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Monday, November 20, 2017

New York Times Reporter Gets In Trouble Over Bad Behavior

New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush in the White House briefing room on February 24.
 Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Sexual harassment claims against yet another powerful man in media inspired New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush to post an impassioned note on his Facebook page in October, calling on his fellow journalists to stand by women entering the field.
In the post, which linked to an article about the latest accusations against political journalist Mark Halperin, Thrush wrote, “Young people who come into a newsroom deserve to be taught our trade, given our support and enlisted in our calling — not betrayed by little men who believe they are bigger than the mission.”
It was a noble statement — but some Washington journalists I spoke to say it rings hollow, given Thrush’s own behavior with young women in the industry.
“He kept saying he’s an advocate for women and women journalists,” a 23-year-old woman told me, recounting an incident with Thrush from this past June. “That’s how he presented himself to me. He tried to make himself seem like an ally and a mentor.”
She paused. “Kind of ironic now.”
Thrush, 50, is one of the New York Times’s star White House reporters whose chronicles of the Trump administration recently earned him and his frequent writing partner Maggie Haberman a major book deal.
Thrush and the young woman met at her colleague’s going-away party at a bar near the Politico newsroom, she told me,and shared a few rounds of drinks in a booth. The night, she said, ended on a Washington street corner, where Thrush left her in tears after she resisted his advances.
The encounter was troubling enough to the woman that her friend Bianca Padró Ocasio, also 23 and a journalist, confronted Thrush about his behavior via text message the next day.
“I want to make sure you don’t lure young women aspiring journalists into those situations ever again,” she texted. “So help me out here. How can I do that?”
Bianca Padró Ocasio confronted Glenn Thrush over text message about his behavior the night before with her friend, a 23-year-old journalist. Some messages have been redacted to protect the friend’s privacy.
Screenshots courtesy of Bianca Padró Ocasio
Thrush was apologetic but defensive.
“I don’t lure anybody ever,” he wrote, according to screenshots provided by Padró Ocasio. “I got drunk because I got some shitty health news. And I am acutely aware of the hurdles that young women face in this business and have spent the better part of 20 years advocating for women journalists.”
If Thrush is acutely aware of what young women face in the business of political journalism, he should also know it’s because he himself is one of the problems women face. Five years ago, when Thrush and I were colleagues at Politico, I was in the same bar as Padró Ocasio’s friend — perhaps the same booth — when he caught me off guard, put his hand on my thigh, and suddenly started kissing me. Thrush says that he recalls the incident differently.
Three young women I interviewed, including the young woman who met Thrush in June, described to me a range of similar experiences, from unwanted groping and kissing to wet kisses out of nowhere to hazy sexual encounters that played out under the influence of alcohol. Each woman described feeling differentlyabout these experiences: scared, violated, ashamed, weirded out. I was — and am — angry.
Details of their stories suggest a pattern. All of the women were in their 20s at the time. They were relatively early in their careers compared to Thrush, who was the kind of seasoned journalist who would be good to know. At an event with alcohol, he made advances. Afterward, they (as I did) thought it best to stay on good terms with Thrush, whatever their feelings.
“I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately. Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable,” Thrush said in a statement emailed to me on November 19.
In interviews with about 40 people in and around media who know Thrush, I got a picture of a reporter whose title doesn’t capture his power and stature. People who’ve worked with him say he can get a writer’s name in front of the right editor, if he wants. Newsroom leaders care what he thinks. Some reporters said Thrush had usedhis connections to help them land jobs or develop new sources.

When just sitting at a bar with a powerful man comes at a price

The downfall of Hollywood titan Weinstein has been a catalyst for a movement to stamp out workplace harassment, particularly the variety to pits powerful men against much less powerful women. They are facing consequences for their behavior like never before, including men in media. Halperin lost a coveted book deal. NPR news chief Michael Oreskes resigned. Leon Wieseltier lost funding for his new magazine. And Lockhart Steele, the editorial director of Vox Media, Vox’s parent company, was firedfor misconduct.
Thrush wasn’t my boss at Politico. He was a reporter and I was an editor. We were on different teams and hardly crossed each other’s paths. But he was an incredibly influential person in the newsroom and in political journalism, a world I was still trying to break into in a meaningful way at the time.
It wasn’t that Thrush was offering young women a quid pro quo deal, such as sex in exchange for mentorship. Thrush, just by his stature, put women in a position of feeling they had to suck up and move on from an uncomfortable encounter.

