Jane Kim Blasts SF Chronicle After Reporter Allegedly Tries to Smear Her With Biased Questions
San Francisco Mayor candidate Jane Kim, who could be the first Asian American woman to serve as mayor of the city, recently took to Medium to share poorly researched and incredibly biased interview questions from a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the city’s most prestigious newspapers.
On May 2, Kim received “vague” interview questions about her background by email from the Chronicle reporter but was quick to spot how the questions were engineered to result in a biased article meant to smear her, a point Kim speculated is related to the negative attacks from her opponent, billionaire and influential Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway.
Kim, who has no issue answering the questions, decided to make her answers available to voters to let them decide rather than risk them being manipulated against her. You can read the full questions and answers, which she made available on Medium, below:
You attended Spence School, an elite prep school in New York. What years did you attend and why don’t you talk about that experience in your campaign?
I attended Spence from 1984–1995. I appreciate that my parents sacrificed to send me to a great school; like virtually all parents, they wanted the best for me and worked hard so I could attend. Like all families, we had our ups and downs, but I was fortunate they were able to support me. I was also fortunate enough to go to college at Stanford and law school at UC Berkeley. One of the reasons I’ve been very focused on education is because I firmly believe every student should be able to get an excellent education.
That said, my school seldom comes up on the campaign as most people are more interested in what is happening in their own lives than what happened in mine more than 20 years ago. I did speak at Spence (an all-girls school) last year as part of a lecture series on Equity & Justice. My presentation was titled “Women in Politics: Lessons Learned” (this, by the way, is the first article that comes up when you Google “Jane Kim” and “Spence” — hardly hidden).
After this campaign, I believe I’ll have exciting new topics to discuss with the students when I speak to them again.
Interestingly, Conor Johnston, a political operative formerly employed by one of my opponents, was tweeting about this very topic just a few days ago (screenshot is available here).
Your father is an executive at Kiss Products, a global cosmetics company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Why do you never talk about that accomplishment and its impact on your worldview?
I’m rarely asked about my dad’s career. As a woman who has been an elected official for more than 10 years and who has been involved in San Francisco civic life for nearly 20 years, people generally are more interested in my accomplishments than my father’s. It’s also 2018 and I believe most voters would find it very retro to measure a woman by her dad’s job.
Could it not be seen disingenuous to paint yourself as a hero of the people, when your father has this high-paying executive job?
I’ve never said I was a “hero of the people.” I have said again and again that I’ll fight for the people of this city. And my record shows I’ve done just that. The way this question is asked leads me to believe this reporter has already pre-determined the outcome of this piece — which is why I am sharing the questions and my answers directly with voters.
My father (and my mother) came to this nation as immigrants, leaving a country that had been torn apart by war. He was originally an accountant, going to school at night to become a lawyer. He was a successful lawyer in New York City at a time when there weren’t many Koreans (and certainly almost no Korean speakers) practicing law.
Later, after I left for college, he was hired as an executive for a then-small cosmetic company that has grown tremendously in the last decade. In fact, this company is a great immigrant success story — it was originally started by another South Korean immigrant who sold nail products out of his station wagon.
Instead of the later successes of my dad and his company, my upbringing was more impacted by the fact that as an American-born daughter of immigrants, I was often called upon to be the navigator and translator for my parents in a land with a different language and different customs than their own. That absolutely shaped my view on issues of economic justice and fairness under the law. And this aspect of my childhood, along with my experiences volunteering at homeless organizations in high school, powered my belief that we need to fight for the most vulnerable among us.
Your biography says you grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with your parents, alongside your grandparents. Describe that situation.
When I was born, my parents and grandparents lived together in a one-bedroom subsidized apartment. We lived there for six years. Like many immigrants, my family did not have much money when they arrived. But my parents were lucky to have good educations. And they were lucky to find a subsidized apartment. One of the reasons why I fight so hard for affordable housing is because I know what this apartment did for my family. It allowed my dad to go to night school and my mom to open a business.
But your father was an attorney who became the CFO of a global cosmetics company in 1989. How did that improve your situation?
My father was not hired by a global cosmetics company in 1989. In fact, my father joined this company almost a decade later. By then, I had already left for college.
By the way, why does this question begin with the word “But…”? Is this a question or an argument?
When did your family move out of the one-bedroom apartment? And where was the apartment? Describe the home you moved to.
This is the third question about the one-bedroom apartment. Our first house was at 59th & 11th Ave and we moved from there when I was 6. We moved to a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side by my mom’s small business, a clothing store.
You and your brother co-own two units in a luxury condo building on E. 86th Street. Who occupies those units? Do you earn rent from them?
My parents own these units — this is where they live. They bought two adjacent one-bedroom units and combined them into one. They added my brother and I to the deed for inheritance reasons. A Nexis search shows the home was bought by my mother in 1989, when I was about 12. She is in fact quite proud of purchasing my family home with her earnings from running a store by herself, which she opened and closed herself, and sometimes was able to hire a part-time assistant when the store was busy.
I do not earn rent from this property.
Do you feel like that contradicts your campaign speeches about keeping luxury condo development out of the city?
The premise of this question is untrue and seriously distorts my record. I have not kept market-rate development out of the city. Instead, I’ve supported a number of projects with market-rate housing. I’ve simply negotiated for as much affordable and middle income housing as I could get as part of those developments. One reason I opposed SB827 is because it let luxury developers off the hook to contribute more to the City — and kept us from negotiating better deals in the future.
