Over the weekend, a former Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn panelist named Lizz Winstead wrote on Huffington Post a thoroughly misleading and malicious account of an interview she did with Jezebel‘s Moe Tkacik and Tracie Egan. Winstead, host of a panel called "Thinking and Drinking," presented two short clips of the hour-long interview designed to portray Moe and Tracie as boozy, irresponsible anti-feminist whores. A contradiction! you say. How can Winstead attack Egan and Tkacik’s feminist credentials and also their sexual choices? How indeed, reader, how indeed. But consistency is the hobgoblin of comedy-scene washouts.

Winstead’s indictment follows:

I don’t know if they came to the show drunk, or just ended up drunk by the time they hit the stage, but what I do know is that the discussion that ensued was deeply disturbing to me for a few reasons:

1. Because they had no regard for the people who came that night and paid money to hear them speak.

2. They do not understand the influence they have over the women who read them, nor do they accept any responsibility as role models for young women who are coming of age searching for lifestyles to emulate.

Now, this is how you can tell the fix is in. The name of the segment is Thinking and Drinking. You would think that the host of a segment featuring drunken conversation would have a solitary, elementary particle of self-awareness not to attack her invited guests for engaging in drunken conversation. You would also think that the host of a segment featuring drunken conversation — and who endlessly bills herself as the co-creator of cultural phenomena like The Daily Show — would have another solitary, elementary particle of self-awareness on hand preventing her from self-righteously hectoring other people about being bad role models. But what Winstead is doing here is worse than a momentary, self-incriminating onslaught of hypocrisy. She’s not giving you the full story of what happened.

Winstead says that she doesn’t know if Moe and Tracie arrived to her studio drunk or got drunk before they got on stage. Yes, she does. Her crew immediately handed them beers and encouraged the two to drink up. Then they got Moe and Tracie more beers before the cups were empty. On stage, Winstead herself put a table in front of Moe so she’d have a place to put additional beers, and joked that beer cans are "water" on Thinking and Drinking. What stupid whores! How foolish of them to expect to be treated in good faith!

With her targets good and loaded, Winstead proceeded to sandbag them, getting them to talk about such topics as rape — which, if you watch the entire program as opposed to the clips Winstead selected, you’ll see Winstead repeatedly returning to. Remember: Moe and Tracie were told that Thinking and Drinking is a comedy show. The two of them attempted to approach very weighty subjects in the context of having to entertain an audience. They did this all after being plied with alcohol by Winstead’s crew. During the conversation, Moe referenced the fact that abusers of women these days often rely on drugs or alcohol to weaken women’s defenses. To understate matters, it’s hard not to see the irony in Winstead’s denunciation of Moe and Tracie as bad influences on women.

So around the internet, Moe and Tracie are getting attacked not only for being drunkards, but for being apologists for rape. And if you only look at what Winstead put on Huffington Post, it’s easy to see why people would think they are. But if you look at the whole transcript, a much different picture emerges. I wonder, for instance, why everyone who expresses horror at Moe and Tracie’s alleged attitudes toward rape doesn’t find it at all problematic that Winstead blames Moe for the rapes of other women that Moe’s rapist has raped. Here’s the transcript, at about minute 48:

Moe: I remember, I guess, like, the third guy I ever had sex with date raped me. I got really mad at him. But I wasn’t going to, like, fucking turn him into the police…
Winstead: Why not?
Moe: … or fucking go through shit.
Winstead: But see that’s the problem. Why not? I mean, I just am curious.
Moe: Well, it was a load of trouble and I, you know, I had better things to do, like drinking more [wry laugh]. And I just didn’t… I actually just wanted to believe that he was a better guy.
Winstead: But do you understand, and I just have to say this, and you’re going to…
Moe: And at the time I was 19, so —
Winstead: Right, but you’re going to get mad at me. Because… Here’s where the conflict comes for me. When you talk about the older feminist women who only think about themselves, by not bringing somebody who raped you to justice, that man gets to go out and rape somebody else. So you were only thinking about yourself.
Moe: No, no, no, no.

Now that is a feminist role model. Someone who blames a rape victim for additional rapes. I wonder if Winstead blames Bill Clinton for 9/11. After all, Clinton didn’t kill Usama bin Laden after 1993, right? By not bringing him to justice, he gets to go out and kill somebody else, right? Clinton must only have been thinking about himself.

I don’t know Tracie except through her writing, which is honest, raw, reflective, complex and unsparing. I am lucky enough to know Moe, who is, without exception, the best and most interesting writer working today, at least in America. Lizz Winstead, I’m willing to bet, knows all that, and not being the best there is must eat at her every day. I pity Winstead. To be as honest and self-critical as Moe and Tracie are for just one hour is beyond her capabilities. And I’m reminded of something my mother once told me: that I was lucky not to have been born a woman, because I’ll never experience either the horror that men do to women nor the horror that women do to each other.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman