This weekend, for my first time, I went to Washington, DC, for the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. And mostly to maintain a record for my own memory and ensure myself that I wasn’t dreaming, I decided to jot down my best moments from the many-great-moments-packed weekend. Plus there are some stories too good not to share. So in no particular order, here they are:
1. A progressive walks up to Christine O’Donnell in a prom dress at a bar…
No, it’s not a joke. Failed Delaware Tea Party candidate for the United States Senate Christine O’Donnell was at the MSNBC after-party. We talked. She complained that the media was unfair to her (as it often is to women candidates).
O’Donnell said: “Nobody knows who I really am.”
I said: “Well, I know you’re not a witch.”
And she laughed. Which was admittedly awesome of her.
2. Zou Bisou Bisou!
Megan Draper is my favorite character from Mad Men. Seriously, if she’s not yours, you should get your head checked.
At the New Yorker party, I met the fantastic actress Jessica Pare who plays Megan and promptly expressed my profound horror that Don Draper would cheat on her. WTF! We hung out for a while and talked politics along with Jessica’s musician boyfriend John Kastner (he of awesome hair) and the always-fun Meredith Fineman.
Jessica told me she’s a “total nerd” and reads Mother Jones cover to cover. As if she could get any cooler in my book!?!?
3. All of my woman journalist heroes in one room
When I started out in the media three years ago, one of the first things I did was look for inspiring role models from whom I could learn. I had the extraordinary honor and privilege of meeting many of the greatest women (and men, too!) in media this past weekend including but not limited to: Candy Crowley, Cokie Roberts, Mandy Grunwald, Lynn Sweet, Gayle King, Dana Bash, Clara Jeffrey, Tammy Haddad, Karen Finney, Tina Brown, Nell Scovell. And of course it was great to see all of my fantastic Fox News colleagues as well, including Alisyn Camerota, Martha MacCallum, Andrea Tantaros and many more — and ol’ friends like Arianna Huffington, Alex Wagner, SE Cupp and Krystal Ball. So many fantastic, inspiring women voices in the media to make us all proud!
4. Hanging with the best fairy godmothers imaginable
I would never have even gone down to the so-called #nerdprom if Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol had not encouraged me and invited me to share their room. Talk about amazing and inspiring women leaders! If you don’t know about their important effort to create “the old boys club” for women, you should. Find out about The Li.st here.
5. I apologize for every joke I ever made about Callista Gingrich’s hair
First of all, it looks pretty damn awesome in person. Second of all, I finally met Callista (along with Newt) and not only was she absolutely lovely but Callista told me that she enjoys watching me on Fox News and said, “You do a great job of holding your own!” Very sweet of her to say so.
6. Confessing my love for Kathleen Sebelius — to Kathleen Sebelius!
Sometimes, you gotta just go for it. There I was, steps away from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius who I indeed have a big crush on in every way imaginable. So I told her as much. And then quickly pointed out that I have a partner and, you know, I’m not going to try and do anything about it — but I just wanted to tell her she’s awesome. (I tried to forget about the Plan B thing for a second…) Admittedly though it was a bit awkward when I saw her the next day. She waved coyly. I blushed. What was I thinking?
7. Seeing DC Moving and Shaking
Best summed up in this tweet from the Huffington Post’s Michael Hogan, who I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with — accurately capturing the mystique of the nerd prom’s official stenographer and unofficial king, Politico’s Mike Allen:
Best thing about DC, as always, was spying @mikeallen in the wild. Caught him documenting hors d’ouevres with a phone cam today.
— Michael Hogan (@m1keh0gan) April 28, 2013
8. Holding hands with Ian McKellan
Let’s be clear about something: There are actors and then there are actors. And then, in a class basically occupied by only himself and Patrick Stewart (!), there is Ian McKellan. I was a big fan before I met Ian. Now I am a supernova of a fan. Such a fun, lovely and thoughtful gentleman. I’m smitten!
It was definitely a peak experience when my friends Patrick and Sunny introduced me to Ian. But when, a few hours later I saw Ian at another party and he joyfully shouted at me, “Where the fuck have you been?” I thought I had died and gone to some sort of Shakespearean heaven.
And in case you’re wondering, the low point was definitely stepping on Sharon Stone’s toe. Otherwise, the weekend was amazing — with many other great moments and conversations and such than I could include here!
On MSNBC’s The Cycle and in her Daily News column today, conservative pundit S.E. Cupp responded to my essay for Salon about the dangers of conservative embracing gay marriage as part of a larger “marriage promotion” effort.