What happened at the bar was bad. What happened next was worse.

On that night five years ago, I joined Thrush and a handful of other reporters for a few rounds at the Continental, a Politico hangout in Rosslyn, Virginia. At first, nothing seemed strange, until the crowd had dwindled down to Thrush, me, and one other female colleague.
Thrush tossed a $20 bill at her and told her to take a cab and leave us, “the grown-ups,” alone. He slid into my side of the booth, blocking me in. I was wearing a skirt, and he put his hand on my thigh. He started kissing me. I pulled myself together and got out of there, shoving him on my way out.
In the morning, Thrush sent me an apologetic email. I didn’t save it, but I recall it as similar to the one he would later send to Padró Ocasio’s friend in June. He said he was sorry, but he didn’t say for what, exactly.
A few hours later, I saw him in deep conversation with a number of men I worked with. My gut told me something was up. I worried he was covering his tracks by spreading a rosy version of the night. As many people told me in the course of reporting this story, Thrush is a talker — or, as many put it, “a bullshitter.” He likes to hear gossip, and he likes to spread it.
Gradually, things in the office started to change for me. Certain men in the newsroom, I thought, started to look at me differently. Some of their comments seemed a bit too familiar or were outright offensive. I had a nagging sense that I just wasn’t as respected as I used to be.
I started to think maybe I shouldn’t be in journalism if I couldn’t hang in a tough newsroom. I found myself on edge, nervous and anxious all the time. I started to believe I had brought this all on myself.
In the course of reporting this story, I was told by a male reporter who’d worked at Politico at the time that my instinct was right. He said that the day after that night at the bar, Thrush told him about the incident, except with the roles reversed. I had come onto him, the reporter said Thrush told him, and he had gently shut it down.
In a statement, Thrush denied that he disparaged me to colleagues at Politico. He said that “the encounter described [in this story] was consensual, brief, and ended by me.”
The source said that Thrush frequently told versions of this story with different young women as the subject. He would talk up a night out drinking with a young attractive woman, usually a journalist. Then he’d claim that she came onto him. In his version of these stories, Thrush was the responsible grown-up who made sure nothing happened.
There was no conventional HR office at Politico at the time (a VP of human resources position was created there in 2016). So I brought my concern about the night to an experienced colleague right after the incident. When I believed rumors were damaging my standing in the office a few months later, I told a very senior editor. I was under the impression that nothing could be done. Neither person works at Politico anymore. A spokesperson for Politico, Brad Dayspring, said that no complaint ever reached the general counsel’s desk.

Women have a very different story to tell

One former Politico staffer told me that she’d become worried about her reputation after an encounter with Thrush sometime in the winter of 2012-’13. The scene was, again, a Politico going-away party. She said she and Thrush spoke most of the night, until they ended up the last two of the party left in the bar. She says she’d had a lot to drink and Thrush offered her a ride home.
Her recollection of the details is fuzzy, but one way or another, he ended up in her place.
“I had alcohol blur,” she says. But Thrush was far from being the grown-up who preventedthings from going too far; instead, she says, she was the one to raise objections. “I remember stopping him at one point and saying, ‘Wait, you’re married.’” After that, she says, he left almost immediately. “I remember that by the time he left, I didn’t have much clothes on.”
The woman says she was struggling at Politico at the time, and she wondered if gossip might have made her situation worse. “I don’t know if he told other male reporters or editors. Did that shade their opinion of me? There’s no way to know.”
She says she doesn’t believe she was pressured or that she’s a victim.
But she also says she wants others to know about what happened.
“The only regret I have is not telling more women. I told two. What if I had told five?”
One of the two women she told at the time shared with me her recollection of the conversation. “I remember she kept reemphasizing that they were both really drunk, that it was consensual,” the friend said. “And she did not believe it was an assault. But I do remember she was very rattled and upset and ashamed of what she saw as her role in it.”
Another woman described to me a 2013 Politico party that she attended in her early 20s. She said she was standing alone, Thrush came up to talk to her, and suddenly he leaned in and landed a wet kiss on her ear.
“It all happened very quickly. And he leaned in very quickly,” she said. “At the time, I remember thinking … adults sometimes kiss each other on the cheek. Then sometimes they miss and slobber on your ear. It was my way of thinking this wasn't as weird as I thought.”

