December 9, 2008 / Uncategorized

Is firing Jon Favreau the right answer?


Jon Favreau is a valued member of Barack Obama’s staff, and is responsible for crafting the speeches Obama used to inspire many people. His ability to deftly weave lofty ideals and to evoke admirable values seems incongruent with the nature of his pantomimed joke, the punchline of which portrayed a sexual assault on a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton. In addition to the offensive nature of his act, his behavior reflects a lack of judgment that could haunt the Obama presidency, as each inspirational speech may now be increasingly associated with the image of him groping Hillary, by proxy.

So, should he be fired?

Not necessarily. Jon Favreau demonstrated a deplorable lack of sensitivity to the prevalence of similar acts towards actual women, but what if he were given the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to redressing his offense? Would it be possible for him to publicly reform himself?

Were Jon Favreau to demonstrate a commitment to heightened awareness of the victimization of women, and make a public expression of remorse, perhaps he could.

First, he should be made to volunteer at a battered women’s shelter for two months, where he would have an opportunity to familiarize himself with victimization, its prevalence and its impact. He could educate himself about the connection between casual remarks or jokes about women and violence against women. He could demonstrate his newfound awareness of the offensive nature of the joke he was making in that picture, and that he understands what he was communicating, whether intended or not, and what the implications of that message are for women.

Firing Jon Favreau will only serve to reinforce the irrational notion that public figures must be inhumanly virtuous, and that evidence of their embarrassing shortcomings or offensive lapses in judgment reveal a mortal character flaw that renders them unfit to provide service to our country. But putting the problem aside without further discussion or consequence to Favreau is unsatisfactory, and there are many who will be unprepared to let the matter drop.

The public nature of Jon Favreau’s offense reinforces a culture that abets the victimization of women. A public course of redemption could not only counteract this impact, it provides an opportunity for vicarious learning, with at least the potential to foster public awareness in a manner his summary dismissal never could.

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  • Lisa

    You really think this boy is so gifted that he has a right to keep his job no matter what he does? Is anyone?

    I am floored. You must be kidding right? Oh… okay, then lets make it okay to treat women any old way you want as long as you say “I’m sorry” afterwards.

    did you go to sleep and become one of the pod people?

  • KayJL

    tend to agree he shouldn’t be fired. his dumb behavior already saddles him with the same problem Larry Summers has–if he runs for office, or if he comes up for an appointment that requires confirmation, this incident comes back to haunt.

    even the president-elect was forced to confront the reality of putting Summers up for confirmation–and decided against, so these idiots end up being limited by their own behaviors. once they’ve screwed up, even their supporters will only go so far in their support.

    if Jon Favreau is as smart as President-elect Obama apparently thinks he is, then he already understands he’s the new Larry Summers.

  • Call me nutz but I think Philipe Reines, Hillary’s spokesperson, had the right idea. Let Hillary hire him at State. Let’s call it the re-education of Jon Favreau. Mr. Favreau has likely not worked for a woman before. This will give him an opportunity to find out what it’s like to work for someone who is smart, dedicated, hard-working and disciplined.
    Mr. Favreau does not have the maturity to be writing the words of the president of the united states. Many of us have seen through his shtick from the beginning but his words would be even more meaningless now. Unfortunately, it will take a talented speechwriter to keep us together in the upcoming economic decline. But it can’t be Favreau who has lost his moral authority to pen Obama’s speeches, if indeed he ever had moral authority.
    Let Favreau finish his education with Hillary Clinton. It’s not a punishment. It’s a necessary part of maturing Mr. Favreau.

  • Sis

    As I posted on the channelled for good thread: you don’t teach him anything but what he already expects: women will roll over.

    God this is pathetic. Pod people indeed.

  • Anna

    See my post on the cancelled for good (even that notion is absurd) thread.

    Summary: TNA – Thanks for trying to think creatively. However, in this case, your idea is misguided. Flaveau’s got to be fired. (See post in other thread for more details.)

  • yttik

    I want this photo publically acknowledged and an apology issued, but as to firing him, perhaps not.

