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Critic of Megyn Kelly reneges on 'free drink' pledge

Pundit James Warren welshed this week on his offer of free drinks for the first person who could find evidence that he called the Republican Party "anti-female." 

Warren made the drinks offer during a dispute with Fox News host Megyn Kelly over his on-the-record opinion of the GOP. After AMI Newswire Tuesday presented the Poynter Institute columnist with a 2015 opinion piece containing the precise phrase Kelly cited, Warren refused to buy so much as a shot of Imperial American Whiskey. 

"The GOP’s anti-female brand is also locked-in," Warren wrote in an Aug. 16 column for the New York Daily News. "Democrats own issues, like equal pay, that appeal to most women, young and old."

But Warren now says his own words did not mean what a reasonable reader would presume they meant. 

Warren's bet came after Kelly responded to a Vanity Fair column panning her recent interview with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Kelly's “soft-as-a-grape session” resembled a “Barbara Walters-like celebrity special,” Warren wrote.

Kelly shot back by noting last week that Warren had failed to disclose his own biases. “This is the same man who dismissed the entire Republican Party as ‘anti-female,’ ” Kelly said on her Fox News evening program. 

Warren denied the bias charge. “Drinks to the first person to find such an unequivocal assertion,” he promised in his regular column last week.

“I offered [Kelly], or anybody else out there who could find proof of that, drinks on me, and it’s been four or five days. I’m happy to buy someone Jack Daniels, maybe a decent bottle of Champagne, but nobody’s come forward. They haven’t found that,” Warren boasted on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday.

AMI Newswire took Warren up on that challenge, offering a link to a column he wrote last year about Trump, Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton, the GOP and women voters - and requesting a bottle of whiskey in fulfillment of Warren's debt of honor.

Voters’ views of Hillary Clinton “are pretty much locked-in,” Warren conceded in the column. “But the GOP’s anti-female brand is also locked in.”

But Warren said that didn't count: "[T]alking about public image and brands, not my personal views," he wrote in an email to AMI Newswire on Tuesday. "[I]ncluding the republican party's very own report on its image with women." 

The link Warren included was not to any Republican Party report, however, but to an article from U.S. News and World Report, with the headline “Republican Women Want to Fix Party Image,” which referenced a panel at the Heritage Foundation. 

Warren did not respond to AMI Newswire's request that he either deliver the booze or clarify how his use of the word "brand" negated Kelly's claim that he had "dismissed the Republican Party as anti-female."

Two prominent press critics - Chris Lehmann and Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, senior editors for the liberal Baffler and the conservative Federalist magazines, respectively - did offer opinions. 

Warren is off the hook because “that ‘brand’ gives him wiggle room,” Lehmann said in an e-mail. "The party can be made to seem anti-woman in primary cycles targeting aggrieved-dude voters, just as the Dems (just as absurdly) can posture as the 'pro-woman' party - as though more than half the population can be reduced to a handful of policy talking points.” 

To point out the mechanics of politics is not to dismiss an entire party, in Lehmann’s judgment. Politics aside, “it makes no sense to dub Republicans ‘anti-woman’ ” he said. 

Hemingway had a different take, along with a pricier drink suggestion than AMI Newswire's initial request for Bulleit Rye.

“Given that he claimed, in print, that the GOP’s brand is ‘anti-female,’ which is what Kelly quoted him as saying, it’s bizarre that he would deny having painted with such a broad brush,” she told AMI Newswire.

While the media, Hemingway said, tend to “present the news to reflect their strongly held view that the GOP is anti-female, that’s news to the millions of women who do not march in lockstep on any issue, whether it’s government regulation of pay, the wisdom of requiring women to register for the draft, or whether to force people to pay for other people’s contraception against their conscience.”

“The good news,” Hemingway said, “is that someone’s getting a bottle of Blanton’s out of this.”