Political Reporter’s Nightmare Comes to a Head This Week

Posted November 2, 2012 at 5:14pm

One in an occasional series in which CQ Roll Call reporters share their point of view. This time around, political reporter Abby Livingston on having a name you can’t run away from.

A yearlong personal drama came to a head earlier this week, when a colleague asked me why people are Tweeting about me and broncos.

I checked my feed, and the culprit was my former boss and current Congressional softball team co-captain Amy Walter of ABC News.

  • @amyewalter: We are all Abby! RT ‪@Chris_Moody: New avatar. Solidarity with Abby. ‪#BroncoBamma ‪#MittRomenny


No. We are all not Abby. I am Abby.
Okay, I dig the kid. I don’t know a single political reporter who hasn’t watched that video at least 18 times. In 22 seconds, little Abby captured a national sentiment. Little Abby is closing in on 5 million YouTube views as of this writing. I supplied a large fraction those views.

But still. One thought crossed my mind: upstaged again.

I do not claim a monopoly on all things Abby. I’m just a bit hypersensitive this year. You see, there’s this other problem. Her name is Abby Livingston.

I first became aware of “the situation” in the summer of 2011 when my Google News Alert (now disabled after someone in a nonrelated situation declared me “diabolical and blasphemous”) informed me I had a new Google Plus account. No, I didn’t.

A quick search explained it all — that GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman had a daughter named Abby who was married to a guy named Livingston.

It was not long before I began to receive emails mistakenly intended for her. The worst one came from a famous TV correspondent who took the time to praise my amazing writing. I was feeling pretty high and mighty about myself until I realized he meant it for her.

Then she went on television. And then began making funny videos on YouTube. Suddenly, she was everywhere.

The thing that would really send me into orbit was when someone would come up to me, self-satisfied gleam in their eye, “Hey did you know that Jon Hunts-“

“Yes. I know.”

Back when he was running for president, I once saw Huntsman, his wife and a son at a burger joint in Dupont Circle. It was before I knew the Other Abby existed. I almost introduced myself to him that day. Now I’m glad I didn’t — can you imagine how he might have reacted if some woman ran up to him introducing herself as his daughter’s name?

The low point came when I covered the special election to replace Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz. My colleague and I decided it was necessary to spend the day driving two hours out to Tombstone because, well, it was there.

I emailed myself the address of the O.K. Corral (such an address exists) so I’d have it handy to plug into the GPS. For some reason, the email never came. Then I realized I had done the exact thing that others had done that made me so angry: I had accidentally emailed the O.K. Corral address to somebody I barely knew with zero context.

This is my life. As a kid, there were hardly any other Abbys to compete with. I didn’t even know another Abby until fourth grade.

To the Michael Smiths of the world, I feel for you.

It was when I decided to interview the Other Abby for a Roll Call feature that I got really ticked off. The reason? She makes it completely impossible for me to resent her for stealing my name.

The Other Abby is friendly and funny and has accommodated my ego in a super classy way. Professionally, she usually uses her maiden name. So things have gotten better.

People don’t yell at me so much in my Twitter feed when she goes on TV as well, but that is my own doing. My Twitter bio now reads: “I’m not Jon Huntsman’s daughter,” and the harassment instantly stopped.

Imagine that. My entire identity is defined by who is not my father.

So what if my pop has never run for president? At some point, I’d just like to write on my Twitter bio that I am his daughter, because, after all, he is an undisputed champion at life and it is his name I am wearing.

So yeah, it wears me out trying to compete with a charismatic political heiress and the Honey BooBoo of political apathy.

But thinking about my dad gives me pause and makes me count my blessings. Things could be worse. I could have his first name this week.


I’m done complaining.