That’s precisely what happened, as Deanna Fei wrote a stinging piece in Slate with the a secondary headline, “That ‘distressed baby’ who Tim Armstrong blamed for benefit cuts? She’s my daughter.” Fei wasn’t actually an “AOLer,” as Armstrong suggested in his conference-call talk; she is the wife of then-Huffington Post Executive Business and Global News Editor Peter S. Goodman and received her health insurance through the company. (Huffington Post was acquired by AOL in 2011.)
With the following words, Fei kicked off an explanation of how she went into labor five months into her pregnancy and ultimately gave birth to a girl weighing 1 pound, 9 ounces: “Here is how we supposedly became a drain on AOL’s coffers.”
Her list of grievances against Armstrong:
I take issue with how he reduced my daughter to a “distressed baby” who cost the company too much money. How he blamed the saving of her life for his decision to scale back employee benefits. How he exposed the most searing experience of our lives, one that my husband and I still struggle to discuss with anyone but each other, for no other purpose than an absurd justification for corporate cost-cutting.
Armstrong apologized. Fei, meanwhile, has written a book about the struggle. “Girl in Glass” covers the Armstrong experience and much more: “How My ‘Distressed Baby’ Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles,” reads the subtitle.
The book, a galley of which the Erik Wemple Blog has sampled, takes the reader through every painful step of the Armstrong-baby ruckus. Including the moment when Arianna Huffington — chair, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, not to mention worldwide celeb, author and life-balance guru — apparently seeks to squelch Fei’s tell-most on Slate. Fei, who authored the novel “A Thread of Sky,” narrates how Goodman gives Huffington a heads-up about her Slate piece. From the book:
When young women visit her office, Arianna habitually hands out copies of one of her many books: On Becoming Fearless. Now, in the midst of promoting her latest title, she has reinvented herself as an evangelist for well-being and mindfulness, for redefining success beyond money and power. Even if she won’t publicly malign the man [Armstrong] who holds her corporate purse strings, both Peter and I can’t help hoping for her private support at this moment.Instead, she e-mails Peter that my decision is “very disappointing.” She asks to talk to me directly to dissuade me from speaking out. When Peter declines, she prods him further. He responds that, as she well knows, I’m a writer, with my own voice and my own story to tell. He says that it’s not his place to muzzle me. She asks how he can possibly refuse to intervene.
Fei confirms to the Erik Wemple Blog that these passages will appear in the final edition.
A Huffington Post spokesperson sent us the following statement about the whole thing:
In an email to Peter after the employee meeting, Arianna expressed ‘how deeply sorry she was’ for what happened. In the meantime, The Huffington Post critically covered Tim’s comments, publishing pieces from our own reporters and linking to coverage from other outlets on the front page. Arianna’s subsequent email to Peter about Deanna’s article focused on the fact that it was being written after Tim had already apologized to all employees and reversed his decision on 401k compensations. Arianna expressed her “hope” that Deanna “will acknowledge that Tim reversed his decision and apologized. Otherwise she’s not telling the full story or allowing for the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.”