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Five years after the press helped hand Trump the White House by holding the first woman nominee to an entirely different standard, we see constant reminders that women, and particularly Democratic ones, get singled out for scrutiny.
Vice President Kamala Harris oversees an unhappy office of staffers! Interns at Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s office are discontented! Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sometimes verbally dressed down staffers who don’t meet her work standards!
The press loves to feature women when compiling lists of Beltway Bad Bosses. Yet hard-charging men in politics earn points for behaving exactly how the women do when they get singled out for running “dysfunctional” operations.
The creepy double standard recently exploded in full view when Politico set off days of frantic news coverage by claiming Harris’ office was an unhealthy one.
Here was the thrust of the Politico allegations:
Aides and allies said [chief of staff Tina] Flournoy, in an apparent effort to protect Harris, has instead created an insular environment where ideas are ignored or met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out. Often, they said, she refuses to take responsibility for delicate issues and blames staffers for the negative results that ensue.
That’s it? That was the basis for a week’s worth of media heavy breathing about Harris’ supposedly “chaotic” office? Harris’ No. 2 has created an “insular environment,” people complain that decisions are dragged out, and higher-ups don’t shoulder the blame for poor decisions.
Congratulations Politico, you not only described how virtually every office on Capitol Hill is run, you described how every business office in America functions. (The scenario perfectly captured how the Rolling Stone office operated when I worked there many years ago!) The idea that poor communication and decision making — not claims of abuse or harassment — are suddenly being treated as big news regarding Harris’ office confirms the media’s obvious double standard when it comes powerful Democratic women.
It’s sexist because there’s simply no precedent for putting the Vice President’s office under a personnel microscope like this when men filled that position. “News outlets didn’t have beat reporters who focused largely on covering Dick Cheney, Joe Biden or Mike Pence, but they do for Harris,” Perry Bacon at the Washington Post recently noted. “Her every utterance is analyzed, her exact role in the Biden White House scrutinized.”
It’s curious that for generations, male politicians who ran demanding, hard-charging offices that featured staffers who were required to work nonstop, were seen as both being the norm as well as being the mark of savvy leadership. Men who lost their temper and constantly raised their voice were portrayed as ambitious, serious, and results oriented.
Worse, there was just no there there with the recent over-the-top coverage, which desperately tried to portray Harris’ office in turmoil. One of the anecdotes at the center of the Politico piece was about a friend of a major Democratic donor who tried to set up a meeting with Harris’ office but was stymied and had their calls ignored.
That’s it? That’s the entire tale? How on earth do reporters take a pedestrian event like that, which unfolds countless times every day inside the Beltway, and blow it up into a takedown piece about how Harris oversees an unprofessional operation? It’s a joke.
Comically, Axios pointed to this as proof that Harris’ office is dysfunctional: When Forbes requested an interview with the vice president, the magazine got no response until “the West Wing intervened to get an answer for Forbes.”
Stop the presses, indeed!
All week, not a single named person made a serious claim of wrongdoing against Harris, yet the press eagerly covered the non-story, culminated with a CNN piece, “White House Goes Into Damage Control Mode After Reports of Dysfunction in Kamala Harris' Office.” The framing highlighted the journalism game being played, as the network focused on the optics (“damage control”) regarding an amorphous, unproven claim (“reports of dysfunction”).
Recall that when she ran for president last year, Klobuchar was hounded by Bad Boss coverage, in a way that no other candidate in U.S. history had faced.
After the New York Times published an exhaustive report on complaints about Klobuchar, headlined “How Amy Klobuchar Treats Her Staff,” Vox noted, “It’s the latest article in a series about how the senior Minnesotan senator is allegedly a bad boss. All of the pieces are based on accounts from anonymous former aides. No staffer has gone on the record.” Adding, “Notably, none of her critics question her intelligence or her mastery of policy or her commitment to Democratic positions. They don’t question that she’s done a good job as a US senator. In fact, none of them has called on her to resign.”
If former staffers want to go on the record and complain that a presidential candidate was a bad boss, that’s a legitimate news story. But think of how many hundreds of men have run for president in the modern American era, and how the press has virtually never cared if their staffers were happy, or if their offices ran on affirming vibes.
Over the years, did you ever read long Times articles headlined, “How Ted Cruz Treats His Staff,” “How Bernie Sanders Treats His Staff,” “How Marco Rubio Treats His Staff,” “How John Edwards Treats His Staff”?
Me neither. That seems only to be a news story if the boss is a woman, and a Democratic woman.
Just ask Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who was the subject of a recent 2,000-word Business Insider piece about what a bad boss she is. Specifically, the article hyped the claim that a former Sinema intern was sometimes reprimanded when she went off script while fielding calls from constituents. That was the lead anecdote the outlet used to highlight turmoil within the office of a Democratic woman.
Maybe it’s time for the media to turn the workplace spotlight on male Beltway bosses.
(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
📺 GOOD STUFF:
This piece generated lots of buzz yesterday — a former Fox News executive confessing that the network, and Rupert Murdoch, are doing extraordinary damage to this country. I read stories like that and can’t help thinking about that famous “shocked” scene from Casablanca.
I also don’t have much patience for people who spent years working closely with Murdoch and then claim they were sure he’d finally do the right thing/see the light.
Gimme a break.
But if you’re interested, the piece is from The Daily Beast, “Former Murdoch Exec: Fox News Is Poison For America”:
Over the past nine months I have tried, with increasing bluntness, to get Rupert to understand the real damage that Fox News is doing to America. I failed, and it was arrogant and naïve to ever have thought that I could succeed. I am at a loss to understand why he will not change course. I can only guess that the destructive editorial policy of Fox News is driven by a deep-seated vein of anti-establishment/contrarian thinking in Rupert that, at age 90, is not going to change.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
Lone Bellow, “Dried Up River”
Probably the only Americana group that was formed in a Park Slope, Brooklyn diner, Lone Bellow remains one of my favorite vocal trios. “Dried Up River,” is their latest.
“The upbeat song tackles the big idea of going through life trying to make something out of nothing when your well is dry, with singable melodies, storytelling lyrics and spot-on harmonies,” The Boot recently noted.
Also, the video’s a hoot.
We haven't talked in quite a while
It's been so long since I've see that smile
All that weight that you carry, it ain't necessary
Maybe it's not for us to understand
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click hereto listen via Apple Music.