Over time, the “whisper network” of warnings about Thrush has grown louder

A 21-year-old woman arrived in Washington last year to intern in a journalism organization. She heard from people who don’t even work with Thrush to be careful. An employee at the Washington Post told her about him when she first arrived. A few months later, she says, a reporter at Roll Call warned her about him, too. She passed on the intel to four other female interns.
Multiple young women journalists I spoke to said that they’d heard serious warnings about Thrush from friends. The word among women just starting in Washington, they said, is to be careful if you meet him at an event with alcohol, or if he sends you a direct message on Twitter. (Thrush suspended his Twitter account in September, saying it was too much of a distraction.)
There’s something endearing and inspiring about interns who self-organized to guard themselves and each other against advances offered under guise of praise and professional advice — but there’s also something sad about a world in which the savvy move is to teach a young woman not to trust an older man who has something nice to say about her work.
And whispers don’t fix everything. When Bianca Padró Ocasio’s friend found herself at the bar with Thrush in June, with him asking her to leave and go to another bar with him, she went to the bathroom and texted Padró Ocasio and another female friend, both of whom were also in journalism.
“I’m drunk,” she texted, as saved screenshots of the messages show. “I’m nervous about this Glenn situation.”
The friends urged her to call an Uber.
“I am,” she responded. “I need to go home.”
“Who else is there??” one friend asked. “Is there a woman you can uber home with?”
Instead, the woman ended up leaving the bar with Thrush, who suggested they walk off some of their drinking — get some fresh air.
He repeatedly tried to take her hand as they walked, she recalls, but she kept pulling it away. They crossed the Key Bridge from the Virginia neighborhood where Politico’s office is located into Georgetown. He led her down an incline to a dimly lit path along the old C&O Canal bed. He kissed her, she says, and she panicked. Then her phone rang, jolting her. It was Padró Ocasio.
“I felt very protective of her,” Padró Ocasio said, describing the call. “I thought, she’s drunk right now. If I don’t do something, I’m not going to forgive myself.”
The young woman ordered an Uber — the receipt shows it was about 11 pm — and says she planned to call Padró Ocasio back once inside the car. In the few minutes she waited, she said, Thrush walked back over to her and started to kiss her again. She began to cry. When Thrush saw, he abruptly walked off, waving his hand flippantly, and left her alone to wait for her ride, she said.
Glenn Thrush sent an apologetic email to a woman who had met him at a going-away party. She described an unwanted encounter with him, but felt she had to send a cordial reply and stay on good terms.
Courtesy of the young woman on the email thread
Padró Ocasio’s friend received an email from Thrush the next morning with the subject line, “Nice meeting you!” followed by, “(And apologies?).” She responded congenially. “It was nice meeting you too! (And no worries haha).” She also met him a few weeks later at a tea shop near the White House, a meeting they’d discussed the night at the bar. Thrush sent her a few critiques of her stories. She said she feels that despite her misgivings, she has to stay on good terms with him since he is connected.
“I hate feeling obligated to make him think I think everything is fine,” she said. “It’s been this thing hanging over me. I feel like I have to be nice to this person just because he knows people.”
In his emailed statement, Thrush said that the night in June with the young woman was the last time he’s had a drink.He wrote:
The June incident [described above] was a life-changing event [for me]. The woman involved was upset by my actions and for that I am deeply sorry.
Over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily. During that period, I have done things that I am ashamed of, actions that have brought great hurt to my family and friends.
I have not taken a drink since June 15, 2017, have resumed counseling and will soon begin out-patient treatment for alcoholism. I am working hard to repair the damage I have done.

“I feel really strongly about not creating a toxic environment”

In the course of his text dialogue with Padró Ocasio about the incident with her friend, Thrush wrote, “I feel really strongly about not creating a toxic environment.”
Back at Politico years ago, Thrush’s behavior contributed to a toxic environment I experienced. Dozens of people told me that Politico has changed dramatically since Carrie Budoff Brown took over a year ago as the publication’s editor. Multiple men and women who work for her say her standards are high and she has no time for the kind of behavior I described.
Budoff Brown was at the going-away party in June where Thrush was in the booth with the 23-year-old woman. She told me she noticed them talking but, like other attendees I talked to, she didn’t know that anything happened afterward.
“I was disappointed in Glenn but had no reason to think that anything would progress beyond the bar that night,” she said. “And I am saddened to learn in the course of your reporting that it did.”
“Great journalism and great business require a great workplace. My colleagues and I have worked hard to nurture a newsroom where people are supportive, good to each other, and where mutual respect is the way of life. We have zero tolerance for anything else.”
New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush inside the White House briefing room on February 24.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
By the time of the June incident, Thrush was gone from Politico anyway — off to the New York Times, which has hired many of Politico’s top reporters over the years. But now he will be on hiatus pending a Times investigation that was sparked by my reporting for this story.
"The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” said Eileen Murphy, the senior vice president of communications for the New York Times, in a written statement. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended. We support his decision to enter a substance abuse program. In the meantime, we will not be commenting further.”
It’s the Times itself, of course, that has done so much to spark the current conversation around harassment with its exposés on Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. There’s probably no loftier perch in all of political journalism from which one could teach the trade and enlist young women into the calling — or, as the case may be, betray them.

