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Combing Over Facts: Slate Writer Tests Eating Salads With A Comb Rather Than Exposing Alleged Abuse Of Klobuchar Staff

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After reading a recent New York Times piece about how 2020 presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is accused of abusing her staff -both physically and verbally – Jenny G. Zhang, “audience engagement editor at Slate,” knew she could not ignore the significance of the NYT piece and had to cover it for the outlet.

Forget the serious allegations of dehumanizing staff to the point of tears and physically throwing papers, binders, (and other random objects) at those who work for Klobuchar, no–Zhang focused on the “eyebrow-raising anecdote that started the piece,” how the presidential hopeful once ate a salad with a comb.

I’m serious. This is what journalism is in 2019. {insert eyeroll here}

This, of course was something that immediately needed to be tested out, so that’s exactly what Zhang did.

“Armed with a six-pack of assorted plastic combs purchased from the nearest Target and a salad from the cafe downstairs, Slate tested each hair styling tool in an attempt to discover which apparatus allows for the optimal consumption of salad. If you have never before attempted to use a comb as a fork, the results are eye-opening.”

The article goes on to explain how each of the combs (labeled “equipment”) in the 6-pack were individually tested for their ability to be stand-ins, replacing forks with different sizes, shapes and widths of the combs’ teeth affecting the “scoops” of salad.

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Next, “technique” was discussed where Slate tested stabbing, scooping, and eventually shoveling bites of salad with hair combs: “hunched shoulders, bowl held aloft to the lips, comb rapidly ferrying food from vessel to mouth with the dexterity and determination of a child itching to escape the dinner table (this, by the way, is also the correct method for eating large amounts of rice with chopsticks, rather than grain by grain, as some chopsticks novices seem to think). Finally, satiation.”

Slate’s verdict- that combs could be used as forks to eat a salad–but they don’t recommend using pre used combs with “a layer of dead skin flakes and scalp oil,” and made sure to point out, “just don’t hand the lettuce strewn comb to an aide to clean up afterward.”

This was clearly an error missed by editors, since we know Klobuchar would have thrown the dressing covered comb at staffers like a dart.

Zhang completely ignored the allegations that surfaced in early February in a pair of stories published by HuffPost and BuzzFeed News.

It was reported in the HuffPost piece that at least three people decided to withdraw consideration to help lead Klobuchar’s presidential bid due to the rumors of how she treated her staff. Huffpost reported that former staffers revealed the senator was “habitually demeaning and prone to busts of cruelty” towards those who worked for her.

This, adding to the fact that in 2015, in a private conversation with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Reid stressed to Klobuchar that her behavior towards staff and others needed some attention–clearly, this conversation fell on deaf ears.

“…then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke to her privately and told her to change her behavior, multiple sources have confirmed to HuffPost.” 

HuffPost also reported complaints about the senator’s behavior date as far back as 2006 when she was an attorney in Hennepin County in Minneapolis.

“During that first campaign, aides assembled an eight-page memo outlining the duties of Klobuchar’s body person, the staffer who oversees all of the logistics and personal needs of a candidate. It was frank about the challenges of working with the then-candidate.

“Especially while in the car during a busy day: if she is EXTREMELY upset about something, let her rant through it, DON’T interupt [sic] her unless ABSOLUTELY necessary and be careful when trying to calm her down,” the memo reads. “Often she just needs to talk things out in the open and is not interested in other people’s opinions―this is something that you will become used to and adjust to―its just a note for the first time this happens.””-HuffPost reported

During this time, James Appleby, president of the AFSCME local – the union representing several employees of Klobuchar in the county attorney office – ‘asked the larger Twin Cities AFSCME affiliate to NOT endorse Klobuchar’s Senate bid, citing “shameful treatment of her employees,”‘ reports HuffPost. Appleby described Klobuchar as having “created a hostile work environment” and one where she “severely damaged the morale of the office.” Appleby wrote, “In short, Amy Klobuchar is exactly the kind of candidate that AFSCME should oppose”

Read Appleby’s 2006 open letter to AFSCME:

AFSCME Letter on Amy Klobuc… by on Scribd

“Explosive rage” and consistent humiliation of staff by Klobuchar was reported by four former staffers who spoke to BuzzFeed News, with one staffer saying they were hit with a binder that Klobuchar had slung across the room. Staffers told BuzzFeed News Klobuchar threatened to fire them over minor spelling and grammatical errors, with the staffers reporting crying “all the time” when working for Klobuchar.

During an interview earlier this month with Fox News, Klobuchar denied ever throwing a binder AT the staffer, but that it was possible she threw it DOWN and somehow it hit the staffer in the arm. You decide.

BuzzFeed News reported:

“Some former aides, however, say that Klobuchar’s behavior as a leader didn’t just affect her employees but limited their ability to conduct Senate work, creating a chaotic environment where staff were forced to devote as much time to managing their boss’s unpredictable anger as they did to governing.”

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Staffers describe working for Klobuchar not as something rewarding and enjoyable, but more like having to babysit a toddler who no one can satisfy and who has tantrums all day long that end in both verbal and physical abuse. “I cried. I cried, like, all the time,” said one former staffer. “The way Sen. Klobuchar behaves in private with her staff is very different than when she’s in the public eye, and that kind of cruelty shouldn’t be acceptable for anyone.”

In the New York Times piece on Friday, one staffer reported being made to clean the comb that Klobuchar used as a fork to eat her salad with, but unlike Zhang, that wasn’t what caught my attention. What’s more troubling are the reports of staffers saying that lower-level employees were made to “perform personal duties” such as clean (in violation of Senate rules and federal law against personal use of the office) as well as other demeaning tasks all while Klobuchar continually belittled her staffers.

What about Klobuchar’s “unusual” paid parental leave policy that staffers told New York Times in some situations they were required to pay back?? The policy, (which could be found in the employee handbook) read once a staff member returned from their leave, they would be required to stay for three weeks longer than whatever amount of time was taken for their parental leave. If the staffers decided to leave before that time, they would be required to pay back any money that was earned during the paid leave.

HuffPost also reported a “former longtime advance man” who reviewed Klobuchar campaign memo being troubled by the section titled “Personal Preferences & Needs at Home,” which described what the body person should do “During free time or when waiting in her room (dressing area/bedroom)”:

  • Hang up clothes she leaves laying on the floor & her chair
  • Pick up dirty clothes & place in a basket (in the hallway between room & bathroom)
  • Organize clothing in the closet so she can find items easily (separate into shirts, suits, etc)
  • Throw away any garbage in the dressing area
  • Make sure nylons/socks/etc are in drawers are arranged for easy retrieval

It is also important to note that according to data from 2001 to 2016, reported by Politico and sourced by LegiStorm, Klobuchar had the highest staff turnover rate in the Senate, with an annual turnover rate of 36%.

Why are “journalists” dodging pertinent information like what you’ve just read concerning Klobuchar, and instead writing about which comb will scoop up the most amount of lettuce?

Is that really what we’re doing these days? Is this really what journalism has become?

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