Leon Wieseltier, a major cocaine hound and bisexual degenerate, has enjoyed many a threesome with leading male Jewish intellectuals (including famous professors) and various lucky ladies. Abusing drugs and women are his leading hobbies aside from lecturing the rest of us on right and wrong.
Leon did drugs and girls with the late Leonard Cohen. That’s how the literary titan bonds with his fellow Jewish lefties.
Wieseltier is no respecter of the sanctity of marriage — his own or anyone else’s.
Numerous synagogues, including Sinai Temple in Westwood, had Wieseltier in as a scholar in residence after his book Kaddish came out.
You mentioned that Mr. Wieseltier was a scholar-in-residence at Sinai Temple. Did you know that he was also a guest scholar at Beth Jacob shortly before Creepy Jonathan Rosenblatt? And they had the nerve to bar you!
But perhaps more significant is that Wieseltier is active at Georgetown’s Kesher Israel Congregation, former home of Voyeur Extraordinaire Barry Freundel. Wieseltier was the lead speaker there this past Shavuot. Imagine that — members of the Modern Orthodox synagogue of record in the Swamp stayed up all night to hear what this pervert had to say.
A literary lady says: “He came on strong, but there wasn’t anything really ever forced. I definitely put myself knowingly in situations and led him on a bit. And he’s so fucking smart that he can manipulate women into doing anything. Almost.”
A source says: “He likes poppers. I didn’t even know what those were before him. I had to look them up. He was doing them when we were in his TNR office together and he was begging me to take off my clothes so he could jerk off.”
I hope Leon has some super-high-grade cocaine to help him through this bumpy patch. Or Torah might suffice.
Editor Michael Kinsley initially tried to edit Leon Wieseltier’s impenetrable prose but Leon complained to the owner of The New Republic, Marty Peretz, who got Kinsley to back off.
This cult around Wieseltier helped protect him. He let it be known he held sway inside and outside The New Republic. In 1999, The New York Times called him “a Wunderkind turned near-elder statesman…. part Maimonides, part Oscar Wilde.” Years earlier, he quipped to Vanity Fair that they should refer to him as “Oscar very Wilde.”
If you got on his good side, he could make your career, several former staffers said. If he turned on you, you felt it. In editorial meetings, Wieseltier had his own chair positioned at the end of a long table opposite the editor-in-chief. If anyone sat in his chair, he considered it a capital offense. Like Weinstein, he delighted in being cruel to others he perceived as weaker — which included the men on staff.
“He was perceived as the person who capped editors, who created editors, made careers,” said the top editor. “He was somebody that held really vicious grudges against people. He was just a very intimidating person to deal with.”
Several of the magazine’s former editors refused to comment for this story, including Franklin Foer, who left as editor in 2014. Andrew Sullivan, who edited the magazine in the early to mid-’90s, did not return an email request for comment. Charles Lane, who was at the helm from September 1997 through October 1999, told HuffPost that no complaints from female staffers ever came to him. But he understands why that was the case.
“I will tell you that the truth of the sort of reality of life at The New Republic was not what was represented on the masthead,” Lane said. “In other words, the editor was nominally the supervisor of Leon Wieseltier. But that was not reality, OK? I mean Leon had total autonomy as literary editor and a very close, almost brother-like relationship with the owner at the time, Marty Peretz, who, of course, was above both of us on the masthead and totally had complete untrammeled control of the magazine.”
“In reality I don’t think I was the place where the buck stopped, given how the place worked,” Lane said. “The buck stopped with Marty. I think he’s the person you need to be asking that question. I really do. I mean, if you want an answer from the person who was in authority, that’s it.”
But Wieseltier’s reputation concerning women was well known, Lane says. “I was aware, as everyone in Washington was aware, that Leon had extramarital affairs. I think those are public knowledge. I’m racking my brain. I did not have specific knowledge of anything like what these people are talking about. Having said that, none of it surprises me.”
