Betsy Rothstein, a controversial gossip blogger at The Daily Caller who mainly covered Washington, D.C. politics, died June 28 after a long bout with cancer, according to a Facebook tribute written by her brother, Joel.
Rothstein led a long career, much of which, she — as her Twitter handle indicated — “cover(ed) D.C. journalists in a way that inevitably upsets someone.”
Many conservative politicians and journalists on social media have written tributes in her memory, describing her as witty, unflappable and sweet while others on Twitter have accused her of trafficking in transphobia, racism and other divisive behavior.
Rothstein’s Career In Journalism Started Early
A 1962 article in the Journal News lists a Betsy Rothstein as the daughter of “Mr. and Mrs. Jack Rothstein,” a member of the 1964 graduating class at Elmira College, a “Scholar of the Second Rank” who made the dean’s list for both sophomore semesters and an exchange editor for the student newspaper, Octagon.
According to her Daily Caller biography, Rothstein graduated from Union College with a B.A. in Spanish, working for a Cuban newspaper, reportedly asking the people, “Do Latinos make better lovers or what?” She then worked for two Latino weeklies in Denver and eventually attended Journalism School at Northwestern where she earned her master’s degree.
At some point, Rothstein’s byline was found above Knight-Ridder Newspapers; one particular article she wrote in 1996 began like this:
WANTED: A 34-year-old married man with a college degree. FOUND: Shopping. Shopping? Yes, shopping. Shopping, an activity commonly associated with the female race, is being taken over by the male species, at least on Planet Internet, says a study recently released by MasterCard
Rothstein also worked at Boca Raton News as a business reporter. One of those stories was titled “From burps to odors, co-workers’ habits can drive you nuts.” According to her Daily Caller biography, she also worked briefly as a press secretary for a Democratic Florida representative, spent a decade on Capitol Hill and was editor of gossip blog FishbowlDC before she ended up at The Daily Caller.
According to her LinkedIn page, Rothstein has run The Mirror blog at The Daily Caller since October of 2013.
Some Who Knew Rothstein Admired Her Work
Rothstein’s brother, Joel, wrote a Facebook tribute, writing that “it is with unimaginable grief that I must inform you that my little sister Betsy Rothstein died today after a long illness.” He also asked those who wanted to donate to Ovarian Cancer Research.
Olivia Nuzzi, a political reporter for New York magazine, wrote a tribute to Rothstein, whom she described as a friend and “a professional thorn in the side of Washington media figures.” According to Nuzzi, Rothstein looked at politics with a light, amused eye:
etsy watched the political media as if it was a sitcom. She was always looking for characters, preferably ones that amused her. She thought we were all silly. She was chronically wrong on the minor details, but on this larger point she was always correct.
However, Nuzzi also described Rothstein as handling her battle with cancer with admirable grit and good humor:
But then she could find the humor in anything. There was a piano in the lobby of one of the hospitals, one of those pianos that plays itself. The comically grim suggestion was that a ghost was performing for the waiting room, for the people terrified they’d soon be ghosts themselves. She’d send me live updates from the ghost’s set.
Tucker Carlson’s tribute to Rothstein was also complimentary, describing her as “the most honest person” he’d ever met. “Betsy went into journalism because she wanted to tell the truth,” he said. He said that she didn’t change the way she did her job in the 30 years she did it and he also described his last moments with her:
A few weeks ago, I went to visit her. She was at her brother Joel’s house, where she’d been living since the hospital sent her home. We both knew it was the last time we’d see each other in this life. We sat in the living room all morning, holding hands, saying prayers, often in silence. Betsy was tired. Her beloved spaniel Whiskey slept in her lap. Just before I left, she lifted her head and looked at me directly. Her eyes were clear. I asked her what she’d been thinking. “Nothing is definite,” she said. You think you know what’s going to happen in life. But you don’t. It’s not up to you.
He ended the article by saying, “We will miss her.”
Others Familiar with Rothstein’s Work Called It ‘Venemous’
The last few years of her career spent at the Daily Caller were a continuation of her controversial status.
A Media Matters article recorded when she referred to transgender activist Janet Mock by the derogatory slur “tranny” in the headline of her article after reviewing an interview Piers Morgan conducted of Mock. The original title of the article, “CNN’s Piers Morgan unfairly gets his nuts handed to him by a tranny,” as well as the article’s actual contents, drew backlash from many:
The fact is, Mock was born a boy with the name “Charles” and had a sex change at 18. Her beef is that she “identified” as a woman her whole life. And yet, she still had a penis … She wanted Piers to normalize her experience and speak to her as if she wasn’t selling her book based on the fact that she is a transgender. Would the book even exist had she not been born with a penis? OF COURSE NOT. If we wanted a sanitized, publicist’s version of an interview, fine. But that wasn’t the case, nor should it have been.
Rothstein was also accused of being racist, due to headlines such as this one: “TheDC Investigates: Is WaPo’s Wesley Lowery Black?” in which she also posted a screenshot of a speeding ticket he received that contained his parents’ address. Rothstein was also skewered for an article, on which she had to write a correction. Buzzfeed reporter Tracy Clayton called her out on Twitter stating that her lede was “a lie”: “Buzzfeed reporter Tracy Clayton has taken her risqué reporting to new depths today with a Vine video that shows her enthusiastically shaking her ass for justice behind a police car.”
Rothstein’s correction included adding words in italics to clarify that the person wasn’t actually Clayton and an opening line that described Clayton as deciding to get off her “lazy (non-twerking) ass”:
Six months after this article ran, BuzzFeed PR and Clayton decided to get off their lazy (non-twerking) asses to tell me that I got this wrong. A publicist managed to communicate with me by email; Clayton meanwhile, went to the place she lives — Twitter. The truth is, I would’ve happily corrected this six months ago. And no, this wasn’t an attempt on my part to be racist or “libelous.” So Clayton and her Twitter family can shove those thoughts right up their non-shaking asses. The Mirror does wholeheartedly apologize for the error in assuming the often risqué Clayton would ever shake her butt cheeks for justice behind a police car.
Rothstein also tweeted that former talk show host Montel Williams was an “uncle Tom,” which led some to sarcastically tweet about her death:
Rothstein, who is Jewish, also got into a Twitter fight with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who accused her of “reveling in anti-Semitism.” The accusation was leveled because of a line describing a party held by Milo Yiannopoulos: “dancing midgets clad in yarmulkes, bris bibs and ‘Ben Shapiro’ nametags.” Rothstein called the criticism unfair because she said a New York Post article also contained similar details about Yiannopolous’ party.
Rothstein was also accused of proliferating a story with a sensational and misleading headline that read, “Here’s the Photo Some People Described as a Nude Selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The headline was eventually fixed and the photo was acknowledged as a fake in the body of the story, yet that didn’t stop Ocasio-Cortez from calling the Daily Caller “completely disgusting.”
In a follow-up article about the photo incident, Rothstein wrote, “The photo first appeared Sunday on Reddit. Horribly, it was called “MOMMY’s TITTIES ON THE FAUCET.” The evil pranksters then tried to make it seem like it was a post on Ocasio-Cortez’s own Instagram feed.”