On Tuesday, MSNBC host S.E. Cupp castigated liberal columnist Sally Kohn after she wrote a piece saying that society should not only accept gay marriage, but move beyond the promotion of marriage as a relevant institution altogether. “The judgmental moral hierarchy of conservative marriage supremacy should be looked at by all of us with a queer eye,” Kohn wrote. After summarizing and dissecting Kohn’s argument, Cupp declared that Kohn’s countercultural call to action was both excessive and flawed.
You can read the rest of Mediaite’s coverage here.
And here’s the video clip:
Also, an exchange with S.E. — whom I very much like and respect — on Twitter last night:
@sallykohn Thanks, you too!
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) March 26, 2013
I really enjoyed this conversation with the queer women’s website Autostraddle – and am very flattered by the result. Here’s an excerpt:
Kohn’s consistent optimism was inspiring and, quite frankly, surprising, but as we asked her more about it we started to understand how she can maintain such a positive outlook working in contemporary American politics. “My deeply-help ideals come not out of a place of anger,” she told us, “they come out of a place of love. I love my country, I love the people, I want the best for them.”
I hope you’ll read the rest.
I can’t tell you how honored and flattered I am by the story in the New York Times media business section about my journey to pundit-land and my experience so far. Here’s is the full text — or read it online here.
At Fox News, a Liberal Pundit Finds the Spotlight
By ELIZABETH JENSEN
Sally Kohn is a former community organizer who prefers baggy clothes and doesn’t own a television. She, her partner and their 4-year-old daughter live in the liberal bastion of Park Slope in Brooklyn, and she recently proudly posted on Twitter her new status as “co-squad leader at the Park Slope Food Coop.” Absolutely nothing about her screams obvious contributor to the Fox News Channel.
But for the last year, Ms. Kohn has been making a name for herself in the crowded arena of political punditry, having made her way into the business at Fox News, the country’s highest-rated news channel, and a favorite destination for conservative viewers.
Michael Clemente, Fox News’s executive vice president for news editorial, compared her favorably to Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate who was one of Fox’s roster of liberals.
“Sally is like Gerry: she says whatever’s on her mind,” Mr. Clemente said in a telephone interview. “She has some fresh thoughts,” he said, adding, “She’s not part of the pack.”
In the last couple of weeks, Ms. Kohn has, among appearances on Fox, put forth the argument for President Obama’s re-election, discussed women voters and the election and debated whether Ann Romney has been treated unfairly by the women of “The View.” “If this is grilling, I don’t think anybody has been to a barbecue,” she said.
In August, Ms. Kohn, who also writes for Salon.com and posts on Twitter constantly, won national attention with her Foxnews.com critique of the vice-presidential candidate’s Republican National Convention speech, with the innocuous headline “Paul Ryan’s speech in 3 words.” (Those were “dazzling,” “deceiving” and “distracting” and the commentary called the speech “an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”)
Although Fox News never put Ms. Kohn on the air to discuss the post, the viral phenomenon collected 2.1 million unique hits, putting it among the site’s top five original posts for the year.
Ms. Kohn, who is 35, has a law degree, has worked at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and has run a feminist organization. Her unorthodox trajectory into punditry began in fall 2009, when she left her job at the Center for Community Change after six years of organizing communities, working on issues including welfare reform, health care and immigration.
“I was one of those people on the left who was frustrated, and there were a bunch of us, that the institutional progressive movement had, for lack of a better word, had sewn its lips to the rear end of the White House,” she said, adding that her organizing work was never about party politics. “I was about movement politics, about ideas, about vision, about how to get regular people engaged in the process of making the world a better place.”
At an Opportunity Agenda conference that year, a stranger approached Ms. Kohn, insisting she needed to pursue a television career. “I think I laughed at her,” Ms. Kohn recalled, adding, “That had not been at all a role that I thought for myself. In organizing, you’re all behind the scenes.” The stranger turned out to be Geraldine Laybourne, the cable executive instrumental in the development of Nickelodeon and Oxygen.
Ms. Laybourne, in an e-mail, recalled that Ms. Kohn “was incredibly articulate about complex issues. She had a point of view and could put it forward in a way that made people listen to her,” adding that, “I urged her to become a commentator frankly because we need more bright, young, well-informed women on TV.”
Ms. Kohn, still feeling “deeply uncomfortable” on television, agreed to training at the Women’s Media Center. “I think that Geraldine and I got her to understand that she could use that voice to do an awful lot of good,” said Carol Jenkins, W.M.C.’s founding president.
After several online appearances, she went on Sean Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show in fall 2010. After more appearances on CNN and MSNBC as well, she began to enjoy it.
“I started to realize this is really just like organizing, but with a bigger audience. Instead of talking about ideas and values in a church basement with 10 people or a hundred people, you get to do it on television in front of a million people,” she said.
The MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes, a mentor, knew her at the Center for Community Change and called her organizing background valuable, because it “teaches you to be undogmatic, to listen to people.”
