Ex-Politico Reporter Joe Williams Bashes His Job in Retail

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 08:44 PM

By Jason Devaney

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A Politico reporter fired by the news organization in 2012 for what it deemed to be racist comments has resurfaced — and says he worked part-time at a sporting goods store after he was unable to find another job.

He has written an article for The Atlantic magazine about his experience in retail.

Politico hired Joe Williams in April 2010, and he was an instant sensation as he quickly became a regular on MSNBC, Current TV, and other networks. But he often said things that rubbed people the wrong way, such as this June 2012 comment on MSNBC about Mitt Romney, which led to his firing:

"When he comes on Fox & Friends, they’re like him. They’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company."

Politico suspended Williams pending a review, which uncovered several tweets of an inappropriate nature on his personal Twitter account.

At the time, Politico’s founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei informed the staff of Williams' comments.

"Joe has acknowledged that his appearance reflected a poor choice of words," they wrote. "This appearance came in the context of other remarks on Twitter that, cumulatively, require us to make clear that our standards are serious, and so are the consequences for disregarding them."

The political news website also discovered tweets that Williams made that called his employer racist. He was let go shortly after that.

In the story he wrote for The Atlantic, Williams fills in the gap between the time he left Politico and now. After a brief stint with Current TV, he had no choice but to take a retail job at a sporting goods store, he writes.

"My plunge into poverty happened in an instant. I never saw it coming," Williams writes. His story carries the headline: "My Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Cheap."

He went on to describe how an incident with his former wife five months before his firing from Politico led to his being ordered to stay away from her and made the front page of a news website. With such news coverage, he said, he was unable to find a job.

"Some news outlets that had initially wanted my resume told me they’d changed their plans," he wrote. "Others simply dropped me without saying anything."

After being unemployed for six months, Williams — who said he made money here and there by doing freelance work and other odd jobs — landed the retail job. He would not reveal the name of the store, saying only that it was a chain store.

In his story, Williams bashes the retail industry, saying he was subjected to pat-downs and backpack searches when he would leave the store. The industry, he wrote, is fixated on preventing theft by customers and employees alike. Also, its wages are low; he was paid $10 an hour.

Williams worked at the store for about four months before he was hired as a temporary communications director for a nonprofit in Washington.

He closes his Atlantic story by recounting the moment he told his boss, whom he calls Stretch, that he was quitting.

"When I called Stretch to quit, he wasn’t happy, but he didn’t try and convince me to stay either, as I’d hoped," Williams writes. "He did, however, manage to deliver a dig that all but summed up my time as a retail employee.

"‘So, your new job . . . They’re hiring you away from here. I guess [you] don’t care about hard work or loyalty.’"

"Hard work, yes; I certainly did my share working for a store that didn’t seem to value it all that much. I learned, however, that loyalty is a malleable concept, and incredibly difficult to find these days, even at $10 an hour."

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