Hilary Rosen Talks Politics, Press and Sexism

Hilary Rosen may very well be Wonder Woman.

The New Jersey-born activist acted as the Recording Industry Association of America’s chairman for five years, acted lesbian social networking site Ourchart’s president, served as Human Rights Campaign’s interim executive director back in 2004 and currently serves as Huffington Post’s political director, a gig she accepted earlier this year.

With all that experience under her belt, you can be sure Rosen, who previously endorsed Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, has scads to say about the current electoral climate, including the increasingly “blurred” lines between press and politics, her feelings on Clinton’s departure, sexism in the press and how the lived experience shapes one’s political views. And, thankfully, Rosen shared her thoughts – and many more – with our trusty editor.

Before getting into all of that, however, the duo start things off at the “beginning” of Rosen’s queer career: her coming out. Read all about it, after the jump…

Andrew Belonsky: How old were you when you came out, Hilary?

Hilary Rosen: I came out in college. I went to George Washington and my freshman year I fell in love with my roommate.

AB: And how did she take it?

HR: We fell in love with each other, I should say, so I guess she took it quite well!

AB: How convenient! Were your parents as enthusiastic?

HR: [Pauses.] My parents were actually great about it. My mother was resistant because she wanted me to be happy, but they were so liberal and their politics were so progressive, I think they were trying to live their values. I was testing their values.

AB: I imagine your parents’ progressive politics influenced your activism.

HR: Yeah. My mom was the first woman elected to our town council, our city council. She was a politician and she took a very traditional route for women politicians in those days: she started out involved in the PTA and then was president in the PTA and then got involved on the school board and then ran for city council.

AB: Do you think that sort of trajectory for a woman – being involved in education – works or is it outdated?

HR: I think it does work with women today. It happens all over the place. People get politicized when something in their life connects with something that they perceive as actionable outside of it, in the government. The more involved you are, the meatier you are -whether that means being an advocate for your kid in the public schools or being gay and lesbian and not wanting to face discrimination or whether that’s a truck driver unhappy about gas prices – you get engaged.

AB: Of course that’s one of the keys to any – I’m using the term loosely, ideology – your lived experience influences your plot to change your reality. So, in addition to your parents’ influence on you, do you remember a key moment in your politicization? Is there anything that sticks out?

HR: You know, I was kind of always political, as it were. I was a student rep on the school board, I was involved with President Carter, I volunteered at the local Democratic headquarters, and so I’ve always done that. I was always political, so to be a political gay person seemed like a pretty natural step for me.

AB: Looking at your beginnings in the gay rights movement and where we are now, what are your thoughts on the progress? And what hasn’t changed, in your opinion, or are there tactics with which you disagree?

HR: It’s never satisfying enough to hear how much progress there has been if we don’t have full equality. It’s like, “Yes, but it’s not enough.” If you start out with that caveat it’s – I mean, my first days lobbying on gay and lesbian issues were met with surprise and reticence and people really didn’t want to talk about it, but now there are real policy discussions. That in and of itself has politically changed, but it’s not enough.

AB: Now, let’s talk about a semi-related topic: the intersection of politics and press. This has come up a number of times during interviews I’ve done, like with Nico Pitney and Rachel Maddow. First the idea that now, more than ever before, journalists are becoming the news, which, I think could be a distressing development. When we have endless stories about Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann’s tax records – does that threaten the “sanctity” of journalism?

HR: Clearly the lines are way blurred and since Rachel Maddow kept me out drinking last night, they’re really blurred, but the – you know, Keith Olbermann’s not a journalist –

AB: He’s a commentator.

HR: Right. And Chris used to be a journalist, but not really. Before he was on Hardball he was a columnist and before that he was an advocate in Congress. The public has no clue who’s a journalist anymore and who isn’t. They see names on TV of people associated with news organizations and they make assumptions across the board. It’s interesting, because in Washington, we’re all so cognizant of who’s a journalist and who’s a pundit. Some people around the country don’t know [the difference] and get confused and resent it. They’ll hear things like Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann having an opinion when in essence that’s who they are – and people will think, well they’re news people, they’re not supposed to have these opinions.

AB: That brings up something that Maddow said to me when I interviewed her earlier this year: that political analysis is inherently emotional; people need an emotion to relate to fully understand a lot of what’s going on behind the scenes and in the news. Do you agree with that statement?

HR: I do agree with that and I think it’s increasingly personal, as well, which explains the increased popularity for places like Huffington Post, the cable shows and things like that: places where you get people who have passion and are talking about the issues with passion. And, yes, there are news nuggets among them for discussion, but it’s often about advocacy and passion. I think politics have in a way become much more organic and have in essence have surpassed news.

AB: Can you elaborate on that, please?

HR: When you think about news, you say, “Tell us the facts? Report the story to us.” And I think in many ways with politics that only works so far – people want the facts of politics, but it’s a subject they also want passion about. In that way, it’s more like how culture has been to the news over the years, where the critique of the work is as relevant to the news consumer as the fact that it exists.

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  • like

    What did she have to say about suing/extorting money from random people off the internet that the RIAA accused of copying music?

