Looks like former Hogan Lovells partner Robin Keller isn’t done trying to wring the last juice out of her 15 minutes of infamy.
Keller last made news this summer, when in the wake of the Dobbs decision, she — on a work call with ~400 attendees — spouted her problematic views on abortion and race. (Audience alert: remove any animals from the room as there are dog whistles ahead.)
A white partner who attended HoLove’s women’s meeting felt it appropriate to chime in with her support of the Dobbs decision. As a tipster at the firm described it, “Robin Keller, in front of nearly 400 women, shared her views that Dobbs was rightly decided and that Black women are disproportionately getting abortions and conducting ‘Black genocide’ which she finds ‘tragic.’” Yikes.
Another tipster described it as “spouting out racial vitriol about Black women abortions being a genocide that luckily Dobbs stops.” According to accounts, another partner “eloquently shut her down to the ground,” and asked Keller to leave the call. But, tipsters report that wasn’t the end of the screed, as Keller “wrote in the Zoom chat that we should channel our ‘rage’ into understanding other people’s point of view.”
Reaction to the incident from insiders at the firm reflects how troubling it was. One person described being “traumatized and hurt,” saying, “It was unreal.” Another was more blunt: “A woman needs to be fired.”
Now she’s taking a page from Paul Clement’s book and crying in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal that HoLove “kowtowed to a woke faction inside its workforce” when she was let go from her job following an internal investigation.
Yes, the firm hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation, a process Keller says she participated in, and found her comments in violation of the firm’s anti-harassment policy. But Keller would rather gin up the disingenuous rallying cry of twisted First Amendment talking points than take any personal responsibility for what she said.
Keller’s comments were not dry support for an esoteric point of law. She specifically blamed Black women for GENOCIDE. It should not be shocking that this is considered inappropriate in the workplace. People much smarter than me have pointed out just how fucked up this exact rhetoric is. But to make the point as succinctly as possible, Shyrissa Dobbins-Harris writes in The Myth of Abortion as Black Genocide: Reclaiming our Reproductive Cycle that these messages about abortion are “full of misogynoir,” and places “the struggle for Black survival squarely within the wombs of Blackwomen” over the “numerous social ills facing Black people” including “rates of police brutality… or the social determinants of health, or mass incarceration, or the alarmingly high rates of new HIV infections among Blackwomen.” And it’s paternalistic to boot as it “considers Blackwomen incapable of making their own reproductive choices.”
But the really sad point about the decline of the judiciary in this country is that this only gets to be a debate — and in the WSJ — because she couched her vitriol in a SCOTUS decision. If anyone came into a big meeting a spouted harmful rhetoric that academics say is “full of misogynoir” there’d be no argument in defense of what she’d done. But because the Court gave space to half truths and a twisted version of history to undo 50 years of reproductive freedom, it gifted cover to racists and sexists to say the quiet part out loud.
The attention this patently wrong (factually and morally) view has received as a a result of the Dobbs decision is exactly what Keller points to as an excuse for her behavior. She writes, “Never mind that this view has been expressed by numerous mainstream commentators, black and white, including in [the WSJ] pages.” But it is dangerous to assert that just because a statement has been repeated within the right-wing echo chamber makes it acceptable — particularly in a workplace. And it certainly doesn’t mean Keller gets to eschew responsibility for imposing her problematic views on her colleagues.
UPDATE: A firm spokesperson provided the following comment:
“As a firm we fully encourage our people to share their views on important issues that matter to them, but we expect our people to conduct themselves in accordance with firm policies. We value our differences, which make us stronger as a firm.”
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).