Who is Hilary Rosen?

at 03:13 PM ET, 04/12/2012

Who is Hilary Rosen?

The woman who sparked a Twitter war over stay-at-home moms is not an adviser to President Obama, although Mitt Romney’s campaign would like you to think she is. She is a Democratic strategist, and pundit but she’s actually better known for her long career in lobbying. And she’s no stranger to controversy.

A well-connected Washington insider, Rosen is the kind of person who can expect both Al Gore and Greta van Susteren to show up at her 50th birthday party.


Hilary Rosen, then-president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, appears before the House Energy and Commerice Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on Capitol Hill Friday, July 20, 2001. (DENNIS COOK - ASSOCIATED PRESS)

According to a 2003 Matt Bai profile in Wired, Rosen was bartending to help pay bills while attending George Washington University, where she got a bachelor’s degree in international business.

A family friend thought it was an inappropriate job for a college-educated woman and helped her get a job in the D.C. office of New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne. She stayed on the Hill and found a career lobbying for music publishers.

“She can punch you in the face, and you're still smiling after she does it,” former Clinton chief-of-staff John Podesta told Wired at the time.

“I like people who play, and she's a player,” echoed then-Rep. Christopher Cannon (R-Utah)*, even as he battled her over deregulation.

But college students were less amenable. Rosen, who started at the Recording Industry Association of America in 1987, was the group’s chief executive during the war over digital music rights.

As the public face of the (successful) effort to quash Napster and other file-sharing services, Rosen garnered widespread hatred on the Internet. She even got death threats.

After she left the RIAA she questioned the value of lawsuits against individual downloaders and said she had tried to push the industry to evolve.

“I won’t be a George Tenet here, but it's pretty well known that I was impatient with the pace of the industry's embrace of online distribution of music,” she said in 2007. “There's no substitute for speed when times are dire. The record companies had valid reasons for their caution, but that caution let the situation get out of hand.”

She stepped down in 2003, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family, attorney Elizabeth Birch and their two adopted children. (The couple separated in 2006.)

After leaving the RIAA, Rosen was briefly interim director of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization.

In 2006 she teamed up with another former RIAA executive, Jay Berman, to start a new anti-piracy firm, Berman Rosen Global Strategies. She did consulting work for Facebook, XM, Viacom, and other companies, and she began appearing as a commentator on CNN.

She started her own lesbian social-networking site, OurChart.com, inspired by Showtime’s “The L Word.” (The site is now defunct, having been absorbed into the Showtime website.)

In 2008 Rosen became the Huffington Post’s Washington editor-at-large and joined the Brunswick Group, another PR firm.

An ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton in that election, she told Queerty of the sexism the candidate faced: “Millions of women who felt this can’t be wrong. We hear things based upon a lifetime of slights and therefore we hear them differently often than men do.”

When she began consulting for British Petroleum on how to deal with fallout from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the Huffington Post — editorially very critical of BP — cut ties.

Rosen now works for SKDKnickerbocker, a Democratic communications firm that has done work for Obama’s campaign in the past. She has visited the White House multiple times, at one point attending a meeting on health-care messaging.

She has also given “occasional advice and media training” to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, according to the Wall Street Journal.

*This article incorrectly described Rep. Cannon as a former senator; it has been corrected.

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