Charlotte’s Paula Broadwell, who says she knows how it feels to be misrepresented by the media, spoke at Covenant Presbyterian Church Tuesday morning about her latest cause: fighting media bias.
Last year, Broadwell co-founded Think Broader, a nonprofit that aims to show how media bias often distorts reality, especially creating distorted portrayals of women.
Broadwell, a West Point graduate and counterterrorism expert, became the focus of international media attention in 2012 when news broke that she’d had an affair with then-CIA Director David Petraeus, who’d been the nation’s former top military commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. She’d spent time with him while researching her 2012 biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”
Petraeus resigned as CIA director after admitting the relationship. In 2015, he pleaded guilty in Charlotte federal court to mishandling government documents, a misdemeanor, and was fined $100,000. Broadwell was never charged and has apologized for the relationship.
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Since the affair became international news, she’s continued to live in Charlotte with her husband and two sons. She has helped returning military veterans, consulted on leadership issues, spoken on world affairs topics and competed in triathlons. And now she has launched the Think Broader foundation.
On Tuesday morning, Broadwell was guest speaker at Charlotte’s Covenant Presbyterian, where she spoke to a crowd of about 50, mostly women, gathered for the church’s “Sisters in Spirit” speaker series. Her PowerPoint presentation focused on distorted portrayals of women in the media. She showed examples of sexualized advertising, cited statistics on the underrepresentation of women in leading movie roles and described how journalists looking for experts are more likely to quote men.
While Broadwell never directly mentioned her affair with Petraeus, she did allude to it. She explained, for instance, how the media sometimes fail to cite women’s accomplishments, choosing instead to describe a woman based on her relationship to a famous man. “I’ve frequently been relegated to ‘the something of a man,’” she said.
“Obviously,” she added, “I’ve had a personal run-in with the media and felt misrepresented myself.”
Pam Kelley: 704 358-5271