Well my fellow women in journalism, we’ve had quite the week, amirite? We had a youth minister running a 5K race in Georgia slap one of us on the ass, live and on camera, her pained look captured for the world to see. We had the wife of a county commissioner in another Georgia town dump a soda over one of our heads just as a budget committee meeting was getting underway, in full view of witnesses. And we had the release of the latest movie from Clint Eastwood – the Leni Rieftenstahl of the Trump era – that portrays us as sluts willing to trade sex for information, turning the concept of “based on a true story” on its ear and smearing a reporter who’s no longer alive to either defend herself or sue for defamation.
It was a trifecta of stupidity and maliciousness and I’m having a hard time deciding which of the three was the worst, so let’s talk about all of them.
In Savannah, Georgia, on Dec. 7, WSAV-TV reporter Alex Bozarjian was reporting live from an annual 5K, providing the color commentary typical of such assignments, when a male participant reached out and slapped her on the ass as he ran by. She had no way of knowing it was coming – her back was to the runners – and the look on her face after it happened is haunting: She is shocked and humiliated and it was all captured live on camera. She later took to Twitter: “To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.” Said ass slapper, Thomas Callaway, was easily tracked down via his race bib number. He offered up the idiotic excuse to the tabloid show Inside Edition that he was moving to wave to the camera, or pat her on the shoulder, and didn’t realize he had slapped her ass instead. Yet there he is, on the video, winding up and aiming for it.
It is a perfect metaphor for the Trump era.
“He helped himself to a part of my body,” Bozarjian said later. “He took my power and I’m trying to take it back.”
On Dec. 13, Callaway was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery. He may go down in history as that smug idiot who did that thing that time and actually had to pay for it.
Also in Georgia and also on Dec. 13, Abbey Winters, wife of Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters, came into a public meeting and poured a soda over the head of AllOnGeorgia reporter Casie Bryant. Witnesses say that Abbey Winters said Bryant “deserved” it, although she told police who were summoned via 911 that she had tripped and accidentally spilled the drink on Bryant’s head. Winters was arrested.
And then there’s Eastwood and his latest film Richard Jewell, which chronicles in based-on-a-true-story fashion what happened to Jewell, a security guard in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics who helped thwart a bombing attack at Olympic Park, but found himself cast as the prime suspect. In reality, extremist Christian terrorist Eric Rudolph, who detonated the device at Olympic Park after the alarm had been sounded and people began to flee, was the perpetrator.
Journalists admittedly screwed up on the Jewell story, taking a leak from the FBI that Jewell was the prime suspect, not doing much due diligence and ruining the man’s life, at least for a time. Why are journalists now mad at Eastwood? Because in this fictionalized account, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs is portrayed as willing to trade sex for information from a federal agent. Its blend of fact with fiction is a perfect metaphor for the Trump era.
Jewell died in 2007, and Scruggs, reportedly forever haunted by her error in running his name, died in 2001. Scruggs’ paper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, asked Warner Bros. and the filmmakers to include a disclaimer that some scenes were reimagined for dramatic reasons; they declined to do so.
It should go without saying, and yet here I am: Journalists don’t sleep with sources and if they do, they shouldn’t be journalists. We also don’t enjoy being grabbed, smacked, propositioned or otherwise assaulted by sources or members of the public, so please don’t do that. Send us hate mail instead. That we can deal with.