"The Irena Briganti that I know is funny, hard-working and always willing to help out a colleague-no matter how busy she is," wrote Fox Television flack Erica Keane yesterday, in response to our "smear" of Briganti, Fox News boss Roger Ailes' PR attack-dog-in-chief. But Keane is in the minority in her assessment of Briganti's charm. Our post on her generated perhaps the biggest outpouring of responses we've had since Bloomberg staffers got the chance to vent about horrid boss Matthew Winkler. There was a wellspring of resentment against the Fox News flack just waiting to come out-and much of it came to us unsolicited. Everyone from journalists to Briganti's fellow News Corp. employees weighed in. "She-devil" is among the more middle-of-the-road descriptions. After the jump, all you'll need to know about Briganti's reputation-and her handful of obligatory defenders:
From an associate of Rupert Murdoch:
Smeared Timesman Tim Arango is a "class act." News Corp. has no animus towards him; in fact, Murdoch likes him. What Fox News did to Arango was "pretty reprehensible."
Some with firsthand experience working alongside Briganti weighed in:
[Even] though Irena is the she-devil, try [her boss] Brian Lewis. Irena is his hatchet woman...Brian trained Irena. She started as his media relations coordinator and after 10 years of hatchet woman work has managed to land the VP position. Either way, their offices are right across eachother and whatever goes on, Brian is right behind it.
I can confirm that she is crazier than a bitch on crack...As you may have noticed, Fox will always— always— use the "disgruntled employee" defense when a former staffer comes out against the company. It's predictable. They work hard to build a trail of disgruntlement...
[For a good example of an ex-Fox New PR staffer being slammed, look up what happened to former Fox News publicist Paul Schur after he left the network-he paid the price for speaking out, rightfully or not]
More on the Ailes- Briganti quote pipeline:
many, most or all of the witty zingers that pour out of the Fox News disinformation operation come from Roger himself. Look at all the zingers over the years: they're all stylistically of a piece, whether Brian gave them before his promotion, whether they come from Irina, or anybody else over there permitted to speak with outsiders. No coincidence. They're all Ailesisms, right from his mouth. The "PR" team doesn't free lance. They follow directives.
Members of the media who have experienced the trademark Briganti charm:
Let me give you some information about that cunt. She would give us a few tips. If you didn't you use the story, she'd call up and yell. Why the fuck didn't you use the story? She badmouthed Keith Kelly to everyone. Called him decrepit, an asshole. Why? She's disturbingly insane, out of whack. I can't be attached to this in any shape or form. Or she'll get me.
she has this really offputtingly sweet little-girl voice. from hearing it alone, I'd think she'd be a cute, petite sorority-looking girl of about 23...I haven't heard her really lose her cool. that's part of her style — her way is more to act exasperated with you, like "I could care less about you and your stupid blog, but just so you know, if you write that story, everyone's going to see what a dipshit you are."
We deal with many many publicists as you can imagine, and her behavior still stands out as one of the absolute craziest...her name is always preceded by crazy as in it's "crazy irena briganti" again.
From a prominent business journalist:
[You're] completely right about irena thing at fox. mad, hostile, aggressive, always tries to go above the heads of reporters etc. an unexplored angle is how much the news corp people such as gary ginsberg hate her too. but because she comes under roger ailes she is inviolable
We also heard that Fox News had its own vendetta against a New York tabloid: "Apparently [Briganti] and/or brian lewis froze out the Daily News for like three years. wouldn't return a call from anyone there." A source at the Daily News confirms it:
Yes, we were on their shit list for a while. Not certain of the details. But I remember they basically wouldn't send us any of their "scoops" to hype, not that we did a lot of that to begin with.
I've had some run ins with them in the past. Bill O'Reilly's flak tried to make my life hell because I did something dastardly like refer to him as a "conservative." Apparently he prefers to be known as an "independent."
Even juicier, though, we hear that the Daily News is not the only tabloid Briganti has gone up against. One would think that the New York Post would have a News Corp-mandated friendship with Fox News, but it's not necessarily so. Earlier this year, the Post ran a small item about Bill O'Reilly's cameras ambushing Rosie O'Donnell at a book signing event. When the piece ran, the whole room overheard Briganti making call after call to Post gossip writers and editors, "screaming" about the negative O'Reilly coverage and demanding that someone be fired (no one was). So Briganti's bad reputation now extends even into the corridor's of the single friendliest newspaper in America towards Fox News.
THE BRIGANTI DEFENDERS:
I was Brian Lewis' assistant in the Fox News Media Relations department for a full year. While I was there I witnessed an aggressive, exciting, and successful public relations strategy that kept Fox News on top despite all of its crises, "talent," and attacks. Throughout my time there, my direct supervisors were Brian, Irena, and Erica. Since all of this has dealt mainly with Irena, I will simply say that she is by far one of the best bosses I have ever had. Not only is Irena great at what she does (and who doesn't want their boss to be competent?) but she is efficient, smart, and funny.
I went to Columbia with Irena Briganti (MS in Strategic Communications). I did at least one class project with her and always found her to be polite, professional and with none of the snarkiness you attribute to her. I am guessing she is just reflecting the wishes of her bosses and is doing it exceptionally well. Good for her.
You Don't Understand PR
An ad-hominem attack against anyone* who truthfully reports bad things about you is never inappropriate nor unprofessional.
* beat that accidental alliteration, bitch**
** like, in the nice way of saying "bitch"
Fox News Rocks!!!