Will President-elect Obama fire Jon Favreau?
December 6, 2008 by Sheryl Lee
In the above photo, the man with “authority over [Obama’s] own words” expresses profound disrespect toward Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Jon Favreau was the chief speechwriter for Obama’s presidential campaign, and he has been named as Director of Speechwriting in Obama’s Whitehouse.
Al Kamen wrote in the Washington Post yesterday that some “interesting photos” had surfaced of Jon Favreau at “a recent party he attended.” In one of the photos, Favreau is seen “dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.” In another, Favreau has “placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady’s chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer.”
In the latter photo, Favreau and his friend (the unnamed man on the right, wearing the “Obama Staff” t-shirt) are aping the sort of frat-boy antics that might be considered sexual assault, were it a real woman in the picture and not a cardboard cutout of Sen. Clinton.
David Axelrod, senior adviser to Barack Obama, said of Favreau, “Barack trusts him…and Barack doesn’t trust too many folks with … the notion of surrendering that much authority over his own words.”
If Favreau is charged with “authority over [Obama’s] own words”, is Obama not alarmed by what Favreau is expressing in this photograph?
These antics ought to be summarily condemned by president-elect Obama. He ought to fire Jon Favreau. If he does not fire Favreau, he risks fostering the perception that he condones Favreau’s disrespect toward Sen. Clinton. He also risks encouraging this sort of behavior in other young men toward women who are not merely cardboard cutouts.
Drinking and sexual assault are a pernicious and persistent problem on college campuses.
Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, responds, “Favreau’s mix of alcohol and groping are hardly a laughing matter. It is a national catastrophe that 32% of our college women are victims of domestic violence. Every mother and father should be appalled by Favreau’s actions which would seem to be encouraging degradation and sexualization of women.”
Of course, it’s common practice to try to diminish the status of powerful women by invoking their sexuality in a demeaning manner, but is this what we should expect will occur in Whitehouse staff meetings?
According to the Washington Post article, “Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines cast the photos as evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps.”
‘Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon’s obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application,’ he said in an e-mail.
While Sen. Clinton may be prepared to brush the incident off, American women cannot—not when every young woman who goes to a club or a party where there are young men and alcohol must consider the risk of sexual assault. If Obama does not react strongly to this incident, some who see it will take it as a cue for how they ought to treat women—because this is how the big boys do it, after all.
Ironically, other famous alumni of Jon Favreau’s alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, are Clarence Thomas and Chris Matthews, also noted for their less-than-respectful attitudes toward women.
The New Agenda member Anna drafted the following letter. We imagine Obama’s team will get many such letters in the coming days.
Dear President-elect Obama:
As I am sure you are well aware, it has come to the public’s attention that your top speech writer, Jon Favreau, has posed with a life-sized cut out of Hillary Clinton, groping her breast as one of his friends simulates getting her drunk. I wonder if the first response that you and your incoming administration had was one of embarrassment and a desire to get this out of the news as quickly as possible. However, I have no way of knowing since you have not uttered a word about it, so I can only guess.
Either way, it is not the fact of whether it remains in the news that is the issue. What is deeply concerning is that you would employ an individual who would so brazenly express disrespect toward women. Surely you realize that countless women across America are date-raped. Frequently this occurs when a man purposefully gets a woman drunk or otherwise incapacitated in order to rape her. These crimes are countless because many women don’t report them; women are often told that this behavior is “normal” and acceptable. After all, we are told, boys will be boys, and they are just trying to have a good time.
In looking at this objectively, there is simply no way around my deducing that you find it acceptable to have as part of your administration’s culture the continuation of an old boys club mentality, where men chuckle, jeer at, disrespect, and degrade women, including the woman who will be your Secretary of State.
I am well aware that sub-cultures exist behind closed doors and the public is not privy to a great deal of what goes on. However, in light of the fact that Mr. Favreau’s actions have come to light, I would urge you to fire him immediately and to make a public statement as to why. In this way, you will be taking an unequivocal stance regarding your lack of tolerance for behavior demeaning to women. Would you hire a person who posted photographs of himself engaging in racist pantomime? I should expect not – and rightly so!
Senator Obama, you have promised hope and change. As a woman, I would assume this includes the obvious: sexism will not be tolerated in an Obama administration.
From the comments ~ ER provided contact info and suggestions:
1. Email Valerie Jarrett, who is part of Obama’s Transition Team at email@example.com
2. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Copy your email to your Senators and Representatives:
* find your elected officials’ contact information here: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
4. Leave your comments on Obama’s transition website. There are three places you can leave your message:
5. Talk with your press contacts. Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper. Write editorials and commentary. Involve your friends and colleagues.