Good morning, Broadsheet readers and happy Groundhog Day! Mika Brzezinski takes Michael Wolff to school, Donald Trump unwittingly unearths an Aflac ad starring his wife, and Canada shows even greater commitment to gender parity. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and predicts six more weeks of winter—stay warm this weekend!
• On Mika and Nikki. Yesterday morning, Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, the bestselling—though reportedly not entirely factual—book about the Trump White House appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
One of the book’s claims is that the president is having an affair with someone in his administration. While Wolff did not publicly identify Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as the other participant in the alleged affair, she has become the subject of incendiary rumors as a result of Wolff’s statements, such as this one:
Haley was forced to address the rumors, telling Politico last week:
Morning Joe panelist Susan Del Percio called Wolff out on his rumor-mongering on the show, and host Mika Brzezinski quickly followed up: “Do you regret inferring anything [about Haley]?”
“I did not go after her,” Wolff responded, adding that he “found it puzzling she would deny something she was not accused of.”
“You might be having a fun time playing a little game, dancing around this, but you’re slurring a woman. It’s disgraceful,” Brzezinski said. She then cut Wolff off entirely, proclaiming his time on the show, “done.”
While Wolff’s actions seem to be less sexist than they are sensationalist—the men in his book are not immune to the machinations of the rumor mill either—it’s true that women historically have tended to bear “the brunt of the reputational risk,” as The Atlantic’s Megan Garber puts it in this smart take.
I don’t disagree with this idea, but instead of bemoaning it, I’d like to take a moment and celebrate women like Mika Brzezinski and Susan Del Percio for shutting down behavior like Michael Wolff’s on national television. And while we might not all have platforms quite so large, we do have plenty of opportunities—by the water cooler, at happy hours—to follow their lead.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Well, that was fast. Since model and actress Kate Upton accused Guess? Inc. co-founder Paul Marciano of using his power in the industry to abuse women—“He shouldn’t be allowed to use his power in the industry to sexually and emotionally harass women #metoo”—the company’s stock fell 16%. Upton posted the accusation on social media Wednesday afternoon. The drop is as of Thursday afternoon. Marciano told gossip blog TMZ that he was shocked by Upton’s accusations and can’t figure out what she claims to have against him.
Wall Street Journal
• Look who’s not talking. It might seem like public figures everywhere are talking about sexual harassment these days, but that’s only half true. A Pew Research Center analysis of 44,792 Facebook posts published between Oct. 1 and Dec. 30, 2017 shows that while a large majority (72%) of women in Congress discussed the topic on social media, just 37% of their male counterparts did. The gap isn’t just gender-based: 55% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans posted on the topic.
Pew Research Center
• Thanks for the reminder! The Internet is getting a kick out of this 2005 Aflac commercial, in which Melania Trump swaps brains (and feet) with the insurer’s iconic spokesduck. The ad came to light after Donald Trump mentioned it in a public Oval Office meeting with an Aflac employee.
• All of us in command. Canada’s Senate passed a bill that alters the country’s national anthem by replacing “in all thy sons command” with “in all of us command” as part of a push to strike gendered language from O Canada. Since 1980, when O Canada officially became the country’s anthem, 12 bills have been introduced to strip the reference to “sons.” All attempts have failed until now.
• She’s running Airbnb. Airbnb’s chief business affairs and legal officer Belinda Johnson has been elevated to the new role of COO. CEO Brian Chesky has called hiring Johnson “one of the best decisions we ever made” and she is widely considered to be his right-hand woman. In other news, the company’s CFO is out and while a search firm looks for one, duties will fall to Ellie Mertz, the company’s head of global financial planning and analysis.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Elizabeth Gore is joining AI platform Alice as president and chairwoman. Karen Tumulty is joining The Washington Post Opinions section as a columnist. Niantic has acquired Escher Reality and brought CTO Diana Hu onboard. The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU, the Smithsonian’s Miami affiliate, has appointed Amy Galpin as the museum’s new Chief Curator. Janet Cowell will be taking the reins of Girls Who Invest as its new CEO.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Case closer to closed? One of Hollywood’s biggest mysteries looks closer to being solved: Thirty-seven years after actress Natalie Wood drowned, Los Angeles Sheriff investigators are calling her widower, actor Robert Wagner, a “person of interest” in the case. Wood’s death has fascinated Hollywood since it happened, spurring several books and even a television movie, 2004’s The Mystery of Natalie Wood. Wagner denies having anything to do with Wood’s death.
•Africa’s anti-abortion movement. Pacific Standard has published an in-depth investigation into “a new anti-contraception movement—conceived in the U.S., but unfolding in Africa, where women’s frustrations with the dearth of safe, effective family planning options are being co-opted and repurposed by a corner of the Christian right.” Activists are using race as a key part of their messaging, claiming “That black women are dupes of ‘Klan Parenthood’; and that anti-abortion activists are the true heirs to the civil rights movement.”
• Waters wants more. This profile of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) takes us into the office of the Congresswoman behind the memes and viral videos criticizing President Donald Trump. And while she’s already one of the most high-profile and controversial politicians on Capitol Hill, Waters—who is “not angry as much as I’m determined”—is not vindicated yet.
• A dope premiere. The 2 Dope Queens four-part HBO TV special premieres today. The show originated as a podcast co-hosted by former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams and comedian Phoebe Robinson. Check out my interview with Robinson from last summer here.