  • Blake

    No one should ever boast of working for the RIAA. It’s like bragging about be a member of the mafia.

  • Kid A

    Fuck the RIAA. I’m a budding recording engineer, and seeing it all from the inside is doubly noxious.

  • Thomas Delayed

    Wow, softball with Hillary Rosen.

    Question if Rosen reads this.

    Why did you bash Hillary the day after the last vote? She didn’t give her concession speech in what YOU percieved the alloted time? Perhaps she wanted to wait and give the amazing speech she gave….but NOOOOOOOO….you had to throw the lady under the fucking bus because she wasn’t working on your schedule or any of the other pussy pundits that you work with. That is called
    a hypocritic traitor.

    Also, why is it that Huffington Post has kicked off so many Clinton supporters? You were part of that. The Arrianna Huffington power play. That is called censorship.

    Lastly, have you or anyone in your family downloaded a song? Are you happy that poor college students and grandmothers received heavy fines so the wealthy could get wealthier? That is not very kind my lady. That is called dictatorship.

    The RIAA are the biggest crooks in the county and you owe the world an apology for having innocent people have to struggle with the law while you and your partner sit on your high horse in judgement.

    Andrew, honey, if you are going to interview these people, you have to ask the serious questios and not just kiss their fucking ass because they know Rachel Maddow.

    This woman has don’t a god damned thing for the gay community other than take our money.

    You should get together with Andrew Sullivan and rule your own little world.

  • Thomas Delayed

    I just have to mention this last quote that is so full of irony coming from a woman that had this exact sort of woman threatened with jail because
    (on a budget) she downloaded a song for her grandchild.

    I can’t imagine what it’s like for the waitress in the diner or the woman on Wall Street. Sexism just exists. It is real.

  • ggreen

    Hilary always makes me think of something Molly Ivins used to say: Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

  • hell's kitchen guy

    Ah yes, the woman who single handedly destroyed the entire recording industry. If you’re going to call yourself a “journalist,” why don’t you ask some real questions?

  • Thomas Delayed

    Here is a question for Hillary Rosen that I bet will never be answered. How do you feel about the hundreds of low to middle class folks, elderly, students, disabled and those on a fix budget…about making them out to be criminals and forcing them to pay hefty fines or sending them to jail..as in this story………..

    the jury found Jammie Thomas, a single mother from Minnesota, liable for willful copyright infringement and awarded the RIAA plaintiffs $222,000 — that’s $9,250 for each of the 24 songs she was alleged to have made available on Kazaa, for those of you keeping track at home, and probably something like, oh, say, $222,000 more than she should have had to pay, since the RIAA plaintiffs weren’t required to show that Thomas had a file-sharing program installed on her machine or that she was even the person using the Kazaa account in question


    This was not an interview, it was a nice chat.

    I am sure she will check out this blog…so answer up girl.

  • hell's kitchen guy

    ^^^ Don’t hold your breath expecting her to explain herself. She’s made a career as Washington insider, falling upwards, enabled by fawning “interviews” like this one.

  • fredo777

    I understand some of the criticism being thrown her way, but why question the topics the interviewer chose to cover? It’s not like there was any obligation to start asking her about every RIAA-related thing under the sun. That’s not what the article was about.

  • ron

    pay for your downloads, fags

  • Thomas Delayed


    You may be right. If that is the case why didn’t they ask..
    What is your favorite color Hillary?

    If you were a tree what would you be?

    Do you use both shampoo and conditioner?

    Do you have the slightest understanding how beautiful you are?

  • fredo777


    The questions they asked were relevant. Also, I know you were being facetious, but I don’t think Hilary is all that bad-looking. If she were thinner + had her same features, she’d be even prettier.

  • adamblast

    I’m apalled you give this woman a forum. There are plenty of gay activists out there who *haven’t* spent years destroying the rights of consumers at the behest of big media. This is the woman who’s legal bulldog work killed legal p2p.

    The federal government thinks they have a right to inspect anything coming in or out of your computer, and it’s largely this woman’s fault for selling the big-media agenda to congress and getting them to write anti-consumer laws.

  • Not Articulate

    Well, this being a gay blog and no mention of the HRC came up in the interview, there’s no reason to think that they’re going to delve into the RIAA questions.

    Personally, I think she left a disgraceful mark on the record industry, essentially shoving aside technology and innovation in the name of rights. When in reality, the artists and publishers actually making the music suffered while the labels sat back and cried foul.

  • porscha

    Someone should tell Hilary that sexism is different for the waitress in the diner and the woman on Wall Street. Equally bad? probably. The same? hardly.

  • poliboy03

    I worked in the music industry when Rosen was at RIAA. The people on this site don’t know the same facts that people knew then. Rosen left RIAA literally the day before the first lawsuits against individuals were filed. She had already announced her retirement but she didn’t agree with them and wanted to make sure they weren’t done on her watch.

  • Jamie

    I don’t care what any of you say. Hilary Rosen is hot!!!

  • Jim Morrison

    What a scum bag! From top to bottom a total scum bag dressed in baggy clothes!

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