Say hello to Liz Mair, a Republican communications strategist. Some might find her a bit mouthy. In person, her droll sense of humor rolls effortlessly off the tongue. She has an hour. So I’m going to have to make this interview snappy. She deadpans everything. She rarely laughs at her own jokes. I imagine she walks around town deadpanning all day long. I don’t think she can turn it off.
“In both cases he has announced of these lawsuits right around dinner on Monday night,” she says. “It’s not the most convenient time for people to interrupt my dinner. I do like my food.”
I met up with Mair in a snooty French café in Georgetown months ago right after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) first slapped her with a lawsuit for some mean tweets. She can’t talk too specifically about the lawsuit, as it’s ongoing. The $250 million suit also targets Twitter, a fake cow parody account, and a fake Nunes mom account. Another lawsuit goes after her firm, Mair Strategies. In total, the congressman is suing her for an obscene $400 million.
As is the case with many Washington types, Nunes comes off as awfully thin-skinned.
Mair arrives at the upstairs French shabby chic dining room (think poofy cushioned chairs and distressed wood) carrying a white dinner plate with a ham and gruyere sandwich and a cup of English Breakfast tea. She wasn’t going to wait for our rude male waiter to serve her. She can serve herself, thank you very much.
“I didn’t realize you were supposed to do table service up here so I just brought my sandwich up,” she remarks.
She won’t let me photograph her today because she’s giving her skin a break. To that end, she isn’t wearing a shred of makeup.
By the way, if you want to donate to the Swamp Accountability Project to help her fight Nunes’s lawsuit, she’d find that helpful. The congressman filed his suit in Virginia. Most recently, a judge denied her motion to move the case to California.
“While I appreciate Judge Marshall’s careful consideration of the issues relevant to the motion to move this case to California, I highly doubt that this will be the Court’s final word on the propriety of this frivolous lawsuit,” she says.
As of Thursday she has received a formal summons.
Happy Halloween! @DevinNunes‘ lawyer got around to sending me the Summons, Amended Complaint, and Waiver of Service of Process forms in his $150M lawsuit v me. So he’s now totally, officially suing me for $400 million. Donate to support my legal defense: https://t.co/zcYqrHn6OH
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) October 31, 2019
Mair does not appear to be in a tizzy about the lawsuit. Just practical.
“I have a lawyer,” she tells me. “To anyone who runs any kind of business, everybody should have a lawyer you can call. Things do happen that are unforeseen.”
Worried? Who’s worried?
“I see this as a first amendment issue. This is exactly the type of scenario they were envisioning,” she says, referring to the Founding Fathers. “Just a modern day scenario. I’m a Civil Libertarian and I’ve always believed strongly in this.”
Mair first learned she was being sued when a reporter rang her up and asked her if she had a comment. “I found out when a reporter called me as my mother was serving me some chicken,” she recalls.
At the beginning of this bizarre debacle back in March, she says some lawyers reached out to her and offered to represent her pro bono. “I feel like I have a lot of people on my side,” she says.
But there are plenty who are not in her corner.
Head over to Reddit where you will find many things I can’t publish because my editor would maim me. Suffice it to say, there are no-named people who badmouth her and say Mair is really annoying to watch on TV, that they’d rather watch female conservatives like CNN’s S.E. Cupp or Margaret Hoover (her great-grandfather is former President Herbert Hoover). But there are soulless others who take it a thousand notches lower and reveal their desires to commit criminal sexual acts against her.
Here comes the droll.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with this,” Mair says of the lawsuit. “I’m a co-defendant with Twitter with two anonymous individuals. The cow has assured me we’ve never met. I take the cow at his word.”
How does she know the cow is male?
“No, I’m speculating,” she explains straight-faced. “So I should stop referring to the cow as a he. He, she, they, it. The cow is going stronger than I am. It is a little bit crappy to be Catholic and in a period of Lent and on a daily basis be envious of the cow’s Twitter following. The cow doesn’t retweet me that much. That is a little bit of a grievance of mine.”
Mair says her defense fund has largely received small donations, minus the stranger who donated a grand. “My hope is that I never have to use that money,” she says. “I have found that reporters are extremely supportive of this and concerned. Many have called and expressed support.”
Mair’s tweets about Nunes, clearly a public figure, are pretty tame. In one, she linked to a story about Nunes in the Fresno Bee.
HOLY CRAP: A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event https://t.co/1jvtS97Ymj
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) May 23, 2018
“I obviously tweet a lot and I’m pretty sarcastic and some people don’t understand that a lot of what I tweet is sarcasm,” she says, explaining that she has not deleted a single thing since the lawsuit began. “People forget that I am British as well as American.”
