Last week, the New York Times published a story detailing presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar’s purportedly poor treatment of her staff—the latest in a series of articles on the same subject. Some see the allegations, largely made by anonymous former staffers, as evidence of an abusive boss, while others have criticized the media for scrutinizing behavior that is not similarly condemned when it is perpetrated by male politicians.
Many of the accusations against Klobuchar depict a particular boss who is easy to displease and quick to anger. “This is the worst press staff I ever had,” the Minnesota senator once told employees, according to the Times—an insult she reportedly directed at previous and subsequent groups of staffers. According to Buzzfeed, Klobuchar accidentally hit an aide with a binder after throwing the object in rage. Other anecdotes are as strange as they are telling. The New York Times reports an incident in which Klobuchar chastised an aide for forgetting to bring her a fork for her salad, and then, because she was on a short flight with no utensils available, proceeded to eat the salad with a comb. When she was finished with said comb, Klobuchar reportedly demanded that another staff member clean it.
One former employee told Buzzfeed that such revelations about Klobuchar are important because they indicate a leadership style that is similar to the chaotic behavior of Donald Trump.
“The reason it matters is when I hear the descriptors of our current president and how he lacks responsibility and everyone is to blame, and there’s erratic behavior, name-calling,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but you’re also describing her.”
Earlier this month, the Huffington Post reported that three people had withdrawn from Klobuchar’s 2020 presidential campaign over her reputation for mistreating employees. Klobuchar did at one point have the highest employee turnover of any Senate office, according to a survey by the online portal LegiStorm, though she has since dropped to third on the list.
Klobuchar also has a reputation for being a highly effective politician, known for her willingness to effect change through bipartisan co-operation, which helped her pass more laws than any of her colleagues in the Senate, a 2016 analysis found. Critics say that the focus on Klobuchar’s harsh management style is sexist, and that notoriously volatile male politicians are not called out for being similarly difficult to work with.
“Imagine, for a moment, that comb-gate didn’t involve Klobuchar, but a different politician on a plane in 2008,” Laura McGann writes in Vox. “John McCain’s short fuse was no secret. But if he’d gotten mad at a staffer who gave him lunch with no way to eat it, would it be the opening to a New York Times story over a decade later? Probably not.”