Women leaders in Washington DC debated dramas of the Trump and Clinton presidential campaigns and the future of content in the midst of dizzying digital change at TheWrap’s inaugural Power Women Breakfast on Thursday.
The event, at W Hotel in Washington D.C., drew 100 influential women in DC to discuss conflicts at the intersection of politics, entertainment and technology, hearing from panelists including Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill.
TheWrap’s CEO and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman welcomed attendees to the first such event in the nation’s capital.
Dowd admitted that she wrote critically about Hillary Clinton because said she “couldn’t forget” all she knew about the Clintons from covering Washington for decades.
“I try to write about her the same way I write about men, and that isn’t always pretty,” she said. “I’m hard on everybody who wants to be president, because that’s what the job is.”
Meanwhile, Adrienne Elrod, director of strategic communications and surrogates for the Hillary for America Campaign said campaign insiders are “constantly astonished” by the insults slung among the Republican candidates, led by Donald Trump.
“Every time we think the Republicans have outdone themselves in these debates, they surprise us,” said Elrod. She acknowledged that Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders were tapping into forces the campaign had only started to understand.
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Meanwhile Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, said the insider establishment in DC was stumped by the new normal in this election cycle: “It’s incredible to us here, how people can say ‘I can’t decide between Trump and Bernie Sanders.’ I can’t get my head around that,” she said. “They’re completely far [apart], on every issue.”
Waxman explained that TheWrap was expanding its Power Women franchise “to connect women of influence of accomplishment and inspire one another with our stories. This year, particularly, I feel that it was important: in a year when there is a woman running for president.”
Dowd also likened Trump to the political world’s version of the Kardashian family of reality-television fame, as well as the invincible monster Grendel in Beowulf.
Turning to a discussion of content and technology, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill said she was worried about “magical thinking” among law enforcement authorities in a legal fight with Apple over a locked iPhone used by a mass murderer.
“I am deeply worried about the magical thinking that I think is taking place among some in law enforcement that back doors can be created, that devices can be hacked into in a good way but not in a bad way,” she said.
“Just to be clear, I’m not against law enforcement. I am law enforcement,” she said. “We need to be intelligent about this, we can’t approach it from the perspective of magical thinking.”
Joining her on the panel, commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission noted the accelerating changes in new media, like the gaming hit Angry Birds’ ability to reach in 35 days an audience that took radio 75 years to achieve.
After expanding the Power Women Breakfast franchise to New York and San Francisco last year, TheWrap’s breakfast Thursday inaugurated the series in DC, bringing together influential women of entertainment, media, technology, politics and brands in key cities to network and connect.
Joining the hosts and panelists on stage were Bumiller; Elrod; Karen Appleton, the senior vice president of industry alliances for online file sharing service Box and founder of Box.org; and CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale.
Welcoming attendees, hosts like Appleton and Lezlee Westine, the president and CEO of Personal Care Products Council, reflected on the role of women in politics, and the importance of collaboration among them.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the Senate, jokingly recalled working with fellow female lawmakers to break through a “glass ceiling” to simply ensure Capitol Hill bathrooms have enough stalls for its growing ranks of women legislators.
She remembered one late night spent on the Senate floor.
The statement drew laughs from the group of notable women in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Deborah Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan; Amelia Wang, vice president of industry and government affairs of the National Music Publishers Association; Amy Weiss, CEO of Weiss Public Affairs; Carol Melton, the executive vice president of Time Warner Inc.; and Elise Aronson, the vice president of government affairs at MacAndrews & Forbes Inc.
Also in attendance was Evelyn Miller, the vice president of business and legal affairs of National Geographic Channels; Fabienne Clermont, vice president of legal at Discovery Communications; Joanna McIntosh, executive vice president of global policy and external affairs of the Motion Picture Association of America; COO of Politico Kim Kingsley; Lauren Paige, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for L’Oreal USA; Nadine Hoffman, deputy director of the International Women’s Media Foundation; and Rebecca Bustamante, the president of Women in Film & Video.
The event was sponsored by Box, Okta, Personal Care Products Council, CreativeFuture, Discovery Communications and National Geographic Channels, and cohosted by Heather Podesta + Partners.
TheWrap used Facebook Live to provide our audience with a live feed of TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast Washington D.C. Exclusively on Facebook. The morning also hit its style quotient, with Waxman outfitted exclusively in Ferragamo.