For-profit

FitzGibbon Media

Founder:

Trevor FitzGibbon

Dissolved:

December 2015

FitzGibbon Media was a high-powered left-of-center PR firm working for major liberal clients like MoveOn.org and Planned Parenthood founded by Trevor FitzGibbon. Trevor FitzGibbon was a former state-level communications director for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.[1]

FitzGibbon Media was quickly shuttered in 2015 after Trevor FitzGibbon was accused of sexual misconduct.[2] No charges would be filed against FitzGibbon, and one accuser retracted her claims publicly.[3]

Work, Clients, and Projects

FitzGibbon gained a national reputation as then-candidate Barack Obama’s New Mexico communications director during the 2008 Presidential campaign.[4] Before then, he had worked at Fenton Communications, a liberal public relations firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with clients across the left-of-center world including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to MoveOn.org to the Transgender Law Center.[5]

His first client after joining Fenton around 2002 was MoveOn.org. FitzGibbon’s initial advertising campaign began being as an ad in the New York Times and eventually ballooned into a television commercial after his success in raising small donations online.[6] Fenton Communications stated that “FitzGibbon’s messaging and PR efforts on behalf of MoveOn.org have helped position the online advocacy group as a national political force in American life.”[7]

After leaving Fenton Communications in 2008 and working on the Obama campaign, FitzGibbon founded FitzGibbon Media. The company quickly established itself as the go to public relations firm for the progressive movement, signing major clients from MoveOn.Org to Planned Parenthood[8] to the embassy of the repressive socialist Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro.[9]

FitzGibbon Media enjoyed an impressive reputation in the progressive world, with one commentator suggesting the firm received the “first call whenever a huge progressive moment [was] about to happen anywhere in the country.”[10]

Before being taken down, the firm’s website claimed that “FitzGibbon strategists can transform a client’s news into a story on the front page of Huffington Post, book your principals on MSNBC, and schedule interviews on NPR.” In 2013, then-CEO of FitzGibbon client Rebuild the Dream Natali Foster said, “the FitzGibbon Media team has a rare knack for spotting what’s newsworthy, and the amazing relationships to help it get into stories and on the air.”[11]

The firm ran the social media account of convicted WikiLeaks collaborator Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning while Manning served prison time, typing out posts dictated by Manning via telephone while reporting responses back. FitzGibbon Media also worked with WikiLeaks to arrange public defense of Edward Snowden when he was hiding in Hong Kong.[12]

By 2015, FitzGibbon’s company employed 30 people with offices in London, New York, San Francisco, and Washington.[13]

Below is a list of major FitzGibbon Media clients:[14]

FitzGibbon also represented Amnesty International,[15] the Center for American ProgressNARAL (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League), UltraViolet, and the Venezuelan government.[16]

Sexual Harassment Controversy and Closure

Allegations

In December 2015, accusations of sexual harassment and assault were made against FitzGibbon Media’s president, Trevor FitzGibbon. The firm would close shortly thereafter. The Huffington Post reported that a friend working at FitzGibbon media introduced Sierra Pedraja to the company’s president, Trevor FitzGibbon. Pedraja told the HuffPost that she was then invited to a social gathering with the team that evening in a hotel lobby, where FitzGibbon allegedly commented on Pedraja’s beauty and asked her if she wanted to have any “fun” while he was in Austin.[17]

The Huffington Post further reported that FitzGibbon had faced accusations of sexual harassment while working for Fenton Communications. The firm retained FitzGibbon for several more years, keeping him “closely monitored,” according to reports. Then-CEO of Fenton Communications Bill Werde told HuffPost that there were “no other complaints brought to the company’s attention” for the rest of FitzGibbon’s tenure, which ended in 2008.[18]

FitzGibbon responded to the allegations claiming that “the allegations against me are a distraction to the mission at hand” and that because of an “irreconcilable difference has arisen between the FitzGibbon team and me…we had no choice but to make the difficult decision to close FitzGibbon Media.”[19]

The company determined that it could not continue without revenue generated by FitzGibbon personally, and, after taking a leave of absence on a Monday, December 14, the firm closed on Thursday, December 17, 2015.[20]

No criminal charges or civil complaints would be filed against FitzGibbon or the firm.

