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White House a hostile working environment for women: Dunn tries to walk it back, but Suskind has tapes

Nobody could have predicted that the White House would be hostile to women. Oh, wait... Anyhow:

Suskind--who used more than 700 hours of interviews with top administration officials, both former and current--to produce "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President"--took the unusual step of allowing a Washington Post reporter to listen to a recording of an interview with former White House communications director Anita Dunn. Dunn had given Suskind one of the sharpest quotes about the White House work environment, and Suskind played the recording back to prove that he had quoted her accurately.

"This place would be in court for a hostile workplace," Dunn is quoted as saying in Suskind's book. "Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."

Dunn told the Washington Post on Friday that quote was taken out of context.

On Monday, Suskind allowed a Post reporter to review a recorded excerpt of the original April telephone interview:

In that conversation, Dunn is heard telling Suskind about a conversation she had with Jarrett.

"I remember once I told Valerie that, I said if it weren't for the president, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace," Dunn is heard telling Suskind. "Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."

The apparent debunking of Dunn's denial follows backpedaling by Christina Romer, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers. Romer told Suskind that, after then-economics adviser Lawrence Summers had excluded her from a meeting, she "felt like a piece of meat."

"I can't imagine that I ever said this," Romer, former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told the Post last week.

Hmmm. Sounds like a non-denial denial, to me. Maybe other women will speak up?

NOTE Somebody should ask Elizabeth Warren her views on these episodes.

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Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Romer was in the minority philosophically, as well as being in the gender minority. She seemed to be one of the few who thought that maybe the Obama Administration should try to actually do something about all that unemployment, instead of just telling us we're going to have to suck it up like the banks did. It looked to me like either could have explained that treatment, and it wouldn't surprise me if both were a problem. I've been treated that way when my views were in the minority, and I don't think I'm all that effeminate.

Kinda goes to Hugh's comments about what's really important, although I think there are some, ahem, "teachable moments" here. Watching how men sometimes behave when they're in the majority, and how women feel about that, ought to be instructional for anyone who is willing to absorb the lesson.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Sorry if someone's all ready linked to this classic oldie recently in regards to the Suskind work environment story in one of the other threads.

[Beware, this YouTube clip has a lot of volume on my machine for some reason.]

Submitted by Hugh on

Somehow I just can't get too het up about Suskind's gossipy book or a bunch of Obama Administration corporatist, kleptocratic hacks backstabbing and settling scores with each other. The key story is not that there was a hostile work environment but that this Administration is hostile to the American people. And we knew that before this book came along.

Submitted by lambert on

This story reinforces the people who were right in 2008, and further splits the D base. All good!

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

Is just one more example of how what gets said and what gets done differ.

I think it is worth considering that what happens at the White House sets the example for many other organizations. Yes, the administration is horrible to ALL American people but it is a special kind of horrible for under-represented groups like women, the poor, elderly and minorities.

I'm not seeing any ethnic minorities in pictures of the leadership either.