The New York Times published an extensive interview with Theranos’ founder Elizabeth Holmes Tuesday. Amy Chozick of the Times gives a sympathetic ear and allows the fraudster to present her more relatable, kinder alter ego “Liz” to the public. The interview, however, is likely a staged attempt to redeem a criminal.
Holmes was found guilty of four counts last year. The jury determined that Holmes lied when it came to her blood-testing company Theranos. She claimed it was reliable and functional, but she knew otherwise. Last month she was due to start her 11-year sentence, but an eleventh-hour appeal bought her more time with her husband and her two babies. She was able to spend several days with Chozick at her Southern California house and launch a charm campaign to try to improve her public image.
Chozick seems to have fallen at least a little under Holmes’ spell. Chozick was asked what he found most surprising about spending so much time in Holmes’ company. He replied, “I didn’t expect Holmes to be as frank and open.” . . normal?”
Chozick continues to discuss the mundane details of Holmes’ daily routine as a mother and wife for a total of 5,000 words. She speaks about walking their dog and ordering delivery to the “quaint” rental house. Yet she still described the couple with an air of romanticism, likening their “us-against-the-world ethos” to Bonnie and Clyde. Chozick admits, “I was swept away by Liz’s genuine and sympathetic personality.”
The piece is notable for its extensive discussion of Holmes’ feminist credentials. Chozick says that “Elizabeth”, in order to be taken serious as a young woman CEO, must adopt the same persona. She also mentions that the new “Liz”, who is now a volunteer for the rape crisis hotline, does so several times per week. She “put this work in context” by describing Holmes’ own alleged sexual abuse at a fraternity, which led her to quit college and start Theranos.
This is a feminist victim story, where a young girl who was naive and innocent was pushed by an older partner (both romantically and in business) to suppress her true self. Ramesh Balwani (almost 20 years older than her and the former president of Theranos) “kept a close eye on her every move” and told her that she had to “kill Elizabeth”, in order to be a successful businesswoman. Chozick allows her to use this as part of her defense in court, but also to re-frame it with a sympathetic tone.
Even the Times’ trusted left-wing allies criticized the interview, despite its use of feminist tropes. The Guardian, for example, lamented that the average mother incarcerated does not get the “splashy photoshoot of redemption” the Times provided Holmes. Other people were treated in a predictable racial manner:
All likelihood, however, is that pop culture and media outlets will echo the narrative of the most prestigious leftist outlet in the country about the “new” Holmes.
This story shows that elites are willing to defend themselves. Chozick only mentions the most minimal of the real damage that Holmes did to give context to the story. He does not ask any tough questions to bring Holmes’s foot to the fire. This was most likely done on purpose.
Chozick was not assigned to cover Holmes by chance (the first journalist to do so in 2016), nor did she find her convincing. The most likely scenario is that the whole process was planned behind the scenes with a story constructed in advance.
One possible scenario is that Holmes, despite her constant complaints about poverty, could have hired an expensive public relations firm to pitch the story. Chozick would then jump at the chance for a high-profile interview. Chozick may have been a good fit for the firm, or she might be a long-time client who owed them a favor from a previous scoop. You could even say that they went to school together.
One thing is certain: the details behind how this gushing, glowing interview was conceived may never be revealed. In the elite corporate world nothing happens by chance. Money is the only thing that matters in this world of elite corporates.