Last Thursday, the Post ran a piece that reported on the party hosted by the paper's longtime cartoonist Tom Toles -- and how nearly two years later, a guest expressed how she was traumatized by the presence of one of Toles' friends, who satirically wore blackface as part of her costume, amid the current climate following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. That woman ultimately was fired from her job as a result of the report's release.
New York Magazine columnist Josh Barro was among many critics who slammed the report, insisting Friday that it's either a "farce" if the paper thought what was published was actually news, or it's a "scandal" if the report was simply a "PR strategy" to protect the paper's employees. Others said the report was "ruining the life" of a non-public figure.
A spokesperson for The Washington Post defended the report on Saturday in a statement to Fox News.
"Employees of The Washington Post, including a prominent host, were involved in this incident, which impelled us to tell the story ourselves thoroughly and accurately while allowing all involved to have their say," the Post spokesperson told Fox News. "The piece conveys with nuance and sensitivity the complex, emotionally fraught circumstances that unfolded at the party attended by media figures only two years ago where an individual in blackface was not told promptly to leave."
The spokesperson continued, "America's grappling with racism has entered a phase in which people who once felt they should keep quiet are now raising their voices in public. The story is a microcosm of what the country is going through right now."
The Post reported that Toles received an email last week from Lexie Gruber, a guest who attended his annual Halloween party nearly two years ago despite never meeting the host, about an incident involving his friend, who wore blackface as part of her costume.
"In 2018, I attended a Halloween party at your home," Gruber wrote to Toles. "I understand that you are not responsible for the behavior of your guests, but at the party, a woman was in blackface. She harassed me and my friend — the only two women of color — and it was clear she made her 'costume' with racist intent."
As explained in the report, Toles' friend dressed up as then-recently ousted NBC host Megyn Kelly, who drew criticism for questioning if wearing blackface on Halloween was okay if the costume was meant out of respect and not out of mockery. However, the friend put on blackface as a satirical jab at Kelly as if the journalist was fine with the racist gesture.
Gruber, 27, told Toles that to this day the incident "weighed heavily on my heart — it was abhorrent and egregious," particularly after the death of George Floyd, and urged him to identify the woman from his party.
"I wanted to know who this woman is ... What impact does she have on society?" Gruber wrote in the email to Toles. "I think this is an important story — that a party full of prominent people in Washington welcomed a person in blackface, danced and drank with her, and watched in silence as she harassed two young women of color."
Gruber said she and her friend Lyric Prince, who are Puerto Rican and African-American respectively, confronted the woman at the party about the costume.
"You understand how offensive that could be to a person of color?" Gruber reportedly told her, as the woman tried to defend the costume.
According to the Post's reporting, "some guests at the party say they wish they had confronted her more aggressively" while "others say that she has already paid a price and that her embarrassment and regret were evident when she left the party in tears."
Toles initially responded to Gruber by saying he didn't know who was wearing blackface at his party but did recall telling his friend at the time that her costume was an "ill-considered attempt at satire."
When he told Gruber he wouldn't identify the friend, Gruber told him, "Hiding her name is a deliberate act of white privilege and cowardice, not friendship.”
Prince, 36, told the Post, "I felt very unsafe talking to that person in the first place. I was in an environment that, if it got heated, it would decidedly not be in my best interest.” She also revealed that she sought help from a therapist, saying she felt "threatened and physically and emotionally exposed... I felt powerless in a way that I never want to feel again."
Witnesses said Gruber "yelled" at the woman after Prince confronted her and they both left the party shortly after.
The Post reported that the woman, a vocal critic of President Trump and an advocate for social causes on Facebook, knew she made a "terrible mistake" the moment she arrived at the party. She reportedly "spent many hours in therapy talking about 'how carelessly I behaved. I'm deeply ashamed.'"
Following the party, she emailed Toles and his wife, Gretchen, to apologize.
"With this story, they’ll get the public humiliation they want, but it won't foster any real dialogue between us," the woman told the Post. "I wish they would talk to me. I made a mistake, and I understand now that when black people make a mistake, they can get killed."
The Post also reported that when the woman informed her employer on Wednesday that a story about the blackface incident was about the be published, she immediately was fired.