Hilary Clinton is currently the badass star of an insanely viral internet meme, and Bill is a journalist-rescuing, Nobel Prize keynote speech-giving superstar, but their daughter, Chelsea, isn't faring so well in the court of public opinion.
Her coworkers at NBC, where she was recently hired as a special correspondent with a focus on telling feature stories about "Making a Difference," resent her for getting special treatment despite her lack of journalism experience, and NBC executives are upset by the way she got hired in the first place. Insiders say she played off rival networks to get the job, established ground rules — only good news, no politics — and basically acted like she was doing the stations a favor by offering herself up. Still, they gave in: "Her agent calls, asks if you want to meet with Chelsea Clinton, you take the meeting," one network executive told BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings.
Before Chelsea even got to NBC, a senior staffer told the staff that she was going to be "terrible," which probably made it easier for them to list complaints: "she didn't do live shots on her 'Rock Center' debut; she gets chauffeured everywhere in a town car while others her age strap hang with the suckers in Gotham's sewers; she has her own personal spokesperson; and she has her own chief-of-staff." (Which, it should be noted, she pays for herself.) There's obviously some schadenfreude at play when staffers say Chelsea doesn't have "much to show" after three months on the job (especially since they just renewed her original contract):
"Almost nothing," is how one well-placed industry observer describes her tenure at NBC. The industry observer, who has had dealings with Team Chelsea, continues: "Certainly she's not operating as a reporter. You need a regular presence to become established and break through. Yes, she has world wide name recognition at a young age, but you still have to do the work and show up on screen." So far, she's only done three Making A Difference segments in five months, according to Lexis/Nexis, while juggling other roles as corporate board member and in the Clinton Global Initiative.
We don't know whether Chelsea thought she was being hired as a journalist, or if she just wanted a platform to expound on issues close to her heart while continuing to work and pursue her Oxford doctoral degree — but it's pretty obvious why she was hired: to help boost "Rock Center"'s horrible ratings. At least one high-level NBC executive thinks Chelsea deserves a break: "Everyone needs to get a grip," he told Buzzfeed. "She's hardworking, she's taking it very seriously. She really wants to genuinely do these Making a Difference pieces."
So it's frustrating that Hastings spends the second half of his piece arguing that Chelsea needs to open up about how it felt to live through the Monica Lewinsky years to succeed on television. She's always made a point of refusing to talk about her personal life, but Hastings says "That line doesn't play anymore, now that she's entered the family business of living in public":
The days of Chelsea having it both ways are over. It's one thing to want your total privacy, and stay totally private; it's another thing to want your total privacy while reaping all the rewards and privileges that contemporary celebrity has to offer.
Moderating panels, honorary awards (she'll receive the The History Makers Medal from the New York Historical Society at the annual Strawberry Luncheon next month ) lucrative speaking gigs, the most expensive fashion labels on the planet, all after a decade spent as a corporate mercenary for McKinsey and Avenue Capital. (Share Our Strength, Women of the World Summit, Celebration of Teaching, the World Economic Forum in Davos…) She's dipping into politics, too, slamming Rush Limbaugh during the Sandra Fluke controversy, and hosting a discussion about Islamophobia.
But she hasn't received those awards because of "Rock Center", and it's bizarre to say she can only talk about politics if she talks about her past first. It's almost certainly true that Chelsea would be received more positively if she did: America loves a scandal (and we especially loved Monicagate), and Chelsea will garner sympathy and seem more accessible if she sits down for an interview. But the criticism she's received from NBC doesn't focus on her talent as much as on how she doesn't "deserve" special treatment. That seems unfair, considering NBC knew she didn't have any journalism experience when they hired her. That's not on Chelsea; that's on NBC's HR.
Chelsea's parents have been able to regain popular favor without rehashing the 90s. So why does she "have" to answer Hastings' suggested questions like, "How pissed were you at your father?" and "How do you feel about marriage?" Chelsea didn't sign on for that kind of self-centered non-journalism. Maybe we should criticize NBC for hiring her in the first place — and the network's executives for talking shit about her anonymously — instead.