The Blog

FLASHBACK: Weiner Defender Richard Cohen's History of Questionable Sexual Comments

4:30 PM, Jun 7, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Earlier today, I noted that Washington Post's Richard Cohen had written a rather absurd defense of Anthony Weiner comapring him to an innocent Christian that has been "thrown to the lions."

Well, in my earlier write-up I didn't touch on this revealing paragraph:

We have seen this before, of course — Bill Clinton, his face constricted in that awful television address confessing what he had done. That, too, was fun for some, jolly good sport. It was not about foreign policy or health insurance or anything else that mattered. It was the culmination of the attempt to destroy a person by exposing his private life. It worked. It damned well worked.

Perhaps the reason why Cohen gets so worked up about the Weiner and Clinton scandals is that it hits a little close to home. See this 1998 New York Observer article on Cohen's interations with a 23-year-old editorial aide at the Washington Post:

Despite his displeasure with Ms. Spurgeon's job performance, Mr. Cohen seems to have sought out her opinion on matters relevant to his column. After reading a Lewinsky-related article that referred to oral sex as "casual sex," Mr. Cohen engaged Ms. Spurgeon in a discussion on the subject that other staff members found offensive. Staff members said that Mr. Cohen sometimes used foul language in the office and that he remarked on Ms. Spurgeon's appearance, telling her she "looked good in black," according to a Post staff member. On another occasion, the staff member said, Mr. Cohen asked Ms. Spurgeon to "stand up and turn around."

Here's more details from the Washingtonian:

Among the allegations reported to [then Post deputy managing editor Milton] Coleman: Cohen asked Spurgeon to come into his office and close the door, then queried her about her generation's view of oral sex. Also at issue: a conversation where Cohen said it's too bad Bill Clinton is the only one who can grope in his office and get away with it. He also is said to have intimidated her with references to his connections with top Post editors, such as Tom Wilkinson, who can hire and fire.

No one said Cohen touched her or hit on her. Still, when Coleman asked the reporters if they considered Cohen's comments sexual harassment, three said yes.

Spurgeon was flown to Post headquarters to be questioned. Then she was given a two-week leave, which outed her and made it seem as if she was at fault -- violating the Post's policy of not causing "further embarrassment" to the aggrieved party.

The Post's management later concluded that Cohen had engaged in "inappropriate behavior," and contributed to a "hostile working environment." He was not charged with sexual harassment.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers