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Bethany Mandel Was Given a Platform to Explain Her ‘Woke’ Flub and It Somehow Made Her Look Even Worse

Bethany Mandel speaks into her camera during a Zoom interview.

Conservative pundits and politicians love to throw the word “woke” around like an unlimited supply of nonsense grenades in their ongoing culture war against basic human decency. Some of them even have even gone so far as to build their entire careers around weaponizing the concept of “wokeness” as a liberal boogeyman. Yet at the same time, many of those same right-wing figures are unwilling (or unable) to define what they mean when they use the word so disparagingly. So when they are put on the spot, it’s absolutely hilarious to watch them gape and gasp like a fish left out on dry land.

And that’s exactly what happened when Briahna Joy Gray interviewed author Bethany Mandel about her book with Karol Marcowicz, Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation, on The Hill TV’s show Rising. When asked to define “woke,” the central premise of her book, Mandel was absolutely gobsmacked and stuttered out a jumble of nothing before commenting that her inability to define the word was “going to be one of those moments that goes viral.” It was incredibly embarrassing for someone who’s made fighting against “wokeness” the centerpiece of their brand, but not surprising to see as so many on the right seem to use “woke” as a vague term for anything left-leaning that they don’t like.

However, Mandel was given a chance to explain herself and the extremely viral moment in an op-ed in Newsweek and it was … definitely something. Instead of taking ownership of the fact that she dropped the ball on defining something she wrote an entire book about, Mandel used the op-ed to explain that the embarrassing viral clip came about because as she was prepping to go on-air, she “heard one of the hosts speaking about parents in what I perceived to be a negative way.” In her words:

Over my career as a loud and proud “breeder”, I have often felt attacked by the left, and braced myself to be ambushed on air about my own life choices as a mother of six children. Throughout the entire interview I felt a panic attack growing, but just tried to get through the duration of the appearance without an incident. As we talked, I was stammering and trying not to set traps for myself. I did not want to open up questions about my own personal life. Finally, I was left speechless at one question—the basic definition of the word “woke.”

Now, I’m not trying to downplay the severity of panic attacks; they can be debilitating and terrifying to go through. However, when you’re supposed to be an expert on a topic that you dedicated an entire book to, it’s a bit odd to blame your inability to give a basic definition of that topic on an undefined and unrelated comment made by a TV host that you possibly took the wrong way.

Mandel used the rest of her piece to highlight the fact that she had to explain to her children about the mean comments she was receiving and how they saw her cry, which is super rare for her. Honestly, it was a whole bunch of fluff that was meant to make the reader feel bad for someone who built their whole career on putting others down. Hate comments are not something I would wish on anyone, but Mandel used this fact to paint herself as a victim, which she very much is not.

While one might think this viral clip and nothing burger of an op-ed is the worst Mandel has done in her career, they would be sorely mistaken as some prominent journalists went digging into her Twitter history and uncovered some disturbing tweets that she posted with what seems like no shame. Trigger warning, they are a lot!

Mandel is not just some conservative author who made a terribly public mistake; she has a pattern of being racist, rude, unempathetic, and frankly downright cruel. Her absolutely botching the definition of “woke” is just the icing on the shit cake that is her career. I would love to think that Mandel could learn from this incident and try to be a better person, but it seems like that ship sailed thousands of public tweets ago.

Let this be a lesson for Mandel: make sure you know what you’re talking about it before going on camera or else the internet will make sure to expose how terrible you truly are.

(featured image: screencap)

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Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a freelance writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or forcing her friends to watch some random video she found. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.