulously avoided in my future commentaries. I’ve removed the offending description.”

Remove the offending description he did. But not before readers had more than two days to digest just what was so “insensitive” in the first place.

Critics called Horsey out on what they deemed to be an inappropriate and sexist attack on Sanders’s weight and appearance. A column posted on ThinkProgress on Friday afternoon began with “a list of things people should criticize” about Sanders, from her claim that “the Civil War wasn’t about race” to her “legitimizing the president’s lies.”

“Here is a list of thing people shouldn’t criticize about Sanders: her weight,” the piece read.

The first two paragraphs of Horsey’s column did just that.

Horsey wrote that Trump behaves similarly to former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes “when he was stocking the Fox News lineup with blond Barbie dolls in short, tight skirts,” adding that Ivanka and Melania Trump “are the apotheosis of this type.”

Then he launched into what has drawn the heaviest criticism:

“By comparison, Sanders looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games. Rather than the fake eyelashes and formal dresses she puts on for news briefings, Sanders seems as if she’d be more comfortable in sweats and running shoes.”

The second paragraph of the original column ended with a sentence ever-so-slightly echoing the revision to come: “Yet, even if Trump privately wishes he had a supermodel for a press secretary, he is lucky to have Sanders.”

The column is accompanied by a cartoon, also by Horsey, of Sanders at a podium and a speech bubble containing the phrases: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Paul Manafort is Hillary Clinton.” A sign reading “Big Mother” hangs behind her.

Horsey is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and columnist, according to his LA Times profile. He serves as a political commentator for the newspaper.

Neither Horsey nor Sanders immediately responded to requests for comment Friday night. A spokeswoman from the LA Times said that the column’s offensive language was removed and the apology was posted at about 1 p.m. PT on Friday.

Though Horsey’s comments were seen as particularly egregious, Sanders has had a fraught and combative relationship with the media ever since becoming press secretary in July. While sitting on a panel discussion last month, Sanders said she has “never been attacked more, questioned more” and that she’s “been called outrageous things on air, and it goes unquestioned, no pushback.”

Her often tense news briefings follow the style of her predecessor, Sean Spicer, who was repeatedly mocked on “Saturday Night Live” and elsewhere for lashing out against the press.

Sanders was also the target of the NBC flagship comedy show, which, like Horsey’s column, prodded at the spokeswoman’s weight. At the time, Sanders was the lesser-known deputy White House press secretary under Spicer. Aidy Bryant, acting as Sanders in the spoof, introduced herself by saying: “My father is Mike Huckabee. My mother is a big Southern hamburger.” Sanders was also portrayed to be eating during the press briefing.

The joke was blasted by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who said the show was “mean about Huckabee Sanders.”

“You were fat-shaming her. You were talking about how she looks and what she wears. I thought it was mean, not funny.”

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