It's About Time!

Charles Manson is rotting in hell

Charles Manson, the ’60s cult leader behind one of the most notorious killings in American history, died Sunday in California after a prolonged illness, officials said. He was 83.
Manson – housed at Corcoran State Prison since 1989 – died at 8:13 p.m. local time at Kern County Hospital, the California Department of Corrections said in a press release early Monday.
He’d been in failing health for months and was first hospitalized back in January, reportedly with serious gastrointestinal problems.
Manson — who infamously wore a swastika tattoo between his eyebrows — had spent more than 45 years in prison after being convicted of directing his “Manson Family” clan of troubled, mostly female, followers to kill seven people in California in the summer of 1969. The dead included actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, who was stabbed 16 times.
“I am crime,” Manson proudly proclaimed during a collect call to The Post from prison in the mid-2000s.
Born on Nov. 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a prostitute named Kathleen Maddox, Manson was officially dubbed “no name Maddox” at birth and apparently never knew his biological father.
From a very young age, Manson was a self-styled “outlaw” who took pride in being a criminal and reveled in all the mayhem he caused.
Manson committed his first crimes at around 13 years old, robbing liquor stores to scrounge together enough money to eat and rent motel rooms.
During his teenage years, Manson was in-and-out of juvenile halls and was placed in the Indiana Boys School, where he was sexually assaulted before he escaped in 1951, according to a book, “Manson In His Words,” by Nuel Emmons.
Between 1951 and 1955, Manson was repeatedly arrested for a variety of federal and state offenses, including stealing cars and robbing gas stations.
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Charles MansonGetty Images
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Sharon TateAP
He was sent to reformatories, but none of them could wean him off his appetite for trouble.
By 1957, Manson was doing hard time in the federal prison at Terminal Island in Los Angeles for violating his probation after he was caught stealing a car and driving it over state lines.
He was eventually paroled, but started a career as a pimp and tried to cash forged US Treasury checks.
Manson found himself back at Terminal Island, where, on March 21, 1967 – the day of his release – he pleaded with prison officials to keep him there because he had been institutionalized for most of his life up to that point.
The wild-eyed, gnome-like figure ended up staying in Los Angeles, where he wrote and played music with a guitar – and began a hippie cult that drew tough men and disaffected suburban young women.
But Manson’s inability to build a musical career led him to an even darker path.
Manson hung out with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and the band’s record producer, Terry Melcher, but the latter refused to give him a record deal.
Furious, Manson put together a plan to exact his revenge, ordering several of his drug-addled, brainwashed followers to kill everyone inside Melcher’s former residence.
Despite knowing that Melcher no longer lived there, Manson specifically chose that location because it represented the music industry that had snubbed him.
Just as importantly, Manson, who harbored bizarre racist theories and philosophies, wanted to start a race war – something he called “Helter Skelter,” named after the Beatles song by the same name.
On Aug. 9, 1969, Manson’s disciples, Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, descended on Melcher’s former compound in Benedict Canyon, where pregnant actress Sharon Tate was now living with filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Polanski was overseas shooting a movie at the time, but Tate was hosting a low-key party with friends, including hair stylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski.
First, the killers fatally shot Steven Parent, who had been visiting a caretaker on the property. They then butchered to death Tate, Sebring, Folger and Frykowski.
The next night, Manson directed Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins and another follower, Leslie Van Houten, to murder supermarket magnate Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary LaBianca, in their Los Feliz home.
In the decades since the murders, Manson has become an icon for troubled youth and a fixture in pop culture.
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Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case in 1969.AP
There have been numerous books written about the “Manson Murders,” as well as movies and documentaries detailing the case.
Manson himself reached almost mythical status through his strange and colorful prison interviews with notable media types, including Charlie Rose, Diane Sawyer and Geraldo Rivera.
In his final years in prison, Manson almost married Afton “Star” Burton, who moved from Mississippi to Corcoran just to be with him.
Although they filed for a marriage license, Manson never got hitched to the woman who is more than 50 years his junior.
No one who carried out murders at Manson’s behest has has ever been released from prison.
Watson, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten remained locked up in California while Atkins died in prison in 1989.
A board granted Van Houten – who at 19 was the youngest of the killers – parole in September.
But the ruling is still under review and California Gov. Jerry Brown will get to uphold, reject or modify the finding of parole early next year.