Radack Retraction

In May 2019, author and whistleblower lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who had once defended Edward Snowden in court, publicly retracted a sexual assault allegation she had made against FitzGibbon.[21] [22]

In the beginning of the dispute, FitzGibbon had said their relationship was consensual, and prosecutors involved closed their investigation in 2017 with no charges filed. Radack continued to antagonize FitzGibbon on social media, leading FitzGibbon to sue her for libel in 2018. [23]

Radack continued to antagonize FitzGibbon online during the lawsuit, violating orders from the court and thus leading her to be held in contempt of court. It was after this that Radack settled the cases and tweeted her retraction of all statements made about FitzGibbon.[24] After the settlement, however, Radack continued to criticize FitzGibbon online in violation of the settlement, leading FitzGibbon to sue her again. This lawsuit was settled in June 2020.[25]

Subsequent Projects

After the investigation was closed without charges, FitzGibbon announced two new ventures, Mission Critical Media, a new PR firm, and Dignity for our Daughters, an organization created to advocate for the “vulnerable in the workplace” and create a “culture where women can flourish both in and out of the workplace.”[26]

A former FitzGibbon Media client, the left-wing feminist organization UltraViolet, issued a press release listing 72 liberal organizations that pledged not to work with Trevor FitzGibbon or to “financially support his new firm, Mission Critical Media.”[27]  Signatories included:[28]

