Sexism & Fox News: Politico Chief Loses Cool on Hot Seat
In a lengthy (and mostly fawning) interview, The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner sat down with Politico co-founders, executive editor Jim VandeHei and editor-in-chief John Harris. FishBowl DC noticed that things appeared to get a little tense and testy when both were pressed on the issue of sexism in their newsroom and charges of liberal bias from Fox News:
IC: I am sure you have heard the criticism that Politico is a tough place for women to work. Do you think that is a fair criticism?
JH: During our launch, we were starting from scratch—it was a tough place to work, period. Not just for women. The happenstance that the four co-founders were men was just that. It has become a better place to work. The place is now built for the long haul. I don’t view creating opportunities in a gender context.
IC: But there are statistics that I am sure you have seen. The departure rate for women at Politico is twice as high as it is for men. The Washington Post wrote about this. There were also statistics about how, when one of you guys publishes a piece that is co-bylined, it is almost 100 percent of the time with another male writer.
JVH: Wait a second. I want to add to what John said. I find this critique both offensive and wrong. Go ask any of the women in the newsroom if it is a hard place to work. More of our leadership jobs are filled by women than men. The company is run as much by women as men. Three or four years ago, did some women leave? Did some men leave? Certainly. Certainly. We were a start-up. It is an intense culture. And I am sure you could find people saying, “I didn’t like it because I was a guy, because I was tall, because I was short, because my foot hurt.” I am sure some women felt like it was a macho environment. I don’t think women would say that today.
IC: The critique I’ve heard is that it’s an atmosphere rather than overt sexism.
JVH: You have heard it where?
Let me interrupt to point out how laughable VandeHei is here; asking Chotiner where he heard about these charges of sexism.
Good heavens, Politico has been dealing with public charges of sexism for years, including a novel by a former female staffer.
IC: From people I have talked to.
JVH: Like who? I don’t mean to be combative, but talk to people who work at Politico now—
IC: I talked to people who worked at Politico.
JVH: How would you like me to talk to people at The New Republic who told me you guys don’t have any women? Why is that?
IC: I am not—
JVH: No, you respond to that charge. If you are going to make that charge, and you are going to make it on the record—there is no one here who would make that allegation now. It was offensive to me, just like it was offensive to you.
IC: If I had hiring power at The New Republic, that would be a fair question to ask.
JH: I think women would find the premise deeply condescending.
As of late, from my own observances, Politico has responded to these sexism charges by increasing the presence of its female staffers on MSNBC, and as the authors of its lead pieces on the Politico website.
Speaking of Politico's love affair with the hard-left MSNBC, here is how VandeHei responded to a question about Fox News:
IC: I read yesterday that Fox News has banished Politico for the last two years. I thought it was odd they claimed you had a liberal bias.
JVH: The thing that is offensive is when they have people on air calling us “left-wing” Politico. They know it is self-evidently false. It is bullshit.
Politico arguing they aren’t a left-wing site and a pipe organ for the White House is like grass claiming not to be green.
Today is a great example. Last year, Politico literally wrote over a hundred stories in just a few days attacking Herman Cain over sexual harassment allegations from 15 years ago. Our current president is presently under fire for five scandals. But this morning Politico wanted to "lead the conversation" towards the implementation of ObamaCare, which is what the headline story was all about.
When your site is more interested in, and focuses more investigative energy towards, a 15-year-old story about a Republican than five scandals currently swamping a Democrat president, you aren't in the tank, you are the tank.
The above interview is illuminating, though–a look at the hypocrisy of the thin-skinned who run a website devoted to destroying Republicans, who can't take even a tenth of what they dish out.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC