“Like I never knew how much is wrong with my face until Twitter started saying so as a way to disagree with me.”
On Monday, Kat Timpf arrived without security at the Union Pool in Brooklyn where she was scheduled speak at a campaign event for a friend running for borough president. There she was approached by a yet-unidentified man holding a 1.5 liter bottle of water. “He clearly knew who I was,” Kat told me last night on the phone. “If he was an activist, he didn’t get his point across. He came right for me. He looked me right in the eyes.”
After pouring most of the bottle of water on Kat’s head, the man flung the bottle’s remaining fluid directly into her face. “That was very, very scary,” Kat recalls. “He was much bigger than I am physically plus I had no idea what was in the bottle. Thankfully it was just water, but imagine if the bottle was full of something more-dangerous.”
Kat has had stalkers before. In the past, she has used restraining orders to protect herself from at least one stalker. Still the attack in Brooklyn was something new for the 28 year-old co-host of The Specialists on Fox News. It caught her off-guard because it happened in real life. “This wasn’t just the trolls on Twitter,” Kat said. “This was real life, targeted humiliation and I still don’t know why. I’m not a hyper-partisan person. I’m not a Republican or a Democrats. I want to hold people in power accountable regardless of party and ideology. Protecting liberty is important to me. That’s why I speak at events like that.”
Kat was a prolific podcaster and commentator on news and politics during last year’s election. This year, Kat earned one of the biggest opportunities in American political television: a hosting gig on a new Fox News show in early primetime. On May 1, 2017, The Specialists debuted in the 5pm hour ET bumping The Five to later primetime in the 9pm hour.
Nearly four months later in the Fox News limelight, Kat is adjusting to some of the more-disturbing realities of being a powerful young woman on political television in 2017.
“People can be unimaginably cruel,” Kat says. “It’s not as glamorous as people think. Like I never knew how much is wrong with my face until Twitter started saying so as a way to disagree with me. The reality is that people don’t see public figures as human beings with feelings, that we get ashamed and afraid like anyone else. It changes the way you exist in public.”
Tonight, Kat will attend another event in New York City, a comedy show at Caroline’s on Broadway — only this time she’s coming with a “boat load” of security. As a top woman broadcaster in American politics, Kat’s path forward is beset every imaginable form of toxic masculinity from fans and foes alike. Just listen to the a sampling of the radio coverage of the news that Kat had been attacked.
On KSL News radio in Salt Lake City, Sandy Collins called the attack on Kat “troubling” and another sad indicator of the rotten state of American politics.
SANDY: “This Fox News host is very lucky that the man who attacked her was only using a liter of water [...] I was thinking, My gosh it could have been so much worse. I mean what if he’d used something more corrosive or even had a weapon...” Sandy’s co-host doesn’t buy it, so he interrupts Sandy. CO-HOST: “Let me ask you a question: Is Kat being a snowflake? Somebody dropped water, water on her. Just saying...” The inflection implied water is harmless, so why should Kat be upset? SANDY: “I don’t think she’s being a snowflake. As a woman, I think you’re already very much afraid when...” CO-HOST: (Interrupting Sandy again) “Very valid point,” he laughs. “Thank you for woman-splaining that too me.”
No matter how awkward their conversation gets, Sandy Collins’s patience with her dimwitted co-host is remarkable. Other shows were not so balanced in how they covered the attack on Kat Timpf.
A host on All News Radio in Atlanta reported that “the skinny little blond girl” from The Specialists had been assaulted, then compared the entire incident to a wet t-shirt contest. On WABC News radio in New York City, Eboni K. Williams discussed the incident in Brooklyn with with Curtis, her radio co-host. Kat is Eboni’s television co-host, along with Eric Bolling, on The Specialists.
The radio segment between Eboni and Curtis is remarkable. Eboni has Kat’s back throughout while Curtis calls Kat a cry baby for calling the police and applauds Kat’s attacker at multiple points during the segment.
CURTIS: “If anyone knows who this guy is who dumped a liter and a half of water on her head ... I wanna know who they are because I wanna publicly applaud him because I hate Kat.”
Curtis’s on-air persona is a sort-of urban insecurity complex with a New York City accent and subaltern vocabulary. He is plain-spoken and frank, existing on-air mostly for Eboni’s intellectual amusement as a topflight barrister ... and as her validation to working class listeners who might otherwise be intimidated by Eboni’s success. A show with a dynamic like the one between Eboni and Curtis can certainly work, but first let’s get a few of things straight —
- Kat was right to file a police report. NYPD can determine for itself whether a citizen complaint constitutes ‘nonsense’.
- No one benefits from Curtis shaming listeners who report crimes. No streets get safer. No cop’s beat gets easier. No victim anywhere is empowered by Curtis here. It’s the lowest form of toxic buffoonery because with his words, Curtis emboldens the worst elements of the partisan peanut gallery to strive to intimidate powerful, young, successful women in broadcast, like Kat Timpf and his co-host Eboni.
- To applaud Kat’s attacker, as Curtis does several times in the segment is downright dangerous for actual stars like his co-host Eboni who work every weekday afternoon in the blazing heat of fame and national focus fueling the American public’s renewed craze for cable news and political television shows. As Eboni’s colleague Curtis should seek to keep her safe, not encourage audiences who might see her or Kat in public to shame them or worse.
Top women broadcasters face a different public beast than top male broadcasters. Top television news networks need to confront this reality now more than ever. At Fox News in particular, higher ratings means taking greater corporate responsibility for a new crop of emerging broadcast talent, especially the ladies. What happened to Kat in Brooklyn on Monday was a near-miss, a needlessly close call for rising cable news star at the most-watched, most-trusted news source in America.
Where Kat never needed security before, Kat now needs security. Eboni, too, will need security, if she doesn’t already. Bet on it. At her comedy show on Broadway tonight, Kat will have, for the first time in her career, a security detail on hand for her physical protection. This is one of several smart but intrusive changes in store in the life of Kat Timpf as a top millennial broadcasting to an increasingly divided nation of angry partisans in 2017.