While former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has stayed largely silent since her firing last week — besides a commencement address at Wake Forest University earlier this week — her daughter, Cornelia Griggs, has filled the void, with social media missives designed to build support for Abramson. On Wednesday, Griggs delivered her most searing message yet. After Abramson published a eulogy of longtime Times editor Arthur Gelb for the Huffington Post, Griggs tweeted, “Tickled that I finally get to see @JillAbramson byline on blogs/sites my friends actually read, aka the free ones #silverlining”
It was a pointed message from Griggs, who through this very public spat, has been Abramson’s secret weapon and attack dog. Her Instagram post of Abramson wearing boxing gloves — posted the day after Abramson was fired — made the cover of The New York Post. “Mom’s badass new hobby #girls #pushy,” the Instagram caption read, a savvy nod to critics of the brusque management style that may have led to Abramson’s dismissal.
And as Abramson remained quiet for days, Griggs continued posting shots that put her mother in the best light possible, including a tender image of Abramson kissing her golden retriever Scout and a picture of Abramson from 2007, using a walker while she was recovering from getting hit by a truck.
While New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gave a less-than-stellar interview to Vanity Fair, Abramson was literally being seen as a fighter — and on the PR battlefield, she’s unequivocally come out the winner. Griggs’ posts were a powerful PR move that helped shift the narrative in Abramson’s favor.
And Griggs’ messages were so good, New York Magazine included them as the key example of a piece that labeled Instagram as the “best crisis PR tool.”
Sources close to Griggs who spoke to BuzzFeed all described the Harvard undergrad, Columbia-educated doctor as “brilliant.” (Griggs was contacted by BuzzFeed for comment for this story but declined, saying that she’s “not giving interviews right now.”) She’s currently a resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital, after making a switch from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she met her husband and fellow doctor Robert Goldstone in 2010.
Griggs may not be a fighter in the ring — husband Goldstone says she doesn’t box (and that Abramson only recently took up boxing classes herself) — but she’s “strong and motivated” like her mom. “She didn’t post those pictures planning for that response, [she was] more so doing it for friends,” he said.
Eliza Orlins, an attorney and semi-famous two-time Survivor contestant, met Griggs during freshman year at Sidwell Friends (yes, where the Obama daughters go to school) when they were on staff of their school newspaper, The Horizon. (Griggs eventually became editor in chief of that paper and continued writing for The Crimson at Harvard). She hinted at Griggs’ savvy.
Having the Instagram picture of Abramson in boxing gloves blown up for all of New York to see wasn’t a total surprise, Orlins said. “We joke that anything can go on the cover of the New York Times, but realistically, this time it was The New York Post. She was aware of the possibility.”
Sarah Gray, another high school friend of Griggs, was the person on the other side of a text conversation posted on Griggs’ Instagram. “Love to your mom - we should all aspire to be so pushy,” Gray wrote in the screenshot exchange. She said Griggs would not mind being called “pushy” and that Griggs has “inherited the best qualities of her mom.”
“She’s been inspired by what Jill has accomplished and when you’re facing a situation that was unjust because of someone’s gender, it’s not surprising that she’s spoken out,” Gray said.
The firing wasn’t the first time Griggs had used social media for the defense of her mother. Responding to a piece published by Politico that casted Abramson as brusque and said she was “losing support of the newsroom,” Griggs tweeted at the author of the piece, Dylan Byers, “a hugger she isn’t. Yes, intimidating & hard to read. But most of all my Mom’s a rockstar, a hero for ambitious women.”