It’s close to freezing in DC, but inside the condo Michelle Fields shares with her husband, National Review Online podcaster Jamie Weinstein, it’s 75 degrees. The beautiful couple, who really are very good looking, just flew in from a week in Florida, and they’ve brought home tans and smiles that feel unfamiliar mid-Washington-winter. Fields offers to turn down the heat (please, no), and she offers me several kinds of coffee. I pick one, and she serves it to me with several kinds of sweetener. We sit in Fields and Weinsteins’ living room, which is a Restoration Hardware catalog, and we talk about their dinner parties.
Since 2012, Weinstein has hosted a series of dinners between reporters and Washington insiders at his million-dollar corner-unit at the Ritz. The off-the-record dinners, which Weinstein christened the Churchill Tommy Gun Society, aren’t exactly secret. “so we had sean spicer over tonight for our dinner series. It was interesting,” Fields captioned an Instagram photo of reporters chatting with the former White House press secretary on the same day news broke he’d hired a lawyer in the Mueller investigation. Write-ups in Politico Playbook have appeared after dinners with Ret. Gen. David Petraeus and Roger Stone. And last week, Splinter News rounded up photos Weinstein had posted on social media with Valerie Jarrett, Ryan Zinke, and Mark Cuban.
The couple both agreed they felt “indifferent” about that story. “I wish [the reporter] called and asked what the dinners are,” adds Weinstein. But pretty soon people might not have to wonder. According to sources close to the couple, Fields and Weinstein were approached by a talent agent last fall and are shopping the dinners as a television series.
Michelle Fields is no stranger to TV. Before Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed the former Breitbart reporter at a Trump rally (police charged him with battery but never prosecuted), Fields was a regular on the Fox News program Cashin’ In. The fallout from “the incident,” as Fields and Weinstein refer to it, cost her both gigs. “And I experienced the vitriol of 2016,” says Fields.
“You saw people support her or oppose her depending on their incentives,” says Weinstein. “Are they Ted Cruz fans? They might be more supportive of her. But if they’re Trump fans, they hate her.” The controversy, and the job changes (Fields ended up at the Huffington Post for a while but has since moved on) and the overall electoral season left Fields feeling “fatigued.” “We didn’t have the best experience,” she says. “But after 2016, we picked up the momentum of the dinners.”
In total, Weinstein says he’s hosted about 30 dinners, including serving Debbie Wasserman Schultz, John Podesta, and Peter Thiel. The first guest was Senator Tom Cotton, who had just been elected to Congress. “I think he was a young congressman willing to do anything,” says Weinstein. So he kept trying for “bigger and better guests” and “people kept saying yes.”
It’s an interesting question why some of the most prominent leaders in Washington would accept an invite from a 29-year-old reporter from the Daily Caller, where Weinstein worked when the dinners started. (Fields began co-hosting when they got together, and they married last year). Fields and Weinstein round out the table with some of the most well-known reporters in Washington – or, as Weinstein calls them, “the regular guests.” The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, the Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe, and CBS’s Will Rahn have all been to dinner. So have New York’s Olivia Nuzzi, ABC’s Tara Palmieri, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, and Jonathan Swan from Axios. Fields says Politico’s Daniel Lippman and the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff come to dinner more than most.
The reporters show up 45 minutes before the special guest arrives. The couