The Black Entertainment Television channel recently hosted a conference in south Florida for black women known as “Leading Women Defined,” which featured a casual conversation between former first lady Michelle Obama and former senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
But according to the New York Post’s Page Six, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was in attendance was booted from the remainder of the conference after she wrote an article about some of the comments Obama had made during the discussion.
Robin Givhan, a fashion critic and staff writer for The Washington Post, documented the highlights of the friendly chat between Obama and Jarrett.
Some of the highlights of the conversation included the former first lady’s thoughts on President Donald Trump’s inauguration as the Obamas prepared to leave the White House, the role she played during the 2008 election, her difficulty settling in as “the spouse” to the president, how she described her White House garden as a “subversive act” to garner trust with the public and her upcoming memoir. Of course Givhan also wrote about what Obama was wearing … after all, she is a fashion critic.
But following the publication of the article, according to Page Six, BET demanded Givhan leave the conference early amid claims that she had violated a “sacred space” by publishing the content of the conversation.
They also canceled a panel discussion that Givhan initially had been asked to moderate.
However, Page Six noted that BET’s claim that Obama’s discussion was “private” and not intended to be shared with anyone else outside the small gathering in attendance didn’t hold up to scrutiny given the fact that BET itself posted clips from the discussion on its site.
Furthermore, Jarrett also posted those clips on social media and told everyone to “tune in” to the network so they could hear what Obama had to say.
Shortly thereafter, the dispute descended into a sharp back-and-forth on social media between Givhan and others who were irked at what she had done, as can be seen on Givhan’s Twitter feed.
Several of her critics asserted that the conversation had been “off-the-record” — an assertion Givhan flatly denied — and one user claimed the reporter had “violated a sacred trust” between black women.
Another said what she had done was a “complete violation of journalistic ethics and Black girl code, all at once,” while still another asserted through a hashtag that Givhan was “#notoneofus,” as if she were being banished from the exclusive realm of accepted professional black women.
For their part, a BET representative told Page Six that Givhan had been “invited as a guest (not working press) to moderate a fashion panel,” and noted that her travel and lodging expenses had been paid for by the network.
“She was made aware that it was an intimate conversation in a sacred space of sisterhood and fellowship,” the rep added.
Neither Givhan nor representatives for Obama responded to requests for comment on the report from Page Six.
If the WaPo reporter really was instructed ahead of time that the conversation between Obama and Jarrett was “off the record” and a private affair, but published anyway, then BET was justified in booting her from the remainder of the conference — though the mean-spirited commentary she received on social media still crossed the line.
But if Givhan received no prior warning on the matter — and given the fact that BET itself published the conversation later — then this is just a major display of hypocrisy and unnecessary infighting.
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