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Anita Dunn’s Quote on the White House as a “Hostile Workplace” Confirmed by the Post

John on September 21, 2011 at 9:51 am

Here’s the Anita Dunn quote from Suskind’s book that has been making the rounds:

this place would be in court for a hostile workplace…Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.

After it hit the papers Anita Dunn became part of the White House push back on the book. She told the Post “that she told Suskind ‘point blank’ that the White House was not a hostile work environment.” However this denial has not gone unchallenged. Suskind had hundreds of hours of tapes to back up his claim and this week he took the unusual step of having reporters at the Post verify his transcript:

On Monday, Suskind allowed a Post reporter to review a recorded excerpt of the original interview, which took place over the telephone in April. In that conversation, Dunn is heard telling Suskind about a conversation she had with Jarrett.

“I remember once I told Valerie that, I said if it weren’t for the president, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” Dunn is heard telling Suskind. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

The usual suspects have seized on the phrase “if it weren’t for the president” which was elided in Suskind’s published version of the quote. I do think this explains why Dunn said what she said, i.e. to credit the President for dealing with the problem. However the quote is shown to be accurate. Furthermore, even the elision confirms Suskind’s premise, i.e. there was a problem with how women were treated in the White House, one which Obama took steps to rectify. The Post notes this photo of a dinner Obama held for his female staff in November of 2009 to deal with their concerns.

I suppose the takeaway is that, while the hostile workplace existed, it was never Obama’s fault. Indeed he gets credit for changing it. Still, Dunn’s initial refusal to acknowledge the quote and suggest she said the opposite is shown to be false. She did say it and it did happen.

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