The Washingtonienne: Jessica Cutler One Year Later

Jessica Cutler (Photo courtesy Hyperion)

Jessica Cutler never had grand designs on conquering Washington, DC. She didn’t have a career plan devised that would lead her up the ladder of power on Capital Hill, her new home after three years in New York writing about shoes. She figured if she met the right people, it wouldn’t matter. As she puts is, “You know what they say, fake it til you make it.”

If she got lucky her stint on the Hill might even lead to a glamorous K Street job, which in the eyes of a Hill intern was like making the big leagues. Recently we met for lunch, in the heart of that same K Street corridor, to discuss The Washingtonienne story one year later.

For Jessica, Washington was a stopover – she was a New York girl through and through – on a journey that had yet to be fully charted. Of her choice to move to DC she notes, “If you’re too dumb for NY and too ugly for LA, you can always make it in DC.”

Capital Hill in the summertime is host to an annual cattle drive of fresh-faced ideologues who trudge into mind-numbingly dull work in Hill offices for what amounts to trinkets and baubles. Success is measured by proximity to power, or at least the stories you can tell about proximity to power. Jessica Cutler didn’t quite fit that mold as she had burned through more jobs in a few short years out of school than most people go through in a career. As a Staff Assistant in Ohio Senator Mike DeWine’s office Jessica Cutler’s proximity to power was nebulous; but her stories would become legendary.

Washington didn’t know it yet, but Jessica Cutler was a master storyteller. On May 5, 2004 Jessica anonymously started a weblog, and wrote of her new adventure in the halls of power,

I have a “glamour job” on the Hill. That is, I could not care less about gov or politics, but working for a Senator looks good on my resume. And these marble hallways are such great places for meeting boys and showing off my outfits.

posted by The Washingtonienne at 5:32 PM And thus Washingtonienne, the blog, was born. Jessica, as The Washingtonienne, would tell her stories of meeting boys (or more precisely men acting like boys), and showing off a lot more than her outfits, for an audience of a couple old friends and a few new Hill confidants.

What eventually would come to be the most scandalous aspect of The Washingtonienne’s story is detailed in this post on her desperate financial circumstances:

Most of my living expenses are thankfully subsidized by a few generous older gentlemen. I’m sure I am not the only one who makes money on the side this way: how can anybody live on $25K/year??

If you investigated every Staff Ass on the Hill, I am sure you would find out some freaky shit. No way can anybody live on such a low salary. I am convinced that the Congressional offices are full of dealers and hos.

posted by The Washingtonienne at 4:34 PM Jessica’s tales of life, sex, and love were totally entertaining to her friends, but on May 18, 2004 staid Washington (a town where wearing white after Labor Day is a fashion sin) would learn of Jessica’s journal and all hell would break loose for the real life Washingtonienne.

The Washingtonienne And Wonkette

“I was totally blindsided by Wonkette. She’s the Justin Timberlake to my Janet Jackson.

The story of how Cutler’s blog became tabloid fodder begins with Ana Marie Cox, the editor of Wonkette. Cox was alerted to Jessica’s blog, which she had been writing for a few short weeks in total anonymity – her identity known only to a few close friends who were the intended audience. Within a day of being featured on the DC based gossip blog Cutlers chaotic personal life was barred to a world-wide audience, including members of the Hill community who fingered her as the author in no time at all. The rash of publicity and revelations resulted in a Dynasty-style confrontation that lead to Cutler’s ouster from DeWine’s office.

As her world collapsed around her Cutler acted like she didn’t give a damn to anyone who would listen. Friends knew otherwise, noticing that stress-induced lack of appetite was causing weight to melt off her already svelte frame and that she appeared to be on a fast track toward a nervous breakdown.

During the period after the story exploded Cutler and Cox became friends of necessity, as Jessica was still a mystery woman to most of the world. Cutler, out of work, short on cash, and hoping to capitalize on her 15 minutes of fame, needed Cox – if nothing else for what she figured was her maturity and ability to understand Jessica’s plight. Since her story was first told at Wonkette requests for Cutler’s story initially flowed directly to Cox.

Cox, desperate to make a media name for herself, rode The Washingtonienne story and Jessica’s new found infamy hard. Somewhere along the way the media savvy mentor/ingenue relationship soured, though Cutler doesn’t say exactly where or why. Perhaps it was fait accompli once Cutler (on her own) secured a book deal with a large advance, something Cox also desperately wanted.

Ask Cutler about the glare of the spotlight in the weeks after the ribald Washingtonienne stories circled the globe and she’ll tell you, “I don’t really mean half the stuff I say in interviews, especially those I gave last year. I was making it up as I went along. I mean, what was I supposed to do about it? Cry?”

One year later she looks back on her relationship with Cox with more the jaded eye of someone who is already making a living as an author.

She makes a lot of snide and condescending remarks, that I’m desperate for attention, that I need therapy – which is really the pot calling the kettle black. She wants to make sure everyone knows that she’s better than I am, but her blog is pretty boring when she’s not talking about me.”

For some reason she thinks it’s important for her to disassociate herself from the Washingtonienne thing. She’s got to do what she’s got to do. But girlfriend does talk some shit.“Jessica Cutler also has something that Cox can only dream of — positive reviews for her first book, The Washingtonienne: A Novel. Jonathan Yeardly, the Washington Post’s book reviewer calls it, “Lively, funny and agreeably in-your-face . . . [Cutler] sticks pins in a lot of deserving targets,” and this weekend it gets a positive review in The New York Times Book Review.

More on that in part two of our interview – Monday.

A thought for my liberal friends II
Dr. Cruise Lectures Lauer


  1. Q June 24, 2005
  2. j.d. June 24, 2005
  3. Slublog June 24, 2005
  4. Hoodlumman June 24, 2005
  5. McCain June 24, 2005
  6. Bill from INDC June 24, 2005
  7. Jeff G June 24, 2005
  8. LCVRWC June 24, 2005
  9. Gennie June 24, 2005
  10. Sue Dohnim June 24, 2005
  11. michele June 24, 2005
  12. Darleen June 25, 2005
  13. McCain June 25, 2005
  14. Kim June 25, 2005
  15. McGehee June 25, 2005
  16. Patriccio June 25, 2005
  17. -S- June 25, 2005
  18. TrueLiberal June 26, 2005
  19. joe June 26, 2005
  20. Jessica Cutler June 27, 2005
  21. cnredd June 27, 2005
  22. humptydumptyeconomy July 2, 2005
  23. emily July 2, 2005
  24. Ed July 9, 2005
  25. John August 15, 2005
  26. pizdec August 21, 2005
  27. Chris @ Deliberate Chaos August 31, 2005
  28. sonneille September 20, 2005
  29. Rock September 22, 2005
  30. Mykia September 30, 2005
  31. Eric Kane October 6, 2005
  32. mike cannali January 1, 2006
  33. Jennifer May 29, 2006
  34. Allie June 6, 2006
  35. M.G September 4, 2006
  36. Robyn November 22, 2006
  37. rd December 27, 2006
  38. Kim December 27, 2006
  39. Woman December 27, 2006
  40. shiv December 27, 2006
  41. Trev December 28, 2006
  42. GoJess December 28, 2006
  43. Don December 28, 2006
  44. marie December 28, 2006
  45. Roksy December 28, 2006
  46. Erik Betts December 28, 2006
  47. Alfred December 29, 2006
  48. go for it December 29, 2006
  49. blatty December 30, 2006
  50. jackie April 23, 2007