On October 12, BuzzFeed reported on the existence of a “shitty media men” list that includes over 70 journalists at major media outlets. Doree Shafrir wrote:
On Wednesday afternoon, I received an email from a friend, a woman writer, that had been forwarded from another woman, also a writer. The body of the email contained an anonymous Google spreadsheet labeled ‘SHITTY MEDIA MEN.’ On the top, it said, “DISCLAIMER: This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. Take everything with a grain of salt. If you see something about a man you’re friends with, don’t freak out. Men accused of physical sexual violence by multiple women are highlighted in red.” I saw some of the names and thought: fucking finally. Finally, the grossest men in media will be exposed.
The list, emboldened by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the various other Hollywood elites implicated in their own barrage of sexual harassment allegations, has already led to two prominent journalists, MSNBC Contributor Mark Halperin and former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier becoming exposed for their long record of sexual harassment toward female colleagues.
In response to the list, a Reddit post and book excerpts from The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, published in 2000, resurfaced from Rolling Stone Contributor and Penguin Random House Author Matt Taibbi and journalist Mark Ames who co-hosts the podcast Radio War Nerd. Ames claimed in his defense that it was satire, though the book included a disclaimer that it and everything in it was non-fiction, and doesn’t explain their reactions in interviews or what kind of satire these comments would be.
Taibbi once threw coffee in the face of a male Vanity Fair reporter — as mentioned here by New York’s Jessica Pressler — when asked about the book. Ames claimed he doesn’t know why the disclaimer was added to the book, and blamed the publisher. A 1998 Rolling Stone article described Ames offering to fuck a girl in the ass because she has her period. In a Facebook post Taibbi called the most misogynistic passages of the book not true, while adding a half-hearted apology for the editorial decisions he made back then.
In the book, Ames and Taibbi described the sexist environment they created while running the Moscow-based tabloid The eXile:
“You’re always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs. It’s not funny. They don’t think it’s funny,” Kara complained. “But… it is funny,” Matt said. We have been pretty rough on our girls. We’d ask our Russian staff to flash their asses or breasts for us. We’d tell them that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they’d have to perform unprotected anal sex with us. Nearly every day, we asked our female staff if they approved of anal sex. That was a fixation of ours. “Can I fuck you in the ass? Huh? I mean, without a rubber? Is that okay?” It was all part of the fun.”
Kara Deyerin, the Exile Sales Manager referenced in the above passage, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its unclear how the above passage constitutes satire, nor explains the damage caused by framing overt misogyny and sexism as a joke.
In 2000 Ames told the Observer in an interview, “What’s nice about Russian girls is you don’t have to talk too much, you can pretend that you don’t understand Russian. And they’re usually so drunk. They like to have fun, they like adventure and they like doing things that are reckless.” He continued, ” it took me a while to learn you really have to force Russian girls, and that’s what they want, it’s like a mock rape. And then you come back here and you’re really freaked out–because you don’t know if that actually exists deep in all women’s psyches, that that’s what they all want. All relations between guys and girls is basically violent, I think. It’s all war.”
Taibbi added, “They like to live while they’re still young and attractive. They look at their mothers, who turn into nose tackles at age 30.”
The Chicago Reader published an article about the book, where Ames and Taibbi brag about harassing their female colleagues, sexually assaulting Russian women, and using sexual harassment to bully women out of their jobs. Martha Bayne wrote, “Ames and Taibbi rationalize their flaming sexism with the argument that part of the whole expatriate experience is to have one’s moral compass come loose.”
Asked for comment, Taibbi said: “I absolutely take responsibility for the things I wrote. But I have never mistreated any woman anywhere, in an office or not. And no one has ever accused me of such.” He noted further that “a former female co-worker from that exact time period at The eXile said she never saw me engage in anything remotely insulting or disrespectful…and that no woman anywhere has ever accused me of any sexual indiscretions.”
Ames replied to a request for comment: “Your email reminds me of what Representative Henry Bonilla’s communications director told me back in 2005, when I called asking why the Congressman officially wrote the State Dept to request Putin’s Interior Ministry to arrest me over a satirical prank in The eXile: ‘It’s out of our hands now — you should’ve thought about that when you wrote your little prank’.”
He added: “The offensive material was meant to be offensive, no one needs to stand up for that specifically, especially in the current climate. It only pisses me off that we’re getting accused of actual sex harassment, rape etc based not on victims accusations, but on our own deliberately offensive satire.”