Leon Wieseltier Admits ‘Offenses’ Against Female Colleagues as New Magazine Is Killed
Leon Wieseltier, a prominent editor at The New Republic for three decades who was preparing to unveil a new magazine next week, apologized on Tuesday for “offenses against some of my colleagues in the past” after several women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances…
Several women on the chain said they were humiliated when Mr. Wieseltier sloppily kissed them on the mouth, sometimes in front of other staff members. Others said he discussed his sex life, once describing the breasts of a former girlfriend in detail. Mr. Wieseltier made passes at female staffers, they said, and pressed them for details about their own sexual encounters.
One woman recounted that while she was attempting to fact-check a column Mr. Wieseltier wrote, he forced her to look at a photograph of a nude sculpture in an art book, asking her if she had ever seen a more erotic picture. She wrote that she was shaken and afraid during the incident.
Mr. Wieseltier often commented on what women wore to the office, the former staff members said, telling them that their dresses were not tight enough. One woman said he left a note on her desk thanking her for the miniskirt she wore to the office that day. She said she never wore a skirt to the office again.
According to the women, male staff members routinely witnessed Mr. Wieseltier’s behavior and did nothing.
Which brings us to the awkwardness of Leon Stories. As woman after woman has stressed, Leon’s was not a Harvey Weinstein or Roger Ailes type of predation. No one I spoke with was ever physically afraid of him. Yes, some feared his ability to make their lives miserable and ruin their futures. (No one ever doubted his ability to do this.) Leon had a reputation for turning hard on those who displeased him. Upon joining The New Republic, most people knew (or quickly learned) not to get on Leon’s bad side. Bad Leon could be scary, no matter where you fell on the org chart.
As a close intimate of the magazine’s owner, not to mention a quasi-celebrity himself who hobnobbed with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Kirk Douglas, Leon was the most powerful person at the magazine—regardless of who was the top editor at any given moment.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the allegations first reached Emerson Collective. Wieseltier was named—along with more than five dozen other men who work in journalism or publishing—on an anonymous spreadsheet titled “SHITTY MEDIA MEN” that quietly, and then less quietly, circulated in national media circles last week. (The Atlantic obtained a copy of the spreadsheet, but is not publishing it because the allegations are anonymous and unverified.) Anonymous charges against the men were wide-ranging, and spanned from acting “creepy af” in online conversation—“af” being an abbreviation for “as fuck”—to physical assault and rape. Wieseltier’s alleged misconduct, according to the unverified, anonymous spreadsheet, was “workplace harassment.” It’s not clear whether the Emerson Collective saw the spreadsheet.
At the same time, a group of more than a dozen women who once worked at TNR started an email thread to discuss their experiences with Wieseltier—and to hatch a plan for how to make those experiences public.
Several women who worked with Wieseltier described him to me as intellectually seductive and charming—even charismatic. He’s long had a reputation for being genuinely interested in the journalistic work of young women, especially at a time when the industry was even more male dominated than it is today. He wasn’t just a leader of the magazine at TNR, but a cultural arbiter there—which meant his opinion of you mattered, several women said. It was dangerous, one former staffer told me, to get on his bad side.
Nearly a dozen journalists who have worked with Wieseltier told me they are unsurprised by the allegations against him. All of the women I talked to had their own “Leon stories,” which included everything from being called “sweetie” in the workplace to unwanted touching, kissing, groping, and other sexual advances.
My colleague Michelle Cottle, a former TNR senior editor who is now a contributing editor at The Atlantic, told me about the time Wieseltier suggested they get a drink at the bar of a well-known luxury hotel in New York City where he was staying, only to declare that it was too crowded. Instead, they could go to his room, and order a bottle of champagne, Wieseltier offered. He delights in making women sexually uncomfortable, she said.
At TNR, there was frequently talk of Wieseltier’s possible dalliances with young women writers, and he relished this kind of gossip, three separate acquaintances of Wieseltier told me. They described him as someone who bragged graphically about sexual encounters the way a teenaged boy might. Two former colleagues described him in separate conversations as “lecherous.”