“It forces you to take seriously politics as seen through the eyes of people, as opposed to the eyes of people who talk about politics,” he said.
In December 2011, after sending the Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, an e-mail, she was signed to a paid contributor contract.
The move raised eyebrows among some on the left, but Adam Mason, the state policy director for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, called it a courageous move similar to organizing. “You don’t see many pundits going right into the devil’s den,” he said, referring to Fox News. “You’re really putting yourself out there in front of a lot of people that really don’t want to hear what you want to say.”
Ms. Jenkins said she was surprised that Ms. Kohn ended up at Fox, but added, “I’m glad she’s there.”
Eventually, Ms. Kohn said, she would like to have her own cable show, but for the moment she is still cobbling together a living from her various outlets. She is paid when on Fox News, but not for Foxnews.com writing. The liberal Web site Daily Kos urged supporters to donate to her after the Paul Ryan commentary. She received some $4,000, she said, adding, “I was so touched.”
Here is some great coverage and commentary on the New York Times story
TV Newser: “Sally Kohn: ‘FNC’s Geraldine Ferarro’”
Out Magazine: “Is Sally Kohn the Next Rachel Maddow?”
Red State: “Ride, Sally… Ride” — praise from a staunch conservative, talk radio producer Susan Cloud
About 24 hours after my piece refuting Paul Ryan’s RNC speech went up on the Fox News website, I tweeted this:
Wow, Internet, thanks for an awesome 24 hours. Glad to know truth can go viral.
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) August 31, 2012
It appears that my article “Paul Ryan’s Speech in 3 Words” which I wrote for the Fox News website went viral. I’m still trying to keep up with it all, but here are some of the places where it’s been cited, shared, etc. All I can say is: Wow. And thanks.
And second, for the record, no I do not get paid for my writing for Fox News. So if you’re inclined and want to help keep me off the stripper poles in Tampa, feel free to make a tax-deductible donation via my fiscal sponsor the Grassroots Policy Project in order to support my work. I’d be grateful.
Here’s the clip from the Colbert Report:
The Atlantic Wire’s Serena Dai named by article one of the five best columns of the day, alongside the great Maureen Dowd and Bill Keller of the New York Times.
Reuter’s columnist and social media editor Anthony De Rosa tweeted:
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) August 30, 2012
A Huffington Post story about my piece by Bonnie Kavoussi has so far been shared over 21,000 times and received over 10,000 comments. And there are a bunch of other stories just about my essay — in the Houston Chronicle, PolitiScoop, Daily Kos, Truthdig. Syndicated columnist Pat Cunningham wrote a blog post about my article that was posted on more city and small-town newspaper websites than I can count. And Michael Musto wrote about my column at the Village Voice.
Henry Blodget quoted me in his post about Ryan’s speech on Business Insider. So did Gabrielle Levy in a UPI story, Dylan Byers in Politico, Aviva Shen at ThinkProgress, Alex Hern in the New Statesman, Kevin Spak in Newser, Michael Arceneaux for NewsOne, John Aravos on AmericaBlog, Raf Sanchez in the UK’s Telegraph, Laura Matthews in the International Business Times, Latifah Muhammad on Hip Hop Wired, Sarah Wolfe for Global Post, Rekha Basu in the Des Moines Register, Tod Robberson in the Dallas Morning News, and the magazine The Week.
I hope all these folks have their Google Alerts set and know I appreciate being included in their stories.
I’m sure I’m missing some but that’s a good start.
Then, for fun, there the tweets from famous folks. Here are a few:
@sallykohn Thanks for being unbiased in your news coverage. The american public needs the TRUTH to be reported going into this election!
— octavia spencer (@octaviaspencer) August 30, 2012
Here’s a FOX News article for your dad: foxnews.com/opinion/2012/0…
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) August 30, 2012
— Dulé Hill (@DuleHill) August 30, 2012
— Harvey Fierstein (@HarveyFierstein) August 30, 2012
For an unbiased review of Ryan’s speech take a look at what this Fox Reporter says fxn.ws/OzkZ8fI couldnt agree with him more
— Suze Orman (@SuzeOrmanShow) August 30, 2012
Then a correction:
Oh my it was written by a womanhttp://twitter.com/sallykohnSo sorry Sally.Kudos to you for having the guts to tell the truth.
— Suze Orman (@SuzeOrmanShow) August 30, 2012
@sallykohn Very good piece!! Thank YOU!
— Morgan Fairchild (@morgfair) August 30, 2012
Anyway, keep sharing the original article here. And for those looking for somewhere to post a comment, feel free to do so on this post — including if you want to point out any links or mentions that I’ve missed. And thanks.