Democrats Blowing Smoke Again

DON’T BE FOOLED: Democratic Calls For An Ethics Committee On Franken Are Total Meaningless Garbage. This One Statistic Shows Why.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

So, we now have not merely a credible allegation of sexual harassment, but an evidenced one, this one by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN): KABC radio host Leanne Tweeden released a picture of Franken apparently attempting to grab her breasts while she slept while both were on a USO tour; she also accuses Franken of forcibly ramming his tongue into her mouth during a rehearsal for a skit on that tour. Franken has apologized – well, sort of – and said that he respects women.
Have Democrats reacted with the same kind of ardor and alacrity to the Franken accusations to which they reacted to the Roy Moore allegations of underage sexual abuse? To read the headlines, you might think so: many Democrats are calling for a Senate ethics investigation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also called for an ethics probe, as did Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), among others.

Wow, you might say. Those Democrats – they sure take sexual harassment allegations seriously, unlike those mean, nasty Republicans!
Yeah, no.
Here’s what you need to know about ethics investigations: they never go anywhere. Don’t believe me? Between 2007 and 2016, the Senate Ethics Committee imposed zero sanctions against anyone. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. That despite 613 allegations, and 75 preliminary investigations. Here’s the USA Today report:
The committee's activity reports indicate that in nearly every case, allegations are dismissed because there are not enough facts to prove wrongdoing (13 of 55 cases last year) or there is no Senate rule governing the alleged activity (36 of 55 cases). In seven cases last year, the Ethics Committee carried out "preliminary inquiries;" five of those were dismissed as inadvertent or minor technical violations. None of those cases was made public by the committee.
The House Ethics Committee is far more active:
By comparison, from January 2013 through December 2014, the House Ethics Committee launched 53 investigations, created four subcommittees to probe specific matters and issued 19 "publicly disclosed resolutions" as well as 43 resolutions that were confidential, according to an activities report it issued a year ago.
So a Senate ethics investigation is where allegations go to die.
Which is why Franken himself has called for an ethics investigation . . . against himself. Yes, seriously. “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate,” Franken stated.
Of course.
This is a far cry from Republican calls for Roy Moore to step away from his campaign, or their threats to refuse him a Senate seat altogether. This is a way for Democrats to kick the can down the road, to pretend that they’re standing foursquare against harassment while actually winking and nodding at their friends.

Merkel Might Be On The Way Out.


EU turbulence mounting amid turmoil in Germany

The European currency plunged to a two-month low against the yen on news that in Germany the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) have pulled out of four-week negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and the ecologist Greens.
With the failure to form a new coalition, Merkel’s fourth term as Germany’s chancellor is now in doubt. Her party has tried for four weeks to enlist the two smaller parties for her coalition.
It’s better not to govern than to govern badly,” FDP head Christian Lindner told reporters in Berlin.
By 9:30am GMT, the European currency recovered but failed to ease worries on the financial markets.
“It’s very concerning, and creates this big uncertainty in the eurozone,” said Kisoo Park, a global bond manager at Manulife Asset Management in Hong Kong, as quoted by the Dow Jones Newswires. The financier added he expects the euro to fall further in the short term.
While Merkel is often criticized for her foreign policy and immigration, in three terms, she has consolidated Germany’s position as the strongest economy in the European Union and fourth in the world. Merkel has led the eurozone during the debt crisis that has overshadowed it since the end of 2009.
Germany’s DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce said political uncertainty would be bad for the economy.
“There is the danger that work on major issues for the future of our country will be delayed for a prolonged period of time,” DIHK President Eric Schweitzer told Reuters.
“German companies must now prepare for a possibly long period of uncertainty. This is always difficult for the economy.”
The European markets managed to recover by 12:00pm GMT on Monday. Germany’s DAX was trading flat to positive at 0.3 percent, the British FTSE100 was gaining 0.1 percent, while the French CAC40 was up 0.21 percent.