I’m proud of my record fighting for record levels of affordable and middle income housing for residents of San Francisco. I’m proud I went toe to toe with some of the biggest institutions in San Francisco — including the Hearst Corporation — and won more housing our residents can actually afford. If anyone wants to learn more about that negotiation, they can read this article. Over the last seven years, my district has built more housing — and more affordable housing — than every other district combined. And I’ve fought for the best deal for our residents every time.
My parents bought a home in 1989 and have lived there since.
Did you know that an SRO building was destroyed to build that condo?
Given how many of these questions are based on incorrect information, I have no reason to know if this statement is true or not. And certainly, in less than 24 hours, I do not have time to examine the history of the building my parents live in. Is it standard to attack a candidate’s parents for buying a house nearly three decades ago?
How would you answer someone who says you should divest from the condo building in order to stick by your housing principles?
I’m not going to tell my elderly parents to leave their home of nearly 30 years to make a point to my political opponents.
You’re listed in records at the secretary of state’s office as the agent of service for Ivy Enterprises, a subsidiary of Kiss that your father helped found. Were you paid to do that and if so, why don’t you report that income?
That’s not me; it is a different Jane Kim. Kim is actually a very common Korean name. Even though we received these questions less than 24 hours ago, my team Googled “Jane Kim” and “Ivy Enterprises,” called the company and spoke to this other Jane Kim who confirmed her employment. I would suggest the Chronicle also verify information received from opposition research in the future.
And again, my father did not help found Kiss or any subsidiary.
If you were not paid to be the lawyer representing your dad’s company, then isn’t it wrong to accept his campaign contributions?
I do not understand this question. My father is very proud of my accomplishments and has proudly contributed to each of my campaigns. Incidentally, so has my mother — a successful businessperson in her own right who is strangely the subject of none of these questions.
What would it normally cost to hire a lawyer to do that?
I have no idea. Ask the other Jane Kim.
You say in your bio that you worked as civil rights attorney, but you passed the bar in November 2009 and launched your first campaign for supervisor the following year. What cases did you handle as a civil rights attorney? Did you try any cases? [Bold in original]
I worked at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights from September 2009 — July 2010. It is typical to start working for a law firm or legal organization after graduation while awaiting your bar results. I was a staff attorney and the Community Initiatives Coordinator and I was proud to amplify the voices of those who had been historically shut out. Among the projects I worked on was a successful litigation effort to move San Mateo County from countywide to district elections for Supervisor. The previous countywide elections had made it nearly impossible for the Filipino and other Asian American communities to have their voices heard in county government.
I convened meetings with disenfranchised communities, elected representatives, and others to push for change. And although it happened after I had left to join the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I was proud that San Mateo County did reform its system of governance to bring it in line with every other county in our state. You can read more about my work here.
I did not try any cases, which is of course not uncommon for lawyers.
Kiss is based in Port Washington, N.Y. Why is this one location the source of so many of your campaign donations?
I do not know what you mean by “so many.” Out of the over 2100 campaign contributions I have received in this race, only 6 list a Port Washington address.
Couldn’t someone looking at all these details about your life draw a different conclusion about your background than the one presented in your campaign narrative — that you’re more of a child of privilege than you paint yourself? And wouldn’t’ this change voters’ view of you if they were presented with your true background?
It is absolutely extraordinary that this question would be asked in this way. Seemingly every word in it was chosen to advance a specific story favored by my opponents. This is not journalism as I understand it.
I’m proud of my family story and my true background, which your questions misrepresent or flat-out fabricate. I’m also proud of what I’ve fought for and won for our city, including the $15/hr minimum wage, free City College, affordable housing, and stronger protections for renters. I’m running on my record of bold ideas that rebuild our middle class, support our most vulnerable residents and expand opportunity for all. I would hope that no one would base their vote on the “details” you list above, considering how inaccurate they are. That said, I’m happy to share my record and my background with San Franciscans — and I truly believe that what we do is more important than where we come from.
My Questions to the Chronicle
Now that I have answered the questions posed to me by the Chronicle, I have a few questions I would like to ask in return:
Why didn’t you fact check the false assertions contained in these questions against publicly available information before contacting me or choosing to move forward with this story?
Without breaching confidentiality, can you describe what source or sources of information this reporter used to write these questions? Were any of these questions prompted by information your reporter was given by backers of my opponents?
Are you asking similar questions of the candidate for mayor who has been endorsed by the Chronicle? If not, why are these questions only being asked of me?
Is this story related to my role in negotiating for more affordable and middle income housing as part of the Chronicle’s 5M development project?
Why are these questions so argumentative?
In the interest of transparency, would the Chronicle be willing to make public the full unedited recording of my editorial interview on April 5, 2018 — including the questions posed to me by this reporter?
Since the answers have come out, the reporter who sent the question, Rachel Swan, has become a target of criticism on Twitter while others supported Kim for her answers.
I'm really torn about all of this because I worked at @sfchronicle and will love it. But these questions beg questions of their own, and I'm looking forward to @rachelswan explaining the framing of the questions. I'm sure she will.
Did you read the Qs? Did you see previous biased attacks @sfchronicle has run? Moreover you only have @rachelswan word that calls weren't returned, and if you read the post you'll see Jane responded in detail. What's sad is that there's such a well-deserved distrust of the Chron.
Audrey Cooper, the editor in chief of The Chronicle, has since issued a statement saying the questions “failed to meet the journalistic standards of The Chronicle” and that a new reporter has been assigned to cover the San Francisco race for mayor.
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