An interview with UM Alum Karen Hinton

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Mississippi native Karen Hinton is a nationally-recognized media professional in Washington and New York. Best known for her role as press secretary to both former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hinton played what Politico dubbed the “Helen of Troy role” in the clash between Cuomo, now the former Governor of New York, and Mayor de Blasio. The New York Times called the clash “one of America’s ugliest political feuds.” The Wall Street Journal lauded “the wisdom she dispensed in a Southern twang” in dealing with the strutting and chest pounding of New York’s two most powerful leaders.

Hinton cut her teeth as the press secretary for the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction in 1986. The Democratic National Committee hired her in 1989, serving a similar role for Ron Brown, who was the first Black Chairman of the DNC and a key political strategist to elect Bill Clinton as President. In 1995, Hinton joined the Clinton Administration as press secretary for Cuomo at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During that time, President Clinton began to face charges of womanizing (and worse). When Clinton’s defenders tried to dismiss the women as “trailer park trash” and “bimbos,” Hinton went public with her own story about Clinton asking for a night of sex when he was Governor of Arkansas and she was a young Democratic campaign aide in Mississippi. The revelation resulted in Hinton being eased out of her senior administration position, one of the events which sparked her interest in giving a name to “penis politics”. Hinton later relocated to New York and became Mayor de Blasio’s press secretary. She found herself at the center of the crossfire between longtime frenemies Cuomo and de Blasio, often becoming the subject of news coverage herself.