Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic, and the myth of silence.
In my mid-20s, I was an assistant editor toiling on the lower rungs of the New Republic, working late nights and long shifts. One evening, most of the staff went to a bar after work. The usual lines of banter were soon crossed; the teasing turned darkly sexual. As the night progressed, Leon Wieseltier, the magazine’s intellectual luminary and literary editor, cornered me, alone by the bathroom, and put his mouth on mine. I clapped my hand over my mouth in surprise. “I’ve always known you’d do that,” I recall he said.
A few days later, I told the story to the editor of the magazine, Peter Beinart. The mortification of the moment wasn’t just from the kiss, I explained. It was the intimacy of the touch and the dialogue that accompanied it. There was a clear invitation to continue an assignation elsewhere. Other women, he had intimated, had apparently accepted similar such offers. When I fled, I thought I heard him laugh.
In disclosing this incident to my superiors, the outcome was, in many ways, far worse than the act itself. It’s not exactly that I was disbelieved; it’s that in the end, I was dismissed. Over one wrenching week I learned why women, typically, don’t divulge such stories. Me — I regretted it immediately.
I can’t even quite explain why I came to Beinart, other than that after this event, I felt strangely unmoored. Anyway, as far as I knew, the New Republic had no system for reporting sexual impropriety, and, even if they had, I wasn’t seeking some sort of formal inquiry. (This is not, I know now, unusual.) I certainly wasn’t hoping to have Wieseltier punished. Some 15 years later, I’m still not.
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