The audience at the TECO Theater at the Straz Center in Tampa watched quietly Sunday night when a video clip of HBO's Bill Maher was shown on the screen.
In the segment, the talk show host was trying to explain why liberals don't like conservative women like Sarah Palin or U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann.
"Because they’re crazy people," Maher said. "It’s not because they have breasts, it’s because they are boobs.”
While the punchline drew laughter from Maher's studio audience, the 50 or so people who watched the clip at the TECO Theater remained silent.
That segment was just one example of the "liberal bias" against women highlighted at "Lashing Back at the Backlash," a forum sponsored by Her New View, an initiative of Palladian View, a digital magazine for conservative women.
That conservative Republican women regularly come under attack from the "mainsteam media" and liberal commentators is something that can't be disputed, the five women on the panel agreed.
But the best way to deal with that bias, they said, was to wear it like a badge of honor and continue to fight for the conservative values they believe in.
The discussion on the eve of the Republican National Convention featured U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Renee Ellmers of North Carolina; Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch; conservative talk show host Dana Loesch; and author Katie Pavlich. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, while not part of the panel, spoke at the end of the program.
Numerous Examples of Media Attacks
To hammer home the theme of the session, several video clips were played that showed some of the hits conservative women have taken from commentators like Maher, MSNBC's Ed Schultz and commentator Keith Olbermann.
Moderator Karen Floyd, publisher of Palladian View and the former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, said the half dozen or so clips shown were just a sample of the many clips she found in which conservative women — particularly attractive ones — came under attack from the media.
"There is a great double standard," Ellmers said. "Hillary Clinton... I have great respect for her and think she’s doing a great job. But you don't see the left give conservative women the same benefit or the same voice of support."
"There’s a whole list of things we get attacked for," added Pavlich, who noted it was ironic that liberal women — who have been fighting for equal rights for decades — aren't condemning those kind of attacks.
"These comments made against conservative women are the same things that you fought against," Pavlich said. "Are you going to stand behind your principals or not?"
Moms Come Under Fire
Panel members noted in particular how liberals seemed to attack stay-at-home moms. One example was the comment by Democrat Hilary Rosen that Ann Romney, who stayed at home to raise five sons, has "actually never worked a day in her life."
Kleefisch said Democrats, including President Barack Obama, don't understand that moms are keenly aware the problems facing the country — particularly the economic ones.
"Women make 90 percent of the consumer household decisions in a American home and women deserve some respect," she said. "The president of the United States of America just does not seem to get that women deserve that type of respect. They'll continue talking to us in this insulting, disingenuous tone like we just don’t get it.”
'A Badge of Honor'
While each of the women on the panel has taken shots from the other side, they made it clear that they weren't looking for sympathy.
"I look at is as a badge of honor when they attack a conservative woman," said Loesch. "I kind of welcome that."
Added Elmers: "It’s up to us to do it all —and we can do it all. We can be good moms, good wives and be a strong voice for our constituents."
Haley gave the group three examples of obstacles she faced in her career — she called them "war stories" — and how she overcame them.
"As we go through life, we have war stories and those war stories make us who we are," she said. "They're not fun..but they make you strong and make you rise to your potential."