References

  1. Greenfield, Daniel. “Obama Communication Director Accused of Sexual Assault.” FrontPage Mag. December 18, 2015. Accessed September 23, 2017. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/261172/obama-communication-director-accused-sexual-daniel-greenfield. ^
  2. Terkel, Amanda, Ryan Grimm, and Sam Stein. “The Disturbing Story of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At a Major Progressive PR Firm.” The Huffington Post. December 17, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2022. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-media_us_567330fce4b014efe0d4cb4e. ^
  3. Volokh, Eugene. “Rape Claims, Speech Restrictions, and Consent.” Reason.com, July 1, 2019. https://reason.com/volokh/2019/07/01/rape-claims-and-speech-restrictions-in-the-assange-snowden-world/. ^
  4. Greenfield, Daniel. “Obama Communication Director Accused of Sexual Assault.” FrontPage Mag. December 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/261172/obama-communication-director-accused-sexual-daniel-greenfield. ^
  5. “Clients.” Fenton. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.fenton.com/clients/. ^
  6. Baldwin, Brent. “The Fire Starter.” Style Weekly. August 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/the-fire-starter/Content?oid=2233402. ^
  7. “Fenton Communications.” Discover the Networks. Accessed November 09, 2017. http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/printgroupProfile.asp?grpid=6958 ^
  8. Greenfield, Daniel. “Obama Communication Director Accused of Sexual Assault.” FrontPage Mag. December 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/261172/obama-communication-director-accused-sexual-daniel-greenfield. ^
  9. Terkel, Amanda. Ryan Grim, and Daniel Marans. “FitzGibbon Media May Be Gone, But Staffers And Progressive Groups Are Rallying To Launch a New Version.” The Huffington Post. December 19, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-clients-welcome-employees_us_5674377ee4b014efe0d53244. ^
  10. Baldwin, Brent. “The Fire Starter.” Style Weekly. August 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/the-fire-starter/Content?oid=2233402. ^
  11. Kincaid, Cliff. “Hagel’s Controversial Foreign Connections and Backers.” Accuracy in Media. January 14, 2013. Accessed September 23, 2017. http://www.aim.org/aim-column/hagels-controversial-foreign-connections-and-backers/. ^
  12. Baldwin, Brent. “The Fire Starter.” Style Weekly. August 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/the-fire-starter/Content?oid=2233402. ^
  13. Baldwin, Brent. “The Fire Starter.” Style Weekly. August 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/the-fire-starter/Content?oid=2233402. ^
  14. Greenfield, Daniel. “Obama Communication Director Accused of Sexual Assault.” FrontPage Mag. December 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/261172/obama-communication-director-accused-sexual-daniel-greenfield. ^
  15. Lewis, Paul. “Progressive PR firm FitzGibbon shuts after sexual harassment allegations.” The Guardian. December 18, 2015. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/18/fitzgibbon-media-progressive-pr-firm-shuts-after-sexual-harassment-complaints-against-founder. ^
  16. Terkel, Amanda, Ryan Grimm, and Sam Stein. “The Disturbing Story of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At a Major Progressive PR Firm.” The Huffington Post. December 17, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-media_us_567330fce4b014efe0d4cb4e. ^
  17. Terkel, Amanda, Ryan Grimm, and Sam Stein. “The Disturbing Story of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At a Major Progressive PR Firm.” The Huffington Post. December 17, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2022. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-media_us_567330fce4b014efe0d4cb4e. ^
  18. Terkel, Amanda, Ryan Grimm, and Sam Stein. “The Disturbing Story of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At a Major Progressive PR Firm.” The Huffington Post. December 17, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2022. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-media_us_567330fce4b014efe0d4cb4e. ^
  19. Terkel, Amanda, Ryan Grimm, and Sam Stein. “The Disturbing Story of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At a Major Progressive PR Firm.” The Huffington Post. December 17, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2022. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-media_us_567330fce4b014efe0d4cb4e. ^
  20. Terkel, Amanda, Ryan Grimm, and Sam Stein. “The Disturbing Story of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At a Major Progressive PR Firm.” The Huffington Post. December 17, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2022. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fitzgibbon-media_us_567330fce4b014efe0d4cb4e. ^
  21. unRADACKTed. Twitter. May 2, 2019. Accessed April 22, 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20190816080452/https:/twitter.com/jesselynradack/status/1124190421213696001?lang=en ^
  22. Volokh, Eugene. “Rape Claims, Speech Restrictions, and Consent.” Reason.com. Reason, July 1, 2019. https://reason.com/2019/07/01/rape-claims-and-speech-restrictions-in-the-assange-snowden-world/. ^
  23. Volokh, Eugene. “Rape Claims, Speech Restrictions, and Consent.” Reason.com. Reason, July 1, 2019. https://reason.com/2019/07/01/rape-claims-and-speech-restrictions-in-the-assange-snowden-world/. ^
  24. Volokh, Eugene. “Rape Claims, Speech Restrictions, and Consent.” Reason.com. Reason, July 1, 2019. https://reason.com/2019/07/01/rape-claims-and-speech-restrictions-in-the-assange-snowden-world/. ^
  25. “Docket for Fitzgibbon v. Radack, 3:19-Cv-00477.” CourtListener. Accessed April 23, 2020. https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/16048358/fitzgibbon-v-radack/. ^
  26. Merlan, Anna. “Founder of PR Firm Shut Down Over Sexual Harassment Allegations Launches Project to Protect Women at Work.” Jezebel. May 17, 2017. Accessed September 23, 2017. http://jezebel.com/founder-of-pr-firm-shut-down-over-sexual-harassment-all-1795302563. ^
  27. Abrams, Brett. “Progressive Organizations Pledge Not to Work With Sexual Abuser Trevor FitzGibbon in New Sign-On Letter.” Ultraviolet. May 22, 2017. Accessed September 23, 2017. https://weareultraviolet.org/pressrel/progressive-organizations-pledge-not-work-sexual-abuser-trevor-fitzgibbon-new-sign-letter/. ^
  28. “FitzGibbon Letter.” Accessed September 23, 2017. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.weareultraviolet.com/images/FitzgibbonLetter.pdf. ^
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