Teresa Heinz Kerry's address to the Democratic convention here was not exactly a smash hit with the Fox News commentators.
"Eccentric, bordering on the bizarre. . . . Extremely self-indulgent," said Fred Barnes.
"I think she got this slot because she demanded it," said Bill Kristol.
"Stacked up against Laura Bush, she's going to be a very difficult sell," said Mort Kondracke.
The reviews weren't much better in the rest of the media. While a few pundits defended Sen. John F. Kerry's wife as refreshingly unorthodox, her moment in the FleetCenter spotlight seemed to crystallize the media portrait of her as a bit of an oddball.
"Part of the perception she's created is that she's imperious, and it's always all about Teresa," said Lisa DePaulo, who profiled Heinz Kerry for GQ magazine. "This was a great opportunity for her to say, 'This is why I love my husband.' Never happened. . . . She reinforces the stereotypes about her more than the press reinforces it."
The speech Tuesday night followed a much-replayed incident in which Heinz Kerry told a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter to "shove it" for allegedly misrepresenting her comments. Morning-show anchors on ABC, CBS and CNN asked whether she regretted the outburst, and Heinz Kerry said she did not.
Melinda Henneberger, who has covered Heinz Kerry for Newsweek, said that she "didn't do herself any favors" by snapping at the reporter and that this "undermined the whole poetry of a beautiful speech."
"Had she been all warm and fuzzy about her husband, we would have knocked her for that. . . . We would have called that disingenuous," Henneberger said.
As a potential first lady with a penchant for controversy, Heinz Kerry has been a magnet for media attention, good and bad, in much the way that Hillary Rodham Clinton was in 1992. It began in earnest after a 2002 Washington Post profile in which she referred to the late senator John Heinz, who died in a 1991 plane crash, as "my husband." A Newsweek cover story in May was headlined "Is John Kerry's Heiress Wife a Loose Cannon -- or Crazy Like a Fox?"
Along the way she has talked about her Botox injections, her prenuptial agreement, an abortion she almost obtained and how she would "maim" a spouse who cheated on her. The 65-year-old billionaire's wealth has been extensively detailed, often with the subtext that her ketchup fortune is crucial to the campaign of her husband, who borrowed $6.4 million against their Beacon Hill townhouse during the primaries. She has also been criticized for looking bored and distracted during his speeches, and a photo of her wincing when he tried to kiss her was widely published.
In her convention speech, Heinz Kerry talked about growing up in Mozambique, the importance of the Peace Corps, space exploration, the right of opinionated women to be heard, and her husband's war record and policy positions. She said a few words in five languages. But there was little attempt to humanize a senator whom many see, fairly or not, as aloof.
Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason magazine, called it "the sort of rambling, disconnected spiel that multimillionaire philanthropists routinely give in their living rooms during charity events."
"She came across as slightly odd -- the space age Madame Mao suit didn't help -- self-indulgent, and goofily disengaged from mere mortals," Gillespie said.
National Review's David Frum wrote that Heinz Kerry offered "nothing warm, endearing or personal" about her husband.
On MSNBC's "Hardball," Chris Matthews said "I find her very attractive" but asked whether she would "play in Peoria."
"She's different and she's authentic, and she's going over very well," replied author Kati Marton. "People can tell when you're unscripted, and she's unscripted and it's a breath of fresh air."
Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer called her "everything politics is not: candid, open, unique and authentic."
"You'd rather she wrap herself in an adoring cloak of sugar and sap, and smile and gaze and not say what she feels?" Baer asked.
Conservative media outlets have put a bull's-eye on her back. On Tuesday, the Boston Herald bannered a story about some comments Heinz Kerry made in a 1975 book -- when she was a Republican -- such as calling Democratic politics "putrid" and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) a "perfect bastard."
The subtext to the debate is whether this strong-willed woman will wield considerable influence in a Kerry White House. "If she assumes political responsibility," CNN's Bill Schneider told viewers, "she'll have to face a difficult question: Who elected her?"
In a May interview, Heinz Kerry told ABC's Barbara Walters: "A lot of people are not used to having a dame, a lady or something, have opinions." Now, as the spotlight turns harsher, a lot of people are offering opinions about her.
"People expect her to be a little kooky," DePaulo said after the speech. "It's almost better to be kooky than self-absorbed."