My Story…

August 15, 2018

I realize many of you have only known me since the time of the 2016 election, and in my capacity of the woman keeping The Weekly List. There were recently old tweets and cable-tv clips of me from almost a decade ago. I wanted to address some of the confusion which has resulted.

I’ll start the story in 2006, when I left Wall Street and got involved hands-on politically, at that time with Hillary Clinton’s New York senate run. She won handily, and with the connections I had made as a volunteer, in early 2007, as she geared up for her first presidential run, I was pulled in as an “ambassador” for Hillary and was very engaged in the race to elect what we hoped would be our first woman president.

Obviously that didn’t turn out. A trip down memory lane: as brutal as the Bernie and Hillary primary was in 2016, 2008 was even worse. It was a long, drawn out primary and many of us — myself included — felt an awakening about the sexism and double standards that were always there, but in that primary became so crystal clear. After Hillary dropped out, her supporters took different paths forward — my path was to co-found a women’s organization to focus on the sexism and misogyny that had been so painfully revealed.

A decade ago, in August 2008, a group of Hillary supporters sat in my living room and we talked about what to do next. A reporter, Froma Harrop, sat in on the meeting, and wrote a piece after, “It’s No Longer Just About Hillary,” which describes our collective heartbreak about sexism even within our own party, and our plans to do something about it — to be a media watchdog, and to advocate for more women in leadership. We decided that I should be the spokesperson for our group so we would speak with one voice. We decided at that first meeting that for women to move forward, we needed to found a women’s organization that could be inclusive of ALL women — and so non-partisan The New Agenda was founded. I have been running The New Agenda for a decade now, which is how many of you first knew me.

If you click on the link to Froma’s article, you’ll see that in August 2008, 28% of Hillary’s primary voters did not plan to vote for Obama. That number decreased as we approached the election, but I point it out to take us back to the bitterness when the primary was over. As we founded The New Agenda, we received MUCH media attention — the media was consumed with what came next for Hillary’s people. Carly Fiorina, at the time a surrogate for the McCain campaign, had visited my home to meet with a large group of Hillary supporters in July 2008, and she reached out to us after we founded to The New Agenda to inquire about our asks of McCain. The top of our list was to have him pick a woman running mate. We gave a list of six names — Sen. Collins, Sen. Snowe, Sen. Baily Hutchinson, Meg Whitman, Carly, and Gov. Palin. At that time, Palin was not all that well known, but she was the most popular governor in the country, with an 82% approval rating. I remember where I was the announcement happened, and my phone rang directly after and it was a board member of The New Agenda saying time to gear up to fight sexism. We did. On a personal note, and this is public, I am a fan of John Mccain as an American patriot (and back then a moderate). Recall back then he stood up to a supporter to defend Obama from a racist attack, and was booed by the crowd. Anyway, I felt at the time, by picking a woman and with his promises to be moderate on all issues (including social) he had earned my vote. It was and is the only time I have voted for a Republican for a major office.

Shortly after the election, Tina Brown, as she was founding the Daily Beast wrote about what’s next for feminism, and in her piece she talked about The New Agenda, and shortly after, asked me to write about women’s issues for the Daily Beast. I wrote pretty extensively about domestic violence, sexism, women’s representation in leadership, etc.

As President Obama took office, The New Agenda advocated for more women in his administration. We put a “Cabinet Watch” up on our website, sent suggestions for qualified women, and I spoke extensively to the media to advocate for more women. Obama got off to a slow start on the woman front — women in his administration felt they were ignored and women’s representation was lower than many had hoped. I will say that Obama made great strides on that issue during his eight years, and totally won me over; but again, taking us back to that point in time. I need to clear up this misunderstanding — I did vote for Obama in 2012 (there is another Amy Siskind in Florida who donated to Romney as listed on Open Secrets — that is not me — I have only ever donated to Democrats, and mostly women).

To advocate for more women, and for Obama to prioritize women’s issues, in my role as President of The New Agenda, I spoke and wrote for the media. Several pieces were featured at the Daily Beast. Tina is a brilliant marketer and editor and advocate (thank you Tina for everything), and the title she picked for what is a pretty mundane piece about women’s issues in 2009 was “Should Women Back Palin in 2012?” which has been widely circulated to suggest I was telling people to vote for Palin over Obama (that’s not what the article is actually about, and at no time did I advocate for people to vote for Palin over Obama).

Also around that time, again in my capacity as President of The New Agenda, I wrote my first article for The Huffington Post, titled, “Sexism Against Conservative Women is Still Sexism.” Today that is a widely held belief, but back then it was revolutionary in a sense. The article was the “most read” at HuffPost and started a conversation. In the meantime, I spoke out against sexism against women on both sides. Because I defended Nikki Haley and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin and many, many other women on BOTH sides does not mean I was for them as candidates, personally. And to be clear, The New Agenda does NOT endorse. We were speaking out against sexism.

Fast forward to 2011. Steve Bannon had produced a movie about Sarah Palin called “Undefeated.” Media was invited to pre-screenings, and Arianna asked me to go and write about it for HuffPost. Every major media outlet was there — it did not mean we endorsed Steve Bannon — we were covering the movie. I wrote a piece titled, “The Undefeated: The Movie I Wish Hillary Had Made” because I thought he did a great job telling Palin’s story in a personal way. In the months after, Steve had me on his radio show a couple of times as a guest. We lost touch after that.

I need to add in 2011, no one knew what we know now about Bannon. A friend on Facebook commented that he had seen Bannon on Bill Maher’s show in 2011, and he seemed like a pretty regular dude. Obviously if I had an inkling of what we know now, I would have run in the other direction!

Also during these years, as part of my role as President of The New Agenda, I advocated for more women in leadership. I need to clear up this confusion: I did not advocate for Palin over Obama. My advocacy in the capacity of The New Agenda was for Palin WITHIN the GOP field to be the first modern day woman Republican candidate since Margaret Chase Smith.

Meanwhile, The New Agenda has continued to be inclusive and do important work for all women. I am proud of the hundreds of young women I have personally mentored who are running for office, and doing other amazing things — and that they know who to call when they need a shoulder or advice. The New Agenda was also proud to be the first women’s organization to include a transgender woman panelists in our annual event, National Girlfriends Networking Day, in June 2016. The panelist confided in me prior that other women’s organizations would likely attack me for doing so, because at that time it was controversial that a woman who had transitioned should be a voice, but I told her anyone who attacked me could go f*ck themselves.

Finally, the last point I wanted to clarify was a tweet I sent in 2016 about Black Lives Matter, and no longer being a supporter. The reason I sent the tweet back then was in reaction to the group’s adding to their platform that Israel was complicit in genocide. I don’t want to open a whole other can of worms on Israel in this post, but that was the reason I sent the tweet.

I hope this answers everyone’s questions. You may not agree with my path, but it was my path. I know many of you felt blind-sided by the tweet storms of the past few days — and felt like someone you felt you knew was a different person — and for that I sincerely apologize. That must have felt confusing and terrible. I hope this explains some of the complexities of what you are observing. Please join me in uniting blue, and fighting for our democracy and values. #resist

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