She does not believe her tweets about Nunes are worthy of a discussion much less a defamation lawsuit.
“I think frankly it’s a lot more innocuous than most of Twitter on any given day,” she says. “One of the things that I don’t think he has thought through here is how many things [President] Trump has tweeted that have been garden variety offensively mean.”
Again and again, Mair resorts to dry humor.
“I don’t have 400 million dollars so if he [Nunes] thinks he is getting 400 million he has another thing coming,” she says. “I recognize it is probably fair for people to categorize this as surreal.”
Mair has appeared on Fox News’s Shannon Bream‘s show and MSNBC’s “All In”
with Chris Hayes about the lawsuit.
“After my Fox News appearance the other night, I had one third ‘I hope he bankrupts you,’ one third ‘you seem like kind of a bitch, but you’re right’ and one third marriage proposals,” she even a hint of a smile.
With Bream’s program came thoughts on her chest. “I had a lot of commentary on my cleavage of all things,” she says later by email. (I imagine she’s not smiling as she writes this. Even the emoji she sends is a little yellow face with a straight line for a mouth.)
Mair is well-aware that she’s something of a walking hand grenade.
In 2015, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s boring-ass presidential campaign parted ways with her after she made comments critical about Iowa on Twitter. Keep in mind she was hilariously the campaign’s digital strategist.
“Morons across America are astounded to learn that people from *IOWA* grow up rather government-dependent. #agsubsidies #ethanol #brainless,” she tweeted in January of that year.
A few days later: “The sooner we remove Iowa’s frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be.”
After the cancel culture did its thing and some politicians called for her ouster, Mair quickly resigned, apologized and wished Walker’s campaign the best.
“Not all lawyers are terrible people,” she says, moving back to the Nunes lawsuit. “There are people who have expressed concerns about my physical safety. I’m not hugely concerned about that.”
But just in case, is she packing heat?
“I do not currently have a gun but if I feel like I need something for personal safety I feel like I live someplace where it is not going to be burdensome to go that route,” she says. “I’ve done my gun safety training. I go to the training range every so often.”
She says she likes to shoot cutouts of Osama Bin Laden.
“It’s hard to be constantly worried or calm about a situation when it’s still in flux,” she says. “I try to take the view in life that I deal with problems as they arise. Theoretically being sued for 4 million is a problem. Right now I’m really in a holding pattern. In two months you may ask me and I may be extremely worried or extremely calm.”
Mair finds inspiration in unusual places. One happens to be the extremely liberal Arianna Huffington, who collapsed in 2007 and woke up in a pool of blood. She had cracked a cheekbone and had a cut on her forehead. Her story has been consistent. She says she collapsed from exhaustion. As a result, she did something unheard of in the world of journalism — she introduced sleep rooms at work for napping.
“Like in general I’m a big believer that you need to get a good night’s sleep,” she says. “Arianna would say it really doesn’t matter if you’re being sued or not. If you’re walking around tired, that is just a bad way of living.”
If you can imagine, Mair did not come into the world with table manners. She arrived four weeks early. She was born in Seattle, but the family moved outside of London and she went to St. Andrews University in Scotland. She completed law school in England and became a solicitor.
She admits that her humor and that of her husband has been the cause of many family fights. “My mom — honest to God — can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic. I don’t know, maybe that’s part of the problem here,” she says.
She makes it her business to not look into any crystal balls.
“You never know anything in life,” she, of course, deadpans.
With that, she launches into a story about when she was 21 and was told there was a 99 percent chance she’d never conceive a child. “I had super bad endometriosis when I was younger,” she confides. “In my case they thought none of the plumbing would work. It turns out, I came off my medication for two months and I got pregnant. Life surprises you.”
She beelines back to the cow.
“His major concern was whether or not I was the cow,” she says of her son, noting that her fondness for eating would lend some to believe that she weighs 300 pounds (she’s not even close to being in that weight bracket.)
Mair has lots of pointed thoughts about the field of 2020 presidential candidates.
She says she’s neither for or against Trump. She’ll vote for him in a pinch against Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders, but not over former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld if he ran.
Joe Biden: “I’ve had kind of a soft spot for Joe Biden….he gets really excited about ice cream. It’s hard to think that he’s Satan.”
Kirsten Gillibrand (no longer in the race): “I think she’s blonde and with boobs. I think she comes off as fake. Maybe her lawyer will call me for that. I don’t like the fact that her whole campaign message to me feels like 21st reboot of the Spice Girls girl power. I’m not into the Spice Girls and I’m not into Kirsten Gillibrand.”
