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Anita Dunn gives mixed account of how White House women fared

November 06, 2011|By Peter Nicholas
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty…)

One of the major disclosures in Ron Suskind’s book, “Confidence Men,’’ was that women working in the Obama White House often felt marginalized, that a frat-boy atmosphere that prevailed in the 2008 campaign carried over into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director, is quoted in Suskind’s book saying that “looking back, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace. … Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.’’

Tough stuff.

Dunn made an appearance Sunday on a morning news show and was asked about the treatment of women in the White House. It doesn’t help Obama’s case that some prominent women have been heading for the exits. Jen Psaki, the deputy communications director, is gone, and Melody Barnes — a top policy advisor — will leave at year’s end.

CNN "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley asked about reports that the White House can be an “unfriendly workplace for women.’’

Dunn talked about how Obama “reaches out to senior women on his staff’’ — something that “I appreciated when I was there.’’

Did the president’s male aides show the same measure of respect? Crowley asked.

Dunn gave an answer that sounded a lot more like no than yes.

She said that in “any workplace in this country still, you’re going to find challenges that women face. You’re going to find challenges that everybody faces.’’

Then she veered back to safer ground: Obama, his polices and the women in his family.

“He’s married to a very strong woman, he’s got two daughters, and he understands these issues as well as anyone I’ve ever met,'' Dunn said.

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