The New York Times published a report on Friday of 2020 candidate Amy Klobuchar’s treatment of her staffers and things got a bit unusual. According to the story, an aide brought the senator a salad for a flight to South Carolina, but lost the fork he had grabbed for her to eat it with. So she berated the staffer, pulled a comb out of her bag and ate the salad with it. Then, she handed the comb to her staffer and told him to clean it.
While the anecdote may seem unusual, it is another account of how the politician treats her employees. For some time now, reports have surfaced about Klobuchar treating staffers poorly and even causing her to scare off candidates who could have helped manage her presidential bid, according to the Huffington Post.
Carlie Waibel, a campaign spokesperson, told the Times that Klobuchar has never denied being tough on her employees.
“The senator has repeatedly acknowledged that she can be tough and push people hard. But these anonymous stories — some of which are just plain ridiculous — do not overshadow the countless experiences of people on the senator’s team who she has been so proud to work with,” she said.
Klobuchar herself has told the comb story to fellow Democrats at one time.
Still, Klobuchar is facing a backlash in the wake of the story. Some people are questioning her ability to lead while mistreating people below her.
She’s done . Stick a comb, uh, fork in her… https://t.co/mbf9oZMCme
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) February 23, 2019
Others have noted that while her behavior may be offensive, she certainly isn’t the first politician to behave this way towards staffers.
Not in any way a defense of abusive behavior…but a number of senators have a long history of treating press staff abysmally, not just those who run for President. https://t.co/GoCAL6EtE6
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 22, 2019
Others even celebrated Klobuchar’s resourceful solution, and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait cheered Klobuchar’s wit.
This line makes me want to vote for Klobuchar: “I would trade three of you for a bottle of water,” https://t.co/47KbDgLdpi
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 22, 2019
Erikka Knuti, a former communications aide for Klobuchar, said that while her boss could be tough, she was also contrite after lashing out. Knuti said her experience was overall a positive one.
The Times story also points out that it is more difficult for women in Congress who are expected to reign their emotions, unlike male leaders who are sometimes celebrated for their tempers. This is compounded by the fact that Klobuchar is seen as a “Midwestern” type and expected to be “nice.”
“The ‘Minnesota nice’ thing is also kind of a double-edged sword,” Knuti said. “In the Midwest you have to be outwardly nice and congenial. But these are tough people. Male senators yell quite a bit. But if a woman yells at you, it’s like, ‘I got yelled at by my mom.'”
In case you were wondering how to eat a salad with a comb, or in case you find yourself in a similar situation, Slate worked everything out in an experiment.