The New York Times announced on Monday that it was suspending White House correspondent Glenn Thrush to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against young female reporters. Here’s five things you need to know:
1. An Editor for Vox First Broke the Story
On the morning of Nov. 20, Vox editorial director Laura McCann wrote and published an “Exclusive: NYT White House correspondent Glenn Thrush’s history of bad judgment around women journalists”. In it, McCann shared her own story of Thrush’s allegedly inappropriate behavior against her, and anonymous accounts from other young women whose stories about Thrush sound similar to McCann’s.
McCann mentioned an unnamed 23-year-old woman who discussed a certain incident she allegedly had with Thrush last June: she and Thrush attended a colleague’s going-away party at a bar near Politico’s newsroom, and sat in a booth drinking together. “The night, she said, ended on a Washington street corner, where Thrush left her in tears after she resisted his advances,” McCann wrote.
Though McCann did not mention that young woman’s name, she did mention the name of Bianca Padró Ocasio, another 23-year-old journalist who is friends with Thrush’s unnamed accuser. Ocasio said she was disturbed enough by her friend’s account that the very next day, she sent Thrush a series of text messages confronting him about his behavior.
McCann’s account includes screenshots of the alleged message between Thrush and Ocasio, ending with Thrush saying [some punctuation added for clarity] “It was a terrible night. And I feel like a jerk. I’ll make it up to her. I feel really strongly about not creating a toxic environment. She’s really lucky to have u as a friend.”
2. Thrush Apparently Blamed his Behavior on Drunkenness and Health Problems
The text-message conversation between Ocasio and Thrush started with Ocasio sending Thrush a late-night message asking if he was still with her friend; Thrush responded the next morning (according to the screenshot’s timestamps) that “She was fine and in a cab last time I saw her.”
Ocasio countered that “She wasn’t fine when she called me later,” and after some back-and-forth between the two Thrush said “To be honest we were both pretty loaded and I wanted to walk to sober up- things are pretty vague but I certainly wouldn’t have intended to put anyone in that sort of position…. I wouldn’t in a million years want to do anything that could be harmful — it’s not who I am….”
So Ocasio responded “Well, I don’t know who you are. But unfortunately I wasn’t there and this is none of my business. Except I want to make sure you don’t lure young aspiring women journalists into those situations ever again. So help me out here. How can I do that?”
Thrush disagreed with Ocasio’s wording: “I don’t lure anybody ever – I got drunk because I got some shitty health news. And I am acutely aware of the hurdles that young women face in this business and have spent the better part of 20 years advocating for women journalists.” (When the New York Times published its article confirming that it has suspended Thrush, it mentioned that Thrush claimed “I have not taken a drink since June 15, 2017, have resumed counseling and will soon begin outpatient treatment for alcoholism. I am working hard to repair the damage I have done.”)
3. McCann Shared a Similar Encounter she Allegedly had With Thrush
McCann’s article makes it clear that she was not swayed by self-expressed concern for the problems faced by young women because, according to McCann, “If Thrush is acutely aware of what young women face in the business of political journalism, he should also know it’s because he himself is one of the problems women face. Five years ago, when Thrush and I were colleagues at Politico, I was in the same bar as Padró Ocasio’s friend — perhaps the same booth — when he caught me off guard, put his hand on my thigh, and suddenly started kissing me. Thrush says that he recalls the incident differently.”
McCann writes that two other young women into addition to Padró Ocasio’s friend “described to me a range of similar experiences, from unwanted groping and kissing to wet kisses out of nowhere to hazy sexual encounters that played out under the influence of alcohol. … Details of their stories suggest a pattern. All of the women were in their 20s at the time. They were relatively early in their careers compared to Thrush, who was the kind of seasoned journalist who would be good to know. At an event with alcohol, he made advances. Afterward, they (as I did) thought it best to stay on good terms with Thrush, whatever their feelings.”
Though McCann notes that none of Thrush’s accusers say he offered any sort of sexual quid pro quo of the “sleep with me and I’ll get you a job” variety, his reputation and connections in the journalism industry were sufficient that anyone just getting started in the field would definitely think it a good idea to stay on his good side. As for McCann, after her encounter with Thrush she said “things in the office started to change for me. Certain men in the newsroom, I thought, started to look at me differently. Some of their comments seemed a bit too familiar or were outright offensive. I had a nagging sense that I just wasn’t as respected as I used to be. …. In the course of reporting this story, I was told by a male reporter who’d worked at Politico at the time that my instinct was right. He said that the day after that night at the bar, Thrush told him about the incident, except with the roles reversed. I had come onto him, the reporter said Thrush told him, and he had gently shut it down.” The reporter said Thrush told him similar stories about other young women — they all came on to Thrush, and he had to let them down gently.
4. Thrush’s Official Response to the Scandal Suggests he Holds McCann Responsible for Their Encounter
The official statement Thrush released in response to the allegations starts with an apology to “any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence,” but goes on to say that “My recollection of my interactions with Laura [McCann] differs greatly from hers –the encounter was consensual, brief, and ended by me. She was an editor above me at the time …. the June incident related in the story was a life-changing event. The woman involved was upset by my actions and for that I am deeply sorry.”
Glenn Thrush is married to Diane Webber, a project editor at Kaiser Health News in Washington, DC. The couple have twin 14-year-old sons. Theirs is an interfaith marriage — Webber is Catholic, Thrush Jewish — though they are raising their sons as Jews (with bar mitzvahs at 13).
Thrush’s Jewish identity unfortunately and inevitably has made him the target of anti-Semitic ire. Last September the Daily Caller posted (and soon deleted, though many around the web were quick to make copies before the deletion) an edited video snippet mocking Thrush for being Jewish: an MSNBCs clip of Thrush, “What the former congressman said about the veracity of the president’s statement, the chutzpah,” and the rest of the video merely repeated “the chutzpah, the chutzpah, the chutzpah, chutzpah, chutzpah over and over while “Hava Nagila” played in the background.
The 50-year-old Thrush started his journalism career at a small Manhattan weekly and also worked for a daily paper in Alabama, before joining Bloomberg News in time to cover the 9/11 terrorist attacks for them. He started writing for Politico in 2008, and in December 2016, left Politico to start at the New York Times. (As of Nov. 20, Thrush’s Facebook page still identifies his job at Politico’s “Chief Political Correspondent,”
and the most recent publicly visible post he made is dated Sept. 20.)
Thrush’s Twitter account does identify him as the “New York Times WH correspondent,” but is topped by a pinned tweet dated Sept. 18 and saying “This account is dormant as of 9/19/17.”
5. SNL Honored Thrush by Lampooning his Showdowns with Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
In the early days of the Trump administration, Saturday Night Live hosted a series of popular sketches showing Melissa McCarthy playing Sean Spicer, Trump’s original press secretary. One thing McCarthy-as-Spicer frequently did was call out “Glenn” for specific criticism — as the real Spicer often did to Thrush during White House press conferences. “Sit down Glenn,” McCarthy/Spicer said in one such sketch. “Just by show of hands, who here hates Glenn, right?”
NBC.com’s Saturday Night Live page hosts videos of three “Glenn Thrush sketches,” all showing Thrush as played by Bobby Moynihan against McCarthy’s Spicer in the White House briefing room.