The suspension of Wieseltier’s new magazine comes after a series of blockbuster scoops by The New York Times detailing a decades-long pattern of alleged sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein, the now-infamous film producer. Weinstein and Wieseltier have similar starpower within their industries. “Wieseltier is, in sum, well on his way to achieving the best kind of American celebrity,” Vanity Fair wrote in a 1995 profile, “being famous to the famous.”
Yet even after a week of mounting accusations against powerful men in several industries, and even in Washington—a town accustomed to sex scandals—the accusations against Wieseltier are electrifying. It’s not that Wieseltier is universally liked. Quite the opposite—though he is admired by many for his erudite cultural criticism, and by many of the authors who wrote for him at TNR. He is some combination of beloved and despised; his reputation as a philosopher king is perhaps equaled by his reputation for being a machiavellian operator. Wieseltier’s observers have, in one case in the span of two sentences, described his persona as both “saintly” and “thuggish,” as a writer for The Nation put it in 2014. (Wieseltier himself wrote, in a lauded 1994 essay on identity and culture, “I hear it said of somebody that he is leading a double life. I think to myself: Just two?”)
“The nice thing about everybody speaking their mind is that social opprobrium will do its work,” Wieseltier said in a conversation published by The New York Times last year. “If you say something really disgusting, you will be vilified.”
“I feel very uncomfortable without controversy,” he added. “If the stakes are high about important questions — matters of life and death or the future of the culture — it’s inevitable. You have to argue ferociously.”
My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates has pointed out that Wieseltier can be “gleefully mean.” In the 1980s, Wieseltier and another TNR essayist, Charles Krauthammer—now a columnist at The Washington Post—were known to so dislike each other that they attended the same editorial board meeting for years without speaking to each other, according to a1989 New York Times article. Wieseltier’s many intellectual feuds—unspooling over his three decades in the literary limelight—are as famous as his halo of Doc-Brown-white hair. The Times once described his enemies as “legion.” The vendettas have been so numerous as to perplex even his confidants. Wieseltier is, as a result of all this, one of the best known intellectuals on the East Coast…
The women who worked with Wieseltier, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, felt he could make or break their careers. His role as a mentor to female colleagues, however, was somewhat complicated by his louche reputation. A 1999 New York Times Magazine profile of Wieseltier described him as having “squired a sequence of ‘extremely beautiful, alluring girlfriends.’” That same profile describes a period of “well-reported excesses, which included heavy drinking and cocaine binges” and “a flurry of infidelities” which allegedly ended his first marriage and cast considerable doubt over his literary future. “For Wieseltier, the tension between the scholarly and the sensual is not easily resolved,” Sam Tanenhaus wrote in the Times article. “Until recently, majority opinion in the literary-cultural world—the narrow, gossipy corridor that stretches from Boston to Washington, with tentative windings in the direction of London and Los Angeles—held that not even the most rigorous polishing could restore the sheen to his tarnished image.” Yet Wieseltier went on to write a widely acclaimed memoir, and continued in his role at The New Republic for nearly two decades, until he and much of the rest of the editorial staff walked out in protest of the company’s digital strategy under new ownership. Now, as Wieseltier’s former colleagues reckon with his alleged inappropriate behaviors, several of them told me they worry they were complicit in enabling him over the years.
When Martin Peretz, owner and editor in chief of The New Republic, offered him a full-time job, Wieseltier pounced. He moved to Washington, where he was joined by Mahnaz Ispahani — they met when she was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. Their 1985 wedding, in Washington, was a spectacle, befitting the conjunction of an ascending literary star and the beautiful daughter of a Pakistani merchant prince who wore a diamond in her nose. I remember thinking, ”How long can Leon stay this good?”’ says the journalist Christopher Hitchens.