    I remember women like Shirley Chisholm who had a different way of doing things. She had to deal with George Wallace who was a segregationist but very few Dems would even denounce his behavior. Chisholm, facing a great deal of criticism for it, went visited him in the hospital after he was shot and managed to transform him into a valuable ally. Wallace went on to not only apologize for his past behavior, he appointed many black people to important positions.

    Seeing somebody fired gives you such a brief moment of satisfaction, a fleeting sense of justice. There are women all thru history that can provide us with wonderful examples of doing things differently and getting better results. Chisholm is one of them.

  • Zee


    so good to see you! And a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

    I think RD has a good idea, too:

    The Education of Jon Favreau. Maybe he needs to bring his entire generation into civilized behavior. Remember that brat with the awful video? There are a lot of young people who don’t see the problem.

  • Cynthia GA

    yttik- Really good example. I had forgotten about that!

  • Anna

    yttik – Great exampe, but it was of two very very famous people who got a lot of press coverage and attention showered upon their actions. In addition, Chisholm was an extraordinary woman and Wallace’s turn about occured within a larger social context of the civil right’s movement and a lot of social unrest. In the case of Flaveau, he is neither famous or extraordinary as Chisholm was, nor as Wallace proved to be, nor would any battered woman’s shelter be famous (quite the opposite for obvious reasons). I suspect if he had to volunteer at some sort of shelter, the entire affair would fade from the headlines as he trudged through his time. Talk about the propect of a fleeting sense of justice.

    And, as I noted in a different thread: No human changes who does not want to change. I suspect Wallace may well have already been engaged in some inner dialogue when Chisholm came along.

  • Indievoter

    Actually, unless someone makes an example of this guy, the behavior will continue. While I understand the idea that he can perhaps be reeducated, and reformed by doing community service in a battered woman’s shelter, it is unlikely that this will be viewed as anything more than a slap on the wrist by those who are just like him, and behave as deplorably as he did. What they will see is that he got off easy, and the plumb prize – his White House job – was not taken away from him. That’s what he and others like him need to see, that such behavior is so unacceptable that it can cost them their dream career. Then, and only then, will it perhaps begin to stop.

    You see, it has reached an all time high. Its open season on women in the media, and in the workplace, and unless some examples are made of people like this jerk, we will never turn the corner and stop the increase in these sorts of behaviors.

  • Ali

    I love the idea of “reeducation” but I don’t think it’s going to happen here. Who is actually going to insist on this reeducation? More likely, time will pass and people will forget.

    This is a specific action that requires a specific consequence. Jon Favreau must be axed.

  • Ali

    And I think Hillary has better things to do than reeducate this child boy/man.

  • Sis

    The women at a battered women’s shelters are beaten down, physically and emotionally. Exactly the time women don’t need to be thinking about *educating* some craptastic weenie.

    Also, you’d have to start from so far back with men like Favreau. He’s oblivious to his class and sex privilege. With all his much-touted intelligence, he’s someone who doesn’t see women as human, and doesn’t see anything wrong with his attitude, until it hurts him. Let’s lay on some scar tissue.

  • Mike J.

    Yes, of course, he needs to be fired. I am not expecting him to be inhumanely virtuous. Expecting someone not to simulate a sexual assault on a cardboard cutout of ANY women, let alone a US Senator, presidential candidate, and soon-to-be the Secretary of State is not inhuman virtue but basic human decency. At the very least we can expect public officials to clear that bar.

    After he has been fired, he can educate himself and ponder the error of his ways. Somehow I doubt this was a one-time, isolated event.

  • CoolAunt

    Ah! I was channel surfing just now and landed on CNN as they were reporting that “The New Agenda, a women’s group…” were displeased with something that Obama or one of his sexist cohorts had said about Clinton, were calling on him to not tolerate sexist behavior in his cabinet and were demanding that he apologize to her. The New Agenda was also quoted, but I don’t remember the exact quote.

    I caught only the tail-end of the story but was just so excited to see The New Agenda mentioned and quoted at CNN that I had to come post to you about it. I think perhaps this is the story that they were reporting on but I can’t be sure.

    Way to go, The New Agenda. You’re being heard and making a difference.

