Monster’s Ball: Sweet, Sweet “Liz” Holmes

Photograph Source: Kevin Krejci – CC BY 2.0

It takes a lot of chutzpah for the New York Times to write a feature-length puff piece on convicted criminal Elizabeth Holmes.

Let’s be clear. Elizabeth Holmes bilked investors out of billions of dollars with the promise of a fictional technology she knew very early on could not possibly work. She kept up this charade for years, telling ever more whopping lies, covering up failure after failure, and selling this garbage to Walgreens outlets, where numerous patients received erroneous diagnoses, sometimes endangering their lives.

The defense’s attempts to frame this as all the fault of Sunny Balwani, Holmes’s partner in crime, who she claimed controlled and manipulated her, ended in failure—and Holmes’s conviction (as well as Balwani’s). The claim, made in the article, that Holmes was convicted “as a message to ambitious women everywhere,” is legitimately debatable, but the idea that a “female executive” is “allowed to be successful but not too successful” (not the author’s quote but that of one of Holmes’s supporters cited in the article) is ludicrous. Fraud is not the definition of success, unless you think that burglary is a good day’s work.

It gets worse. Not only is this piece by “former writer at large” Amy Chozick disgustingly obsequious, it is also a train wreck of “journalism.” One wonders if the Times is going to walk back this story. As I’m writing this, the article is no longer on the front page of the website, nor does it show up as “Most Popular” on the app, where it did earlier.

Chozick gives the distinct impression that she spent at least a full week horning in on the lives of Holmes and her partner Billy Evans, accompanying them on a visit to the zoo with their young children and catching them in an intimate moment in their kitchen. You wouldn’t be to blame if you thought she was sleeping in their bed, too.

There is this positively bizarre passage, which abruptly appears about a third of the way through the piece:

Day 44: the afternoon we ordered in Mexican food at their quaint rental home near the Pacific.

Day 43: the morning we went for breakfast and Ms. Holmes breastfed her baby, Invicta (Latin for “invincible”) and sang along to Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” on the loudspeakers (“This is the first album I ever owned.”).

Day 42: the time we had croissants and berries and Mr. Evans made coffee and we walked the couple’s 150-pound Great Dane-mastiff mix, Teddy, on the beach.

Sure, let us all now revel in the life of ease and privilege led by a convicted criminal and her partner.

Earlier, Chozick describes the trial, in part, this way:

During the closely followed proceedings, a prosecutor, Robert Leach, said this was a case “about fraud, about lying and cheating,” alleging that Theranos raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors by misleading them about its blood-testing technology’s capabilities.


Elizabeth Holmes is going to prison as the result of a conviction, not an allegation. She committed these crimes.

To be fair, Chozick throws in a few jabs of skepticism. But not too fair, because these feints are frequently made in parenthetical statements punctuating overwhelmingly sycophantic “reporting.”

Chozick’s thesis, such as it is, is that Holmes created a fake “Elizabeth” persona she used to seduce investors during her reign at Theranos, and a genuine and caring “Liz” who welcomes jejune reporters into her life. For what purpose? How about: in order to continue perpetuating the lie that she was a guileless, well-meaning visionary instead of the monster that she is.

“I made so many mistakes and there was so much I didn’t know and understand, and I feel like when you do it wrong, it’s like you really internalize it in a deep way,” Ms. Holmes said as we stopped to look at a hissing anaconda. [That’s the zoo part.]

Somewhere between the zoo and the kitchen canoodling, Chozik uncorks this doozy of a confession:

I was admittedly swept up in Liz as an authentic and sympathetic person. She’s gentle and charismatic, in a quiet way. My editor laughed at me when I shared these impressions, telling me (and I quote), “Amy Chozick, you got rolled!” I vigorously disagreed! You don’t know her like I do!

I sure would like to know what the editor who green-lit this story is thinking now.

Does the New York Times have no shame? I’m not holding my breath. But if they have even an ounce of conscience, they should retract and disown this story and send Chozick back to J-School.

What’s next? A flattering profile of Henry Kissinger at 100? Don’t be surprised.

Fred Baumgarten is a writer living in western Massachusetts.