NEW YORK -- Mark Leibovich has memorialized D.C. as This Town, but it turns out "this town"-type behavior extends all the way to New York, which has just discovered its very own Kurt Bardella-by-way-of-Zoe Barnes figure in the form of -- as a New York tabloid might put it -- a lissome blonde former intern for Anthony Weiner by the name of Olivia Nuzzi.
Nuzzi, 20, penned a series of columns for a gossipy website about her short time on Weiner's doomed campaign, which catapulted her onto the cover of the New York Daily News Tuesday. She earned instant internet notoriety after Weiner communications director Barbara Morgan unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade against Nuzzi in a conversation with Talking Points Memo Tuesday night.
Morgan later said she thought her epic rant was off the record. TPM says that was not the case, and either way the evening ended with Morgan apologizing to Nuzzi and Nuzzi using the political aide's words as her new Twitter bio: "Slutbag, twat and cunt. Writer for NSFWCORP." On Wednesday, she accepted Morgan's apology.
I happened to meet Nuzzi on a Sunday morning two weeks ago with Dave Weigel of Slate. We decided to go to brunch at the Breslin, and Nuzzi joined us there at Weigel's invitation. I was confused at first as to what her connection to Weigel was, since they appeared not to have met before, and she seemed very young (she's a junior at Fordham University). As it turns out, a former cable host she'd once sought to intern with suggested she get in touch with Weigel when he was in the city at some point.
Nuzzi was looking for advice on how to break into journalism, and, in particular, how to get a foothold in TV. All of her friends wanted to be TV pundits, she said. It's what they idolized.
Despite efforts to cast her as a "mercenary hobag" intern selling out her boss for 15 seconds of fame, Nuzzi's columns for the Daily News and NSFWCORP were not her first forays into political journalism, or even into writing about a politician who was her boss. She's also written for Alternet, the Huffington Post, and two small New Jersey publications, More Monmouth Musings and the triCityNews. There, she penned a series of columns about New Jersey politics, including some in 2011 about the District 11 Democratic campaign, for which she was also an intern.
I was impressed by the way Nuzzi coupled a kind of self-conscious sexpot appearance with an unexpectedly deep knowledge of New York and New Jersey politics. She friended me on Facebook shortly thereafter (the picture above is one she had made public on the site).
Morgan described Nuzzi as someone who aggressively courted a position with the campaign. "I can tell you she ... like accosted me at like our petitioning thing to be able to become my intern, begged me to be my intern, sent me something within like 20 minutes of meeting her and then proceeded to -- she came in the next day and was like, basically, 'I want to be your bitch all summer long, that's all I want to do is be your right-hand person,'" Morgan told TPM. "I was like, 'OK, well, it's not really glamorous, like, you're going to do clips, and you're going to do media catching, and you're going to do x, y, and z and maybe I'll get you to the point where you're like doing some other stuff."
There was no question when I met Nuzzi that she was on the make. But then so are plenty of other young journalists -- the difference is that they are usually men. It's actually rather rare to meet a young aspiring woman journalist who is as aggressively networky and career-oriented as Nuzzi. Or as willing to burn bridges.
Oh -- and to that photo on the cover of the News? It wasn't a newspaper photoshoot, but one of several pictures taken by fashion photographer Sofia Colvin during the spring. Nuzzi had been using them as her Facebook photos for months.
Somehow I won't be surprised if she gets her moment on TV sooner because of all of this, though for now she's been turning down appearances in favor of work where she's the content creator, not the content.