First, thank you so much to all of you who have donated to support my work! Words cannot express how touched and grateful I am. Feel free to tell your friends!
Second, here are some more mentions and links.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow quoted me in his column today.
Apparently, Bill Maher mentioned me on Real Time, but I don’t have the clip yet.
Comedian Andy Borowitz referenced my piece in a post for the New Yorker.
Andrew Sullivan cited my essay in his article for Newsweek’s Daily Beast.
Is all press really good press? From Mediaite:
On Fox Business Network on Monday, host Don Imus called out liberal columnist Sally Kohn for expressing skepticism that a story Imus read in the Drudge Report was true. When a producer pointed out that Drudge only linked to a news services wire story, Kohn said if she did not express skepticism over the Drudge headline she could later be accused of validating a misleading story.
You can read the full story here.
I swear, I didn’t know this was being transcribed word for word or I would have been more succinct. And dropped words like “Hegelian”. Sheesh…
Check out this long but worth it interview with me on AfterEllen, the lesbian and bisexual women’s culture and entertainment website.
AE: Do you have a favorite show to appear on?
SK: Oh, whose feelings am I going to hurt? [Laughs] You know what? I have to say – and I’m not going to name names on the progressive side – but I will just say that people have these ideas and part of is it that I think the more that we can break down our ideas of each other. Look, I am devastated to see the level of political discourse in general in this country lowered. And the name-calling and the nastiness, and the hate mail, and the vitriol on Twitter, and everybody gets it, left, right, and center. And as a queer woman, you really get it. And it’s disgusting. The more we can see each other as human, it doesn’t erase the political differences, but at least we can be civil. At least we can talk about what we disagree with and learn from each other and understand where the disagreements are, as opposed to just being reduced to the most base elements. I challenge people on all sides. I think we can all do a better job of reaching toward that goal and finding the positives in those we often resort to considering our enemies.
So let me just say that, in that sense, what people are always shocked to hear, Ali, is that Sean Hannity is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Sean Hannity is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I mean, he has — we don’t agree, but he’s a sweetheart. I think that Bill O’Reilly is one of the smartest people I’ve ever talked to. I have so much fun on Megyn Kelly’s set. I don’t think there’s been a single appearance I’ve done on her show that hasn’t begun before the cameras are rolling with one or both of us singing for some reason. You know, some of my Fox colleagues — I could go on and on and on. They’re thoughtful, kind people. They’re people. You know, just because you don’t agree with every single thing that every single person thinks doesn’t mean you have to… I think we can find that and celebrate that.
You can read the full interview here.
The media insider website Mediaite picked up on my debate with Michelle Malkin yesterday. Here’s my favorite part of the piece:
“You’re a coward,” Malkin said.
“I’m not entirely sure I know how to respond,” Kohn replied. She apologized to Malkin but her apology was rejected. “I’m a naïve idealist who believes in America that we can uphold the tradition of our founders that we can disagree with each other,” said Kohn.
Hannity did say that Malkin should accept Kohn’s apology, but she refused. “This is all kabuki theater,” said Malkin. “She’s not going to be happy until we are all completely politically and ideologically lobotomized and only speak in dulcet tones the way that NPR hosts do.”
You can read their coverage here.
I attended the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association New York party with my Fox colleague Alisyn Camerota. Check out the saucy pict:
The TV Newser coverage of the evening included the following:
We also caught up with Fox News’s Alisyn Camerota and new Fox News political analyst Sally Kohn, who is settling in to her role as progressive pundit both on air and online, which includes dealing with the strident — but kind — email she receives from Fox News loyalists. Kohn — who does not come from the traditional democratic political machine, but rather from a background in community organizing — says her old friends keep her honest about her Fox News appearances.
Very kind words which put a nice cap on an awesome evening!
I’m a long-time admirer of the incredible reporting and analysis of Feministing.com so I was thrilled when they wanted to interview me about my role at Fox News and other details of my life.
My favorite part? They asked who my real-life feminist hero is:
My daughter is three-and-a-half. I watch her and the sense of possibility around her and the fact that in her lifetime, hopefully before she graduates high school she will have a female president. She can look up and down her block, around her family and see women in strong roles, see men in nurturing roles, she can see two men who have kids—the whole spectrum. I look at her as a constant reminder both of how far we’ve come. Also, for her, she will take it for granted and I hope she does. I hope that when she’s a teenager I have to wag my finger at her and take her to see Gloria Steinem and say you better appreciate this! That’s the gift we give to the next generation: their ability to take for granted how far we’ve come and also be outraged that we haven’t gone further. In that sense, she’s pushed my vision for what is needed and possibly further than anyone I’ve ever known.
Read the rest of the interview here, which includes tidbits about my favorite food and what recent news story made me want to scream.
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