A former editor of the Post, Xana Antunes, praises Peyser for not feeling obligated to be positive about every woman she covers just because she’s a woman. “Maybe it’s counter-stereotype, and that’s what upsets people,” says Antunes. “It’s not what people expect from a female columnist.”
Victoria Gotti, who used the desk next to Peyser’s for a spell, says Peyser watched her go through a terrible divorce and struggle financially. “Andrea actually celebrates strong women,” explains Gotti, who had dinner with her recently. “She does not have time for the damsel-in-distress syndrome. She saw Martha’s crime as a blemish on the movement. Her columns on Martha, as harsh as they might have seemed, were tough love.”
Access unlocks Peyser’s affections, as Jean Doumanian (“prettier, thinner and shorter in person”), June Gumbel, Leona Helmsley, and Rosie O’Donnell all discovered. But when Peyser is finished with them, Helmsley turns back into a “tax cheat” and Rosie O’Donnell a “clown.” “I do believe Peyser is an honest person stating her honest beliefs,” says attorney Ben Brafman, who has complained to her about what she’s written on many occasions. But he sometimes thinks he sees Murdoch’s conservative agenda: “You can taste it.”
Though registered as a Democrat, Peyser calls herself a Libertarian. “I would join the Republican Party except I’m pro-choice,” she says. She’s also pro-Israel, pro–death penalty, pro–welfare reform, pro–gun control, and pro–Pledge of Allegiance. She wrote about pulling the lever for George Pataki and Michael Bloomberg, though she now objects to the way Bloomberg raised taxes. She will probably vote for George Bush. “I’m not ready for a change,” Peyser says. “I like tax cuts. I like the fact we haven’t had another 9/11.”
On top of Andrea Peyser’s computer is the Fire Department hard hat she wore down at ground zero. She can take the hits. She can adapt. Hate mail means people are reading you. Col Allan says the only request he’s ever had from Rupert Murdoch is to “sell more papers.” And Peyser is holding up her end.