Wieseltier’s parents were less dazzled. Their son, lapsed from Orthodoxy since the early 70’s, had married not simply a shiksa but a Muslim, the Other to which Wieseltier is irresistibly drawn. ”I think people live doubly, triply and more,” he says. ”And they should. What matters to me is that one identifies one’s genuine obsessions, one’s genuine commitments, one’s genuine appetites, one pursues them seriously and far. Dilettantism is the sort of thing one must avoid.”
But it was, precisely, the trap awaiting him. It was impossible, for instance, to say no to Tina Brown, then the editor of Vanity Fair, or to Conde Nast fees, when she dangled a monthly column. Wieseltier adopted the pen name Tristan Vox, borrowed from a short story by Michel Tournier, ”to distinguish it from my other stuff and because I’ve always loved the idea of learning how to invent a voice.” But his overeducated musings on Frank Sinatra and lingerie verged on self-parody, and his high profile made him an easy target. In 1990 Spy Magazine ridiculed him as ”Leon Vee-ZEL-tee-AY,” who ”jealously guards his highbrow credentials while wearing a lowbrow heart on his sleeve.” Next came well-reported excesses, which included heavy drinking and cocaine binges. These and a flurry of infidelities finished his marriage. Had the heir apparent to the New York intellectuals succumbed to nostalgie de la boue? Or was it a case of the cloistered Brooklyn boy gobbling up the fruits of a postponed adolescence?
A long-term relationship, now ended, with the choreographer Twyla Tharp did him much good. He speaks proudly of their work together. He suggested the music, by Benjamin Britten, for one of her ballets and wrote the program notes for ”Mr. Worldly Wise,” which had its premiere at the Royal Opera House in London in 1995. ”Mister Worldly Wise is finding it harder and harder to keep up with himself, and with his world,” says the commentary for Act I. ”He puts himself in the center of everything, and nothing works. His creations are dissolving into chaos.” A self-assessment? Perhaps not, but Wieseltier was struggling. At one point, the novelist Larry McMurtry gave Wieseltier the use of a furnished room above the Georgetown bookstore he ran. ”It was a little demoralizing working there on the third floor while Larry was churning out one book after the other on the second,” says Wieseltier. Buckley says, ”I’d begun to worry a bit that Leon would be one of those people who was always talking about the book he was going to write — or, worse, was ‘writing.’ ”
But then writing was not Wieseltier’s chosen vocation. Editing was. Even at his most distracted, he nurtured arresting new voices, from Louis Menand and Simon Schama to his current deputy, James Wood, who is also the magazine’s lead fiction reviewer. Wieseltier the colleague, however, was another story. His influence over Peretz was so great that no one else felt safe, particularly the series of rivals who held the title of editor. ”The thing I never understood about him,” says one former colleague, ”is why the scheming, why the Machiavellianism? Why was he always pursuing feuds and vendettas? Here’s a man with great talent, possibly genius, persecuting people with less talent.” In April 1996, when his onetime protege Andrew Sullivan suddenly resigned the editorship after informing the staff that he was infected with H.I.V., it was widely assumed that Wieseltier had engineered his fall, perhaps out of jealously at Sullivan’s growing celebrity. Today the two don’t speak.
Only a month before, Mark Wieseltier had died at the age of 81. The relationship between father and son had always been troubled, ”difficult but very deep,” says Wieseltier. ”He had a kind of feral love for me, and I had a kind of feral love for him.” The novelist Cynthia Ozick recalls meeting Wieseltier senior in the mid-70’s, when he was ”brimming with pride over Leon in such a sweet way. It wasn’t, ‘My son the genius.’ It was, ‘What have I wrought?’ ” By the end, the question had a more plaintive tone. At 43, Leon was divorced, childless, far outside the Jewish faith, with an embarrassing public history, and unrepentant — or so he claimed.
After his father’s death, though he had torn off his yarmulke 20 years before, Wieseltier vowed, in the tradition of obedient Jewish sons, to say kaddish in precisely the manner prescribed by rabbinical authority, thrice daily for 11 months.
New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier is the egghead boy toy of such glamorous powers as Barbara Streisand, Shirley MacLaine, and Tipper Gore. But has he abandoned the life of the mind to be the life of the party?