  • Sheryl Robinson

    “Men like Favreau”? Which ones do you mean? (joke)

    I hope men who get it will take the boy aside and explain what he needs to do in order to avoid becoming the next Larry Summers.

  • samanthasmom

    Larry Summers has been appointed to lead Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. I don’t call that a punishment.

  • Is there a way to simply ask those males in Obama’s soon-to-be administration (and also the males in the MSM reporting on this incident who think it’s a lot of ado about nothing) if it would be okay with them if the faces of their wives, mothers, daughters, etc. replaced the face of Hillary Clinton on that cardboard cut-out?

    You know, the old saying: the personal is the political? Do you think they might get it?

    As long as the face of Hillary is the only one we see on this cut-out, (and frankly as long as Hillary herself doesn’t speak to this more seriously than the way one of her aides responded) it’s just going to be dismissed as “oh,well, boys will be boys.” Come to think of it, that saying itself is revealing—-“boy” behavior from males who supposedly are men and really ought to know better.

  • Sis

    Exactly samanthasmom. Look where being a s**thead got Larry! Do it this way.

  • Rampart

    I thought The New Agenda’s idea was highly provocative and aiming for a way to have much bigger and longlasting results for women.

    It can be hard to see the big picture with so much emotion and anger wrapped up in a response. That’s certainly understandable.

    Personally, i look to support women’s advocates who are principled AND want to be players in raising awareness and shaping constructive policies. So thank you.

  • Anna

    The only way the most recent perspective of TNA agenda on what to do about Jon Flaveau (as if we have any say!) would be if Flaveau became a transformed man (never going to happen) and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and someone who maintained high visibility in addressing violence against women. Anything less than that and it will be a passing issue in the media, forgotten quickly enough, and he will merely have had his hands slapped while maintaining a rather peachy position as the Chief Speechwriter for the freaking President of the United States.

    No way having him volunteer at some women’s shelter (and I don’t think the women at any shelter should have to be around the likes of Flaveau) is going to be a consciousness raising event. Not in any substanative way at all, and TNA would have contributed to allowing another sexist power broker off the hook.

    (The sad fact is that so many men with power in DC behave in sexist ways. It’s just that Favreau got caught. But, as long as he did and it’s now public knowledge, he must be fired. Period. This isn’t rocket science and needn’t require a lot of special dispensations.)

  • Anna

    Anyone live in the DC area? Lynette’s getting serious:

  • RIChris

    Firing Jon Favreau would serve to tell others that such behavior is NOT acceptable. Women need to stop making excuses for this BS and stop utilizing ‘humanitarian efforts’ to educate these ignorant, sexist bastards. No rewards for bad behavior.

  • That picture is the tip of the iceberg of a culture of sexism in the Obama camp. If it isn’t addressed from the top – from Obama – it reinforces that women are acceptable targets.

    To suggest that Jon Favreau volunteer in a battered womens shelter is reckless and foolish. Women in such a precarious situation don’t need to be used like that. I am shocked TNA would suggest it.

    I have a photoshopped version of that pic, with Michelle as the gropee that I am leaving up on my blog for all to see. All men and women should envision the breast of their mother, sister, wife, daughter, aunt, niece, or friend under that man’s hand. I have an I stand by my first reaction – which I emailed to TNA as a sexism alert.

    Fabreau won’t be fired because his boss is as sexist as he is. Less women in his cabinet already than W… there is no change that women can believe in that will come from the Obama camp ever.

  • Thia, GA

    There are many things he could do to make amends along with a public apology. Some shelters have classes for abusers he could attend (not at the actual shelter of course), he could collect donations in front of the grocery store ringing a little bell, he could give an off-site seminar on the job interviewing process, he could teach resume prep…and on and on. The point was that he do something in addition to what many feel would be a hollow public apology.

    I posted this elsewhere but I’ll add it here.