Kamala Harris: “I think Kamala Harris is a bitch and I think that’s a good thing. I think she’s horribly wrong on policy. I don’t think she’s stupid. I guess I kind of feel like …you prefer to not see people not fall flat on their faces. I hold her in higher esteem than Bernie Sanders.”
Joaquin Castro: “He’s a total no. Your Latino. Your Spanish. It basically says you are running for the president of North America. I can’t vote for that. He put his campaign page in Google translator.”
Eric Swalwell (no longer in the race): “I don’t know what the point is. I speak four languages. I only feel comfortable when I’ve said a name 100 times. Maybe he should have considered that.”
Mair suddenly has an epiphany.
“I use British vocabulary. This is probably the root of the whole fucking lawsuit. I say tomahhtoe he says tomato.”
Hometown: Mostly Seattle, a little bit Haslemere, Surrey
Named for: Mostly I think my parents just liked the name, but my dad’s Mum was Elizabeth, my Mum jokes about me being named after Elizabeth Taylor, and my moral hero is Elizabeth I.
First job ever: Telemarketer, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Current Employment: President, Mair Strategies LLC
If someone wants to get on your good side, what candy or liquor should they ply you with? I don’t drink and I’m not a big fan of candy. Tell me you’re an Arsenal supporter, though, and I’ll at least hear you out.
Most exotic place you’ve ever visited: I’ve been to six continents, so that’s hard to say. The Antarctic Ocean was scary as hell, though.
How often do you Google search yourself? Very rarely. Maybe once every six months. Maybe less.
Who is your celebrity crush? As in who, other than my husband, would I happily make out with? Any or all of the following: Matthew McConaughey, Eric Bana, Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Olivier Giroud, Ryan Gosling, Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, Chris Pratt, Tom Hardy, Olivier Martinez
Least favorite word: “Sure”
Word or phrase you overuse: Fuck/fucking/fucker
Book that touched your soul: Can’t say I’ve ever had that experience with a book, but I highly recommend everyone read Dr. David Starkey’s Elizabeth.
The last time you cried and why: Strangely, since I had my kid a few years ago, I’ve been physically unable to cry. So, I’m not sure— but I know I didn’t cry during labor or childbirth.
Weirdest habit you’ve observed in a newsroom (workplace) setting? I work at home with two cats, so it’s got to be the ass-licking.
If you had to kiss a politician who would it be? Probably John Thune (GOP senator fro South Dakota).
Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes? Chris Hayes.
Jesse Watters or Greg Gutfeld? Greg Gutfeld.
Jim Acosta or Jake Tapper? Jake Tapper.
Adam Schiff or Matt Gaetz? Kill me.
AOC or Sheila Jackson Lee? Kill me again.
What’s next for you? Whatever comes flying through the inbox
What would you do with your life if absolutely nothing could stop you? It would be great fun to own and operate a lemur sanctuary.
What site do you read regularly? The Economist. That is a joke. Um, all of them. That is also a joke. On a multiple-times-a-day basis? Whatever my war room manager alerts, plus Axios, WSJ, CALMatters and BBC Sport. That is not a joke.
Who among the Democratic hopefuls would you most want to dine with? I think Amy Klobuchar would be by far the most fun. But I’d get way more ice cream with Joe Biden.
Don Jr. or Hunter Biden? Kill me for the third time in a row.
What’s the deal with Kellyanne Conway’s marriage? If my husband can put up with my bullshit until late December, I will have been married for 20 years and the only thing I’ve really learned is: Don’t judge. How’s that for a non-answer answer?
Stolen from Inside the Actors studio: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Go back and spend some more time with your kid. Come back later.
Pick one: CNN’s New Day or Morning Joe? CNN’s New Day— My kid loves John Avlon’s segments, so it’s a must-watch here at home.
ABC’s GMA or NBC’s TODAY Show? Haven’t watched either in years, but when I was growing up, we always watched TODAY.
Dave Weigel or Mike Allen? Both!
Your pet’s name: I have two. Isabel and Nero (formerly known as Brian).
Chris Cuomo or Don Lemon? Don Lemon.
Mika and Joe or Mnuchin and Linton? Mnuchin and Linton.
Weirdest food you’ve ever eaten. I’m Scottish, so basically all of our food qualifies. But apart from that, probably a cricket/grasshopper taco. It was weird, like having something with the flavor and texture of popcorn in a corn tortilla. Does anyone need that much stuff that your mouth interprets as corn in any given meal? I’m not sure.
Lastly, please invent a question for the next victim of The Mirror Questionnaire. Make it good. It may live on in infamy. What does everyone hate— like, really, really hate— but you love?