…he once described his job as “policing the culture.”
…Wieseltier squired Tipper Gore in the 1980s to Washington’s 9:30 club, where they danced the night away to heavy-metal bands while Al was apparently up in the Senate, protecting the national interest…
Wieseltier came to this perch of high culture highly recommended by his doting intellectual mentors: critic Lionel Trilling at Columbia, philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin at Oxford…, and historian Yosef Yerushalmi at Harvard… He was, they all agreed, a brilliant young man of breathtaking promise who would one day bring forth works of enduring importance.
His academic articles feature such sentences as, “The undifferentiated, followed by the simultaneity of the undifferentiated with the differentiated, followed by the withdrawal of the undifferentiated and the triumph of the differentiated: this has been the pattern of metaphysical history in the Jewish view…”
According to witnesses, Wieseltier was soon bringing to the office another habit [aside from alcohol] that he also enjoyed outside the workplace: frequent cocaine use. A person familiar with Wieseltier’s indulgence estimates that at one point in 1993 he was snorting — from a petite silver spoon, dangling from a chain attached to a vial, an entire gram a day. To support this expensive pastime — all but impossible on his salary, which is in the high five figures — he regularly loaded dozens of books he received as literary editor into the trunk of his Honda Accord and hauled them to Washington bookstores, selling them to finance purchases of “truth serum.”
Leon Wieseltier is a self-proclaimed policeman of the culture who refuses to be edited. As a result, his writing is virtually impossible to read all the way through.
Michael Kinsley, early in his tenure as editor of The New Republic, edited one of Leon’s turgid essays. Leon threw a hissy fit, went over Michael’s head to the owner of the magazine (Marty Peretz) and reserved for himself the right to never be edited.
After publishing his over-praised book Kaddish, again unreadable except in sections, Wieseltier was invited to Temple Sinai in Westwood by Rabbi David Wolpe to be a scholar in residence at the shul one weekend and speak about his book. Instead, Leon used all but one of his lectures to expound on his views on the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal, much to the rabbi’s displeasure.
After receiving a Modern Orthodox education at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Wieseltier led a famously dissolute life.
Dominic Lawson writes in the 11/14/94 Spectator: “…the journalist Leon Wieseltier… the literary editor of New Republic, is the nearest thing the political correctness mob have to a cultural Gauleiter. In an interview with New York magazine earlier this year Mr. Wieseltier referred grandly to ‘part of my job of policing the culture’. (See the policeman wield his truncheon in this issue’s letters pages.)”
Talking to The Los Angeles Times about the controversy over Gregg Easterbrook’s blog about Jewish Hollywood on tnr.com, Leon attributed it in part “to the hubris of this whole blogging enterprise. There is no such thing as instant thought, which is why reflection and editing are part of serious writing and thinking, as Gregg has now discovered.”
The New Republic’s Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier Drones To Toronto Shul
“I went to see Wieseltier speak,” says a source. “He’s kind of a dick. He just read his treatise on Jewish messianic thought – nothing that I didn’t already know and hard to absorb what was unique about it. Then he took questions on whatever. Some of the old folks were complaining that he read in a monotone. That was the extent of his performance. The average age of the audience was 65.”
I’ve never heard a good word about Wieseltier’s public speaking. He’s the most over-rated intellectual in American letters.
Feb. 9, 2010
In an article on Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic’s Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier writes: “He is the master, and the prisoner, of the technology of sickly obsession: blogging–and the divine right of bloggers to exempt themselves from the interrogations of editors–is also a method of hounding.”
What’s with calling “blogging” the technology of sickly obsession? Why is it more sickly obsessive than cell phones? What is sick obsession? Why are you dogged and I am obsessed?
A lot of people have called me obsessed in my blogging. I know then that they lack argument and can only use cheap put-downs.
A Google search could not turn up Leon Wieseltier’s email address. I guess he doesn’t want to be questioned. It’s so much more comfortable just to pronounce.