Boston Globe opinion columnist Joan Vennochi shares with readers her personal story, about how she lost her job because of her pregnancy. Vennochi uses this history to declare that she “believes” Sen. Warren, who has been telling a similar story about being fired for being pregnant.
Both of these women apparently share something else in common: telling a tall tale for political effect.
When evaluating opinion columns, I don’t grade them for bias. I do look for faulty reasoning or factual mistakes. Today’s Vennochi column supporting Senator Warren’s dubious story is something I would just normally skip over. Vennochi can “believe” Warren even if there is no evidence she is being truthful. Believing something without evidence is common on the Globe editorial pages and I can’t possibly cover it every time it happens.
Vennochi also believed the Kavanaugh accuser. In a 9/18/2018 column, Vennochi said “Kavanaugh’s denials…are meaningless.” Belief in the absence of facts can be a powerful thing and is not worth debating.
But her column today goes way beyond an irrational belief in order to justify her support of the Elizabeth Warren candidacy. She retells her own story of victimhood but it simply doesn’t ring true. Perhaps Vennochi is just channeling Warren herself, following in the footsteps of her hero in making false or misleading claims.
Vennochi’s problem comes right up front, when she tries to argue that she “believes” Warren because she, too, has been a victim of a pregnancy termination. But her conclusion doesn’t seem to match the facts as she recounts them.
Look at the photo accompanying this article. It is a pull quote from the article which says “Thirty years ago, the law then in place didn’t stop a boss from giving away my desk and job.” So there is Vennochi’s claim that her boss fired her when she went out on maternity leave.
But the article itself is more nuanced. She implies she was fired, because her boss was going to reassign her desk to someone else. That doesn’t sound like she is being fired, it sounds like they need the desk space. But Vennochi concludes that this means her boss was “handing off…[her] job.” But she leaves a little wiggle room by saying she “essentially” lost her job. Is that like being a little pregnant?
Several paragraphs later, Vennochi contradicts that she was terminated by writing, “When I returned to work after my maternity leave, few people knew the real reason for my switch to a different department…I didn’t want to rock the boat.” So she wasn’t fired. And her department switch was at her direction. She didn’t want to work in the old boss’ department.
Vennochi then argues that how people view Warren’s tall tale depends on their experiences. Vennochi seems to believe that women who have been pregnant are likely to believe Warren because of their shared experiences. I’m sure many people have faced different types of discrimination for all sorts of reasons. What does that have to do with whether or not Warren is telling the truth about her personal history?
I repeatedly asked Vennochi to respond to several questions about these apparently misleading claims, but got no response. I wanted to know where she was working 30 years ago and why is she claiming she was fired when she returned to the same employer after her maternity leave? Vennochi did not respond to my questions, so I will speculate.
I believe that in Vennochi’s mind, she is a victim. So even though her position was held open and she returned to work after her maternity leave, she suffered harm. Therefore, she can claim that she, too, was discriminated against. Now, it is possible that Vennochi complained to Human Resources, she filed a grievance, and her termination was reinstated. If this is what happened and Vennochi chose to share her personal history to prop up Sen. Warren’s story, then she should be forthcoming about it. But this doesn’t read that way to me. I think Vennochi is taking some creative license to reimagine her history so that it backs up what Warren claimed. Vennochi’s story thus “rings true” even though it probably isn’t.
Any reasonable person would think that when you return to an employer after a maternity leave, you have received a valuable benefit: your job back. Vennochi apparently thinks it is unfair that the person that had to step in to do her job in her absence used her desk, or that they weren’t fired the minute she showed back up to work.
I wanted to know if Vennochi worked for the Boston Globe thirty years ago. Regardless, she has a high profile position at a formerly great newspaper, so she doesn’t seem to have suffered that much, nor has candidate Warren, for all their claims of discrimination.
Vennochi won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, while working at the Boston Globe on their Spotlight Team. She was eight months pregnant in 1989. So it is a pretty good bet that she was working for the Boston Globe when she was “fired” and then returned after her maternity leave. Her short bio on the Globe website does not indicate any break in employment. (See https://www3.bostonglobe.com/staff/vennochi).
Why would she return to such a place that had illegally discriminated against her? Warren claims she was fired and did not return, although there is evidence that is not true, that she quit. Vennochi claims she was fired but she did go back. Inquiring minds want to know how that makes sense.
Now, let me digress a moment and say that Vennochi’s justification for and suggestion that women who have ever become pregnant or who have ever faced discrimination should believe other alleged victims like Elizabeth Warren shows why Warren might fabricate her own claim to being fired. If claiming victimhood can get other victims to give you the benefit of the doubt and support you, it could be a powerful motivator for campaign workers, small-dollar donors, and eventually voters.
So Warren’s claim of victimhood gives her a benefit, especially among female voters, because women like Vennocci will think Warren’s story “rings true,” quoting Vennochi. Doesn’t that phrase sound familiar? This rings another bell–the time Justice Kavanaugh was smeared without any evidence, just an accusation. But in the world according to Vennochi, accusations must be believed despite denials, but false claims are to believed without evidence. I get why Senator Warren has falsely claimed being a victim, but am surprised that Vennochi would apparently go out on a similar limb to help candidate Warren.
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