Anyone harboring suspicions that political reporters covering the 2016 campaigns might not have been entirely neutral has just received damning, indeed overwhelming, evidence from an unexpected source: a reporter covering Clinton’s 2016 campaign for the New York Times.
Amy Chozick, the Times’ Hillary embed in 2016, confesses in her new book Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling that she cried when she wrote about Clinton’s defeat, that she had been “an admirer . . . chasing this luminous figure” since meeting Clinton as an awed child at a signing event for It Takes a Village, that she has dreams in which the two of them are buddies trying on clothes together at Zara, that “it felt damn good” to “bask in the girl power” when Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination, that a campaign video praising Clinton meant for the Democratic convention (but never used) “gave me the chills,” that when she touched Clinton’s shoulder at a party she “felt the luscious satin of her chartreuse tunic beneath my palm,” and that she thought Clinton’s email scandal was no more a matter of national interest than Bristol Palin’s pregnancy had been. Chozick sounds like Peter Daou or any other Clinton crony when she excoriates voters who say, “They’d vote for a woman, just not THAT woman. . . . I wanted to scream at every critic that thirty years of sexist attacks had turned her into that woman. That sooner or later, the higher we climb, the harder we work, we all become that woman.”
With reporters like these, who needs flacks? Chozick is such a Hillary fangirl that in the book she continues to protect Clinton’s ruthless, nasty, paranoid band of aides by granting them anonymity. It has since emerged (though the name isn’t given in the book) that it was longtime Clinton henchman Philippe Reines who once told Chozick, “I didn’t know I had to say it was off the record when I was inside you,” a line from the movie Thank You for Smoking. (The line is used literally in the movie, but Reines and Chozick were not romantically involved.) Chozick cloaks Reines’s identity by referring to him only as Original Guy.
Would Chozick protect a Donald Trump aide who made such a vile and sexist comment? Try to imagine the Times’ main Trump reporter saying anything remotely as friendly about him as Chozick does about Hillary. It’s impossible. You’d have to turn your mind to, say, how a Breitbart reporter or Michael Anton thinks of Trump to be in the ballpark.
When Chozick meets some blonde college girls in Iowa who tell her they support Trump, her internal monologue goes as follows: “‘Seriously?’ I thought for sure these girls were [f***ing] with me or [f***ing] with the democratic process or both.” So the democratic process itself is imperiled if Clinton doesn’t win. This is the considered opinion of the Times’ embed. And keep in mind that all of the above is just what Chozick is choosing to share with us while trying to preserve her credibility as a nonpartisan reporter. Chasing Hillary might as well be called Worshipping Hillary.
Chozick says that perhaps 18 out of 20 reporters on the Hillary beat on a typical day were women, and she makes it clear that this wasn’t an accident: The crew were excited about the prospect of what they dubbed the “FWP,” for First Woman President. When awaiting an offer from the campaign to take a group photo with their idol, Chozick relates that the reporters excitedly chattered amongst themselves about the prospect in text messages. It doesn’t make the women look great. Nor does Chozick do the sisterhood a favor when she describes what happened when the campaign sent a Clinton-backing actor, Tony Goldwyn of TV’s Scandal, to talk to them and his “feral grey eyes” caused the women “to abandon whatever story we were working on to flip our hair and ask useless questions like, ‘What did you think of Iowa?’” After Clinton’s defeat, these “Girls on the Bus” were “in some stage of a breakdown . . . we comforted each other with pats on the shoulder” because “hugs would have been too conspicuous.” Lisa Lerer of the AP angrily said, at Clinton’s concession speech the morning after the election, “It was the all-female press corps. The country couldn’t take it.”
‘I still wanted, more than anything, for Hillary to see me as a fair reporter.’
Though Chozick breezily allows, “Scoops are not my forte. I prefer lunch-based reporting,” she did come up with some tidbits along the trail. For instance, she beat the campaign by eight minutes in announcing to the world that Tim Kaine would be Clinton’s running mate. She unintentionally created a hubbub when she wrote that a (female) Clinton intern once followed Chozick into a bathroom during primary season, and she wrote the story that appeared under the tartly Onion-esque headline, “Hillary to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” But it’s her editor, Carolyn Ryan, who comes off looking like the true adult in the room, elevating salient details from deep within stories and generally pushing her charges to cut through the fog of campaign blather. “I wanted to make Mamma happy,” Chozick writes of Ryan. Even so, Chozick can’t stop herself from groveling to a crew of Clinton aides who come to the Times’ office to question her coverage (which they, in their cloud of paranoia, see as hostile). “I apologize. I said I’d try to do a better job next time and I’d be more careful moving forward.” Imagine a Times reporter hurling herself at the feet of Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Corey Lewandowski and promising to “do a better job next time.”
“I still wanted, more than anything, for Hillary to see me as a fair reporter,” Chozick says during primary season. Later, she admits that “The less I interacted with Hillary, the greater her imperial hold on my brain became.” Chozick was 17 when she first met Hillary at that book signing in 1996 and blurted out that she would soon be turning 18 and casting her first vote for Hillary’s husband. “I loved Bill Clinton,” Chozick says of her younger self, “and worst of all, I loved his wife.” You don’t say. The book concludes with a picture of Chozick and Clinton in Iowa in 2007, Chozick beaming at the camera next to the FWP.