Comments: Week of March 29, 2021


“Abuse and Power,” March 15–28

Rebecca Traister spoke to dozens of former employees of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s about their experiences in his “toxic” workplace for New York’s latest cover story. On the evening the report was published, New York senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer joined dozens of other New York Democrats in calling for Cuomo to resign. Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers discussed the story on their evening shows, with Meyers commenting on the anecdote about Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, not knowing her colleagues: “Can you imagine that happening at any other workplace? A senior manager joking about not knowing anyone’s name?” On his New York Times podcast, Ezra Klein called the piece “extraordinary” and said it exemplifies “the way we’ve come to see certain forms of bullying, toxic, male-coded leadership as an aesthetic template for what a leader looks like in ways that often cover up or contribute to actual leadership failures, deficits, scandals.” The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert wrote, “I covered his dad for many years, and confusing bullying for action seems to be a family flaw.” Cuomo’s former rival Zephyr Teachout shared the story, adding, “I’m getting a hard copy at the news stand as soon as I can before he calls all the stands and yells at them to hide it.” Some readers critiqued the media’s role in hyping up Cuomo’s leadership style, including right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who tweeted, “Where were you sleuths when CNN and MSNBC were fawning over this creep? You were part of the ‘celebration’ you now deplore.” Times reporter Maggie Haberman challenged the idea that Cuomo’s governorship had been widely celebrated: “This is sort of the wrong frame. It wasn’t ‘celebrated’ in the state, he just ruled with an iron fist. Plenty has been written about him that makes that clear. He was ‘celebrated’ for COVID response because everything was a comparison to Trump White House incompetence.” And Camonghne Felix, a former Cuomo speechwriter who was featured in the story, explained why she decided to speak out, writing, “Ultimately I weighed in because this kind of abusive leadership and corrupt governing doesn’t just hurt individuals, but it inhibits progress, which touches and harms 19 million people across New York State. I got into politics to get to work, not to be an ornament.”


“The Drama Queen,” March 15–28

As part of the magazine’s dissection of YouTube’s burgeoning drama economy, Rebecca Jennings profiled Trisha Paytas. Style blogger Rosey Blair called the story “an honest profile of her and everything she’s shown of herself without a hint of condemnation.” After the story was published, Paytas uploaded a seven-minute-long video to her YouTube channel reacting to it. In the video’s comments section, many of Paytas’s fans said they felt the story was mean-spirited, with Patrick Patreck writing, “I really didn’t like the negative way they painted you in the article, it was hard to read because every other sentence felt like a sly dig.” Rachel Thava said, “I don’t think the author gave you the credit you deserve. Your highs and lows are so much more than what was written.” For her part, Paytas responded, “[The story’s] kind of edgy and saucy. Maybe they’re not being nice to me. I don’t know, I feel like it’s nice … I’m not perfect. I just keep doing this ’cause I love it, and honestly, like, I go through bouts of people not caring and I still do it. So thank you guys for sticking with me. I love you. I love Adam Sandler.”


“43 Minutes With Happy,” March 15–28

Molly Young wrote about Happy, a 50-year-old elephant at the Bronx Zoo caught in a legal battle over animal rights. Dozens of Happy’s supporters wrote to the magazine decrying the animal’s plight. Lindsay Holeman said, “This poor creature is being denied basic privileges like socialization, which is a necessity. She is miserable and deeply depressed in the concrete jail that is the Bronx Zoo.” Other readers praised Young’s storytelling, with Marti Trgovich tweeting, “This piece … is both clever and heartbreaking, and it perfectly illustrates the sadness of zoos.” Jason Zinoman wrote, “This starts like a funny profile of Happy the elephant from the Bronx Zoo, then expands into something much more. Beautifully done.” And Mark Hawthorne commented on the story’s relevance after an isolating year: “In an age when so many humans have been forced to reckon with loneliness, sympathy for Happy the elephant should be second nature.”

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Comments: Week of March 29, 2021