On Monday, potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s political action committee Right to Rise announced that it had hired Ethan Czahor as its chief technology officer. By Tuesday night, Right to Rise had released another statement, which read that the organization had accepted Czahor’s resignation.
The first day at a new job is always rough.
Here’s why: By 3:30pm on Monday, February 9, Buzzfeed reported that nearly 50 tweets had been deleted from Czahor’s personal Twitter account. Apparently, from 2009 through 2011, Czahor had a habit of calling women sluts, complaining about gay men at his San Francisco gym, and using MLK to justify racism.
At 9:17pm on Tuesday, February 10, Czahor tweeted again—no ‘sluts’ or other slurs in sight. “I apologize in advance to whoever fills my position,” he wrote.
This pattern of quick, ‘voluntary’ resignation after a social media-activated PR crisis is nothing new in Washington. Last week, Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-Ill.) senior advisor for policy and communications Benjamin Cole resigned after ThinkProgress published a series of his 2013 Facebook posts that compared African Americans to zoo animals. In December, Congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten resigned in the wake of backlash from a Facebook rant criticizing Malia and Sasha Obama’s behavior and dress at the White House’s annual turkey pardoning ceremony. Lauten wrote that the first daughters should “try showing a little class” and “dress like [they] deserve respect, not a spot at the bar.” Malia and Sasha are 16 and 13, respectively.
All this commotion begs an important question: Why does it keep happening? Were these resignations justified? And, in Czahor’s case, should the dumb things you thought were funny in college (or right after) affect your career opportunities for the rest of your life?
It’s especially important to consider these questions right now; the university class of 2015 is, in a way, America’s first to grow up online. We were 13 when Facebook opened to 13 year-olds, 14 when Twitter launched, and seniors in high school when Instagram went big. At some point along the way, each of us posted something somewhere without thinking—and we’re the future’s political candidates and staffers.
I want to be clear: I don’t like Czahor circa 2009—we probably wouldn’t have gotten along. I don’t think one-liners about female science majors being uglier than art majors are funny. But I think he should have the right to demonstrate his worth to Right to Rule now rather than being judged on his conduct six years ago.
“i deleted some old jokes i made years ago that i no longer find funny or appropriate. #learning #maturing,” Czahor wrote on Twitter on Monday evening. What his resignation tells me is that there’s no room right now, at least in politics, for growth. But while my generation was warned six years ago (as far back as Buzzfeed dug) about the permanence of social media, we weren’t prepared for the extent to which our tweets, posts, and statuses might affect our future prospects.
As Tufts professors Sarah Sobieraj and Jeffrey Berry wrote in The Outrage Industry, political media has become far more commercial in recent years. In seeking profits and pageviews, reporters go in search of political scandals, and we value their findings as character judgment. Tufts alum Matt Bai says in his new book All The Truth is Out that this business of political media is depriving our political system of many possible candidates (and aides), due to past transgressions on their parts. Recent social media scandals show that this premise applies to online actions as well.
Czahor might still be sexist, racist, and homophobic, and Bush might have later discovered that Czahor was not someone he wanted to work with. He’s still exceptionally candid on social media; on his LinkedIn profile he wrote of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 2009, “The school sucks. But hey, I was poor, and graduated with zero debt.”
I don’t want to say, however, that his resignation was justified, because I’m worried for myself. I’m nervous that my generation might be no longer allowed to make mistakes, because everything is preserved online forever for a journalist to dig up someday. I don’t need my leaders and their aides to have perfectly clean online profiles—I just want them to come clean and show that they truly are #learning and #maturing.
I don’t know what’s coming, to be honest. But I guess the lesson for now is to delete those jokes from 2010 from your account before, rather than after, you start a new job in politics.
- Gracie McKenzie, A15