On Friday, Esquire editor-in-chief Jay Fielden announced that he is hiring Ryan Lizza as the magazine’s chief political correspondent “at a time when Washington is the main event.” Curiously, at a time when the #MeToo era has also become a main event, Fielden failed to mention the fact that Lizza was available for hire because he was fired from The New Yorker last December for “improper sexual conduct.”
At the time of his firing, Lizza said that he was “dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterize a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate.” But the law firm that represented the woman who alleged sexual misconduct by Lizza released a statement contradicting Lizza’s characterization:
Wigdor LLP represents the victim of Mr. Lizza’s misconduct. Although she desires to remain confidential and requests that her privacy be respected, in no way did Mr. Lizza’s misconduct constitute a “respectful relationship” as he has now tried to characterize it. Our client reported Mr. Lizza’s actions to ensure that he would be held accountable and in the hope that by coming forward she would help other potential victims.
Following those allegations, Lizza was also suspended from his position at CNN, only to be reinstated in just six short weeks, once the network concluded an investigation and claimed that it found “no reason to keep [him] off the air.”
Critics of the #MeToo era have complained that the movement has overstepped its bounds, weaponizing rumors to behead men of all stripes. But the quick resurrection of Lizza’s career reveals that the system enabling sexual harassment, abuse, and misogyny, churns merrily on.
This system not only includes abusive men, but those who are happy to hire them. Fielden, the man who hired Lizza, has published a number of editor’s letters in Esquire musing on how “good guys” can do better in the #MeToo era by reflecting on their own complicity in a sexist society. Of course, Fielden has also been careful to note that he is not okay with the“Maoist rationale” he supposedly sees in the movement, which “would happily sacrifice the reputations of innocent men to advance the cause of an otherwise righteous reckoning.”
When looking for someone to talk to about #MeToo allyship, Fielden, who has said that “this is a time for men to say less and listen more,” decided to turn to David Schwimmer, a man who once produced some videos about sexual harassment. In the interview, Schwimmer helpfully notes that there is “a ring of truth” to the claims that the #MeToo movement is “a witch hunt” and asks: “What’s to stop a woman I dated 15 or 20 years ago from coming forward and claiming she ‘felt’ I pressured her into sex?”
Before Fielden was the head of a magazine for men, he was the head of Town & Country, a magazine for extremely wealthy people. He was featured in a video promoting the magazine’s 170th anniversary, where a fun recurring theme is that he says “chop, chop” to all the different women who work for him:
Sadly it’s no great surprise then that despite the allegations against him, it took just half a year for Lizza to land a new job. It seemed inevitable from the start—after all, Lizza is not the only accused man who looks like he is making a comeback. Over the last few months, there have been talks to bring Bill O’Reilly, who has had six women file sexual harassment suits against him, back to cable news. The same goes for CBS News’ Charlie Rose, who multiple women allege groped or walked around naked in front of them. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush, who reportedly groped young female journalists, has already begun reporting at his new beat. And in the meantime, accused harassers and abusers from Matt Lauer and Mario Batali to Louis C.K. have already all found themselves the subjects of heartfelt redemption narratives in the press.
Rather than Lizza, Fielden could have used his power to hire a woman, given that Esquire’s masthead and leadership remains overwhelmingly white and male. One consistent point that has been revealed in the flood of stories about harassment in the media, including in stories that Esquire has published itself, is how women, especially women of color, are continuously locked out of career opportunities in both subtle and overt ways.
Instead, he gave another achingly pointed example of exactly how the system works.