Late last year, the New York Post dropped a slut-shaming blitzkrieg on Democratic strategist Lis Smith, a New York City political up-and-comer who happens to be dating her old boss, Eliot Spitzer. It involved staking out Smith’s apartment, tsk-tsking her holiday dress choice, relaying questionable hot tub details from her New Year’s vacation with Spitzer. Revealing its political motivations, the paper called for Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose campaign hired Smith after Spitzer lost his primary race, to exclude Smith from his administration on the grounds of her romantic choices.
Whether dating Spitzer would in fact impact Smith’s performance as a de Blasio communicator — and whether it is ethical to make employment decision on those grounds — is up for debate. Less debatable is the ugliness animating the Post’s coverage, which never missed an opportunity to clumsily suggest that Smith is a “ho.” Today New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante raises the more important question, previously ignored. Why did nonjudgmental, super-tolerant Mayor de Blasio — with his formerly lesbian wife, battling-substance-abuse daughter, and “therapeutic” management style — relent to the Post’s partisan sexism?
On Dec. 31, after a week of relentless tabloid coverage that included a Post cover with a picture of Ms. Smith and the headline “Ho! Ho! Ho!” she received a call from the mayor-elect’s team, according to a friend who was with her at the time, telling her she was not going to get the job even though various attendant details had already been hammered out. No explanation was offered, the friend said; the reason was “self-evident.”
De Blasio’s press secretary declined to provide a non-Spitzer reason Smith’s job was yanked out from underneath her, but President Obama’s deputy campaign manager, whom Smith also worked for, provided a ringing endorsement. Even better: Smith told Bellafante she is not letting it get to her. She said, “I want to make 2014 the biggest and most productive year of my life. I want to show people that who I date has no bearing on my professional capacity and I want to use this as motivation to become one of the best in the business. I want to prove them all wrong.”