By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jennifer Rubin gets burned with her not-off-the-record email to Politico

Jennifer Rubin

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin ignored one of the most basic rules of going off the record this week — and got burned as a result.

Politico’s West Wing Playbook on Thursday ran a longish item on Rubin’s favorable coverage of the Biden White House, including her adopting some of the same complaints about media coverage used by administration officials.

“One Post employee said some people in the newsroom are increasingly frustrated that Rubin is parroting the administration’s critiques of the media, which they believe emboldens the administration to push back on journalists even further,” write Politico’s Alex Thompson and Nick Niedzwiadek. “Two others say they just try to ignore her or don’t read her columns.”

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Thompson and Niedzwiadek write that they contacted Rubin for comment, and she responded with an email whose subject line was “OFF THE RECORD.” They proceeded to publish her response in full:

How utterly predictable that Politico would run the zillionth hit piece on a prominent woman, especially one candid in her critiques of Politico’s hysterical, clickbait style of coverage. The notion that I am polarizing in a newsroom (as opposed to any of the dozens of other opinion writers) is a “take” only Politico could come up with — by of course running around to ask the question in the first place. I trust the Post’s superb news side folks spend zero time thinking about me (as is entirely appropriate). My only surprise is that Sam [Stein, POLITICO’s White House editor], a very good journalist, would become enmeshed in such an obviously misogynistic publication. Surely there are finer publications that would have him.

And btw, what a low class move to do this on Yom Kippur at the last moment.

So what’s going on here? Both parties have to agree in order for something to be off the record. Thompson and Niedzwiadek write that they had no such agreement with Rubin — she simply sent her email assuming they would respect her wishes. They didn’t, nor should they. Journalists sometimes going along with such requests, especially if they come from a source with whom they have a longstanding relationship. But it should never be taken for granted. Rubin knows that, of course, and I wonder if she wrote her response half-expecting that Politico would use it.

In case you’re not familiar with her, Rubin has morphed over the years from a staunch conservative to a Never Trump conservative and now into a moderate liberal.

Finally, the Politico item is very Politico, snarky and assuming without evidence that Rubin is somehow acting in bad faith by writing favorably about President Biden and agreeing with the White House’s often-valid gripes about the media. Without her not-off-the-record quote, it wouldn’t be worth a read.

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  1. Steve Ross

    Reflects more on Politico than on Rubin, but then again I do not think much of the White House press corps (with few exceptions) and I think even less of political pundits and opinion writers. Snark rules. Incomplete, outright wrong or irrelevant facts rule.

    Not saying that departure from Afghanistan was even close to textbook perfect, for instance. But I can easily envision Washington Post and NYT political pundits covering the Dunkirk evacuation and carping about the “unsafe” and overloaded civilian rescue fleet.

    Even today’s coverage of French “outrage” is almost silent on the obvious — that UK, US and Australia were talking to France as well, France was not blindsided. and nuclear submarines are not “nuclear arms” under any international or bilateral treaty.

    I’ve been listening to FDA advisory committee meeting this morning. So what happens if a vaccinated person catches COVID, has a mild or even (without test) undetectable case, but lives with a person at high risk due to age, immune suppression, etc.? This rather common issue shows up in the medical literature over and over. In mainstream media discussions of booster shots, hardly at all. So why would I trust these facile and fact-challenged folks on any other issue?

  2. I’m a bit surprised she would care whether that was on the record or not. (Perhaps she didn’t!)

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