Katie Porter, darling of the liberal media, is having a rough couple of weeks. The California congresswoman has recently been accused of: firing an employee who allegedly gave her Covid; using racist language, and fostering a hostile workplace. These are explosive allegations to be levied against a high-profile Democrat, yet the general public would never have heard of any of them were it not for an anonymous Instagram account that did the job of the entire DC press corps.
“Rep. Katie Porter fires staffer after both test positive for COVID,” Dear White Staffers posted last week, sharing Signal messages purporting to be from Porter’s now-former staffer where the congresswoman berated her employee. “Well you gave me Covid,” Porter’s messages read. “It took you not following the rules to get me sick.” Porter’s office subsequently confirmed that the staffer was punished, but argued that she was simply banned from ever returning to in-person work and was not immediately terminated.
Porter’s staffer, the office’s Wounded Warrior Fellow named Sasha Georgiades, told Porter that she forgot to follow Covid protocols because one of her friends had just been murdered. This apparently did not matter to the congresswoman. The eye-popping account of Porter rebuking Georgiades was just the first of her problems. Dear White Staffers has issued follow-up post after follow-up post, where former Porter staff tear into the progressive icon.
So how come more well-established outlets aren’t breaking these stories about Porter’s problems? According to some journalists, they’ve known about these horror stories for years and simply choose to ignore them. Don’t just take my word for it: listen to Alex Thomas, a former Washington correspondent for Playboy and other outlets: “The Katie Porter stuff is not new… Dem staffers have been talking about [this] for at least two years,” he wrote.
The problem is, for journalists — especially in the Capitol Hill press cartel — open secrets are actually no fun once they become public knowledge. Congresswoman Porter can be a horrible boss for years, run for reelection in a competitive House race receiving national attention and get away with it… if it wasn’t for an anonymous Instagram account? I’m not sure that’s what students paying over $70,000 for a journalism degree are taught.
All too often, modern-day journalists invert one of the profession’s highest callings — and comfort the comforted while afflicting the afflicted. In the wake of the Porter story, some are admitting it.
A further problem in journalism is that the use of anonymous sources has no standardization, which benefits powerful Democrats like Porter. A different journalist admitted this to me, saying that he’s “tried getting stuff on terrible bosses in the past but got stonewalled. The big issue is getting people to go on record. The times I tried, nobody would go on record.”
After years of anonymous source-based reporting in the Trump years, this rings hollow — does it count as journalism only if staffers are required to go on the record about how awful their boss is? This seems like a power discrepancy that only benefits those in power like Porter.
The same journalist explained that since anonymous accounts like Dear White Staffers are not reporters, their work is “not journalism because it’s not verified. But it can LEAD to good reporting.” Yet that isn’t even the case with Congresswoman Porter. Dear White Staffers followed up on its scoop by posting a message from another purported Porter staffer, who claimed that Porter says “rude/racist things (anti-black esp)”; outside of conservative media, this claim isn’t even reported. In another follow-up post, the account posted a message from someone claiming to be a former Porter staffer who “can confirm what prior staffers said.”
“I can also personally confirm that sexual harassment is not taken seriously and is swept under the rug,” the anonymous poster further claimed. In a different post, Dear White Staffers shares a message from someone who claims to be a former Katie Porter staffer who wrote that “this is just the tip of the iceberg in how abhorrently and abusively she treats staff… she’s prone to fits of rage, regularly disparages anyone who even slightly disagrees with her or displeases her, and is incredibly arrogant, mean spirited, and petty.”
In an effort to rebut criticisms levied by journalists that the anonymity of Dear White Staffers means that it is less reliable, the account claims that “everything shared to us is from verified congressional staffers.” How this level of anonymity is different from when media outlets resort to anonymous sources of their own is anyone’s guess.
Lest anyone think that Porter and her famous whiteboard she uses in congressional hearings are so powerful that she is the only Democrat to escape criticism, journalist Alex Thomas further admits that the press corps also hid the open secret that Senator Amy Klobuchar, too, is a horrible boss.
“It’s the exact same thing as Klobuchar. like, everybody knows,” he wrote. Klobuchar’s now-infamous staff treatment was kept under wraps until she ran for president, when her intra-party rivals could use it to kneecap her from the start. Klobuchar was safe to throw binders at her staffers, until that revelation would help another Democrat. Given Thomas’s admission, do we really believe that if Klobuchar weren’t in a Democratic primary for president that that story would ever have seen daylight?
With what we now know about Porter, it’s no wonder that she’d love to join Klobuchar in the Senate. Porter’s allies are plotting behind the scenes to position her for a statewide run if Senator Dianne Feinstein leaves the scene this year.
The Capitol Hill press corps’ unwillingness to burn bridges was probably best exemplified during the coronavirus. For years, Speaker Nancy Pelosi kept the House grounds closed to all but congressional staffers and reporters with hand-selected press credentials. Meanwhile, the American people were quite literally locked out of their own government for over two years.
It wasn’t until I was escorted around the Capitol (since my outlet did not have official press credentials), documenting that some Democrats hadn’t shown up to work in years, that anyone off-site would ever have known that our government had been on vacation.
The problem with the media’s complicity in covering for Democrats like Congresswoman Porter is that it will never stop. Thomas’s explanation for the press corps’ silence over Capitol Hill’s horrible bosses is that “we were all just kind of waiting for politico to write it up.” Guess what? Politico was apparently waiting for an anonymous Instagram account to give it permission to do so before dedicating a tiny write-up to the scandal.
Of course, it’s possible that Politico had spent years with a dedicated investigative team working around the clock for months in an attempt to stand up or debunk the rumors of Porter’s conduct. But does it seem likely?
In fact, in the irony of ironies, Politico clearly reads Dear White Staffers — it’s run multiple stories about the account, and even published a glowing profile of its author, to whom it granted anonymity!
As long as journalists will wait for a different journalist to do their job for them in blowing the lid on Democrats’ malfeasance, the American people will be left out of the loop.
Journalists can claim that democracy dies in darkness, but sometimes the cure is an anonymous Instagram account, not another liberal arts major running cover for the Democratic Party. (Of course, staffers could also just leak tips on background to Cockburn…)