Posted on | February 28, 2013 | 23 Comments
As a political reporter for GQ, I’ve been jokingly asked whether I ever posed for the magazine and loudly called a porn star by a senior think-tank fellow at his institute’s annual gala. In my prior job as a Hill reporter, one of my best source relationships with a member of Congress ended after I remarked that I looked like a witch who might hop on a broom in my new press-badge photo and he replied that I looked like I was “going to hop on something.”
What? You’re going to give up your best source because he made an off-color joke? Geez. Cogan’s story continues:
Sometimes they reach the level of stalking: One colleague had a high-profile member of Congress go out of his way to track down her cell-phone number, call and text repeatedly to tell her she was beautiful, offer to take her parents on a tour of the Capitol, and even invite her to go boating back home in his district.
“I think journalism schools should have workshops for young female reporters on managing old men who have no game and think, because you’re listening to them intently and probing what they think and feel, that you’re romantically interested, rather than conducting an interview,” says Garance Franke-Ruta, a senior editor at The Atlantic. “Every female reporter I know has had this issue at one time or another.”
“Managing old men who have no game”? Care to name names, Garance? Or are you unwilling to burn a source? Can we just assume this is a reference to Harry Reid?
Never mind. The problem is that this is learned behavior. If powerful men in D.C. weren’t accustomed to scoring with young women who hope to sleep their way to the top of the ziggurat of ambition, this kind of misconduct would not be so common as to be nearly ubiquitous.
We have certainly seen that “a high-profile member of Congress” can cross the line, but ask yourself: Where do these guys get the idea that they are hot commodities? Why do they expect women to be flattered by their interest? In a sexualized society, the lines become blurred because, every once in a while, one thing leads to the other:
The month after her White House internship began, Ms. Lewinsky and the President began what she characterized as “intense flirting.” At departure ceremonies and other events, she made eye contact with him, shook hands, and introduced herself. When she ran into the President in the West Wing basement and introduced herself again, according to Ms. Lewinsky, he responded that he already knew who she was. Ms. Lewinsky told her aunt that the President “seemed attracted to her or interested in her or something,” and told a visiting friend that “she was attracted to [President Clinton], she had a big crush on him, and I think she told me she at some point had gotten his attention, that there was some mutual eye contact and recognition, mutual acknowledgment.” . . .
According to Ms. Lewinsky, she and the President made eye contact when he came to the West Wing to see Mr. Panetta and Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, then again later at an informal birthday party for Jennifer Palmieri, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff. At one point, Ms. Lewinsky and the President talked alone in the Chief of Staff’s office. In the course of flirting with him, she raised her jacket in the back and showed him the straps of her thong underwear, which extended above her pants.
How often does that kind of thing happen in Washington? Often enough, we may suppose, that “old men with no game” get the mistaken idea that female reporters angling for an exclusive may be interested in more than a scoop.
UPDATE: Maureen O’Connor wonders why female reporters don’t “out” congressmen who “creep” on them. Excuse me for suspecting that (a) most female reporters are liberal and (b) most of the congressmen hitting on them are Democrats, and therefore (c) keeping hush about it amounts to “taking one for the team.” I mean, Ted Kennedy’s drunken womanizing was never a secret in Washington, and yet he was supposedly a hero of women’s rights.
Oh, I almost forgot this quote from Marin Cogan’s story:
One Washington climate reporter remembers an environmentalist stroking her leg at one such outing and noting, disapprovingly, that she hadn’t shaved.
Environmentalists are all creeps. But that’s not “news.”