    I’ll go a step farther than him being fired. I think Hillary ought to get to punch this guy in the nose on national TV! That would really make me feel good!! But back to reality… that isn’t going to happen. I think about this like the boy who cried wolf. If we scream “off with his head” over every single issue we will be tuned out. I know how angry everyone is, but please just think about this. It isn’t about us backing down or what is best for TNA or what makes us feel good for a moment. It is about a long-term fight to change not just the way women are treated in this country, but the hearts and minds of everyone in it. Some people will be lost causes, and some will have that lightbulb moment like we did and join us. We can’t be so extreme in our responses that we alienate everyone who could be one of us in the long term. We win when the people who think about and treat women like equals outnumber the ones who would oppress us. This isn’t about Favreau. This isn’t about TNA. It is about every woman in this country, and eventually the world! I know it is hard not to make this personal especially for those of us who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. But I truly believe that if we do that, if we do what makes us feel better for a moment, we lose in the long term.

  • Kiuku

    I agree with Lisa that he should be fired. I know this guy couldn’t be responsible for more than grammar correction.

  • What further steps would you suggest that we take to have this notion heard? Either that he make a public apology or that he is fired.

    The Blagojevich story is sucking up all the media air. And now Obama is coming out with three women in with positions in his energy dept.

    How do we get this back into the national dialogue?

    One way is to have other organizations speak out too – that would help to have partners.

    But short of that, there is only so much we can do to voice this when the media is preoccupied.

  • Kiuku

    With this display, it’s not hard to believe that this guy raped, groped, or otherwise assaulted women during his college years (which, if he is that great, should be over, buddy)

  • Sis

    I think it says so much when Clinton can be groped and set up for rape-in-effigy, and that’s so fun, amusing, but no-one yet will satirize Obama. They won’t touch it. All respect to him, all degradation to her.

  • TrishFromCanada

    You must be kidding about not firing that horndog. He’s a sexual assault waiting to happen.

    I sent this to V. Jarrett earlier, all those in favour of keeping gopeboy employed please raise your hands, not too high though, never know who is behind you with a cupped hand looking for some “innocent” fun. Freaking enablers!


    Ms. Jarrett,

    I’m sure you’ve received many emails asking the question in the subject line above. I am concerned about this man being placed in any position where he is seen as a person of importance in government. Why am I concerned? It’s simple. I was sexually assaulted and brutally beaten as a child, the three guys that did this too me also liked to use photos etc to make innuendos and
    vulgar gestures. I believe some men start small and move on from there. Can you be sure Jon doesn’t extend his perversions beyond a cardboard copy of Sen. Clinton. I can’t be sure of this. Therefore, I’m questioning why he was not fired. And why any grown man would stupidly place the photo on facebook and not have his character and idiocy level scrutinized. No matter how you boil it down, Jon Favreau leaves considerable doubt of his ability
    to use proper judgment and I want to see him fired for his sexism, his devaluation of women and his public ridicule of an elected official.

  • ER

    Thank you for sharing your letter TrishFromCanada. Here is Valerie’s email address for others to write to her:

    Amy, in response to your question: What further steps would you suggest that we take to have this notion heard? ” Firing is first choice. Apology is not enough; he would need to do a lengthy retribution–battered women’s shelter, or similar (can do this service without coming into contact with the women there).

    Also, to keep the issue in the media, what about organizing a national petition that people can sign calling for Favreau’s firing, and for Obama to address this issue directly and publicly denounce Favreau’s behavior. All of the women’s groups could disseminate it. I remember a national petition to prevent Larry Summers from being appointed to Treasury Secretary.

  • Favreau should be fired. That’s what happens in these cases. In Hillary’s campaign, one person was fired for mentioning cocaine; Ferraro resigned because something she said was called ‘racially insensitive.’ In Obama’s, Susan whosis was fired for calling Hillary a monster.

    Summers on the other hand does not deserve the persecution he is getting. He asked for arguments AGAINST the theories in a stack of papers that he was GIVEN and requested to summarize. Even if he deserves punishment for that, what is suggested here for Favreau has already happened with Summers. Summers has had several years for further study and repentance of any heresy he may have had — and he will be in a good position to make amends.

    The effect of persecuting Summers was to give Obama cover to appoint two inexperienced bots as token women.

    As for Favreau, I’m collecting ammunition at

  • Sis

    Obama, like other sexist, misogynist men in charge of hiring, will not put in women who are as capable as possible, because he wants to be able to say “see, told ya so” when they don’t do as well as someone who has been raised and educated and mentored for 50 years by other members of the penis club.