MSNBC host Hallie Jackson accused the White House of playing "the woman card" Monday in its bid to get Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA Director.
Haspel, who was nominated to replace Mike Pompeo at the agency after his nomination for secretary of state, would be the first female leader of the clandestine services in U.S. history. However, her nomination met immediate opposition from Democrats concerned about her role in the post-9/11 enhanced interrogation programs of the George W. Bush administration.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted support for Haspel, saying any Democrat who claims to support female empowerment and opposes her nomination "is a total hypocrite."
There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) May 5, 2018
Jackson read out the tweet, asking White House legislative affairs director Marc Short whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) would take kindly to the accusation ahead of her meeting Monday with Haspel.
"Why play the woman card in this? Why is Sanders doing that?" Jackson asked.
"Well, I think there's plenty of people on the other side who play the woman card," Short said. "I don't think that what makes Gina the best qualified is the fact that she's a female. I do think it's worth noting historically that we've never had a female run the CIA."
Short appeared on MSNBC after NBC News and the Washington Post reported Haspel told the White House she wanted to withdraw her nomination to avoid a messy confirmation process. According to their reporting, Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders met with her in Langley, Va., and Trump called her personally to convince her not to withdraw.
Short told Jackson that NBC had engaged in "erroneous reporting" that Haspel had concerns about the White House's backing of her, saying she had the administration's full support. Jackson said NBC stands by its story.
"It wouldn't be the first time you're wrong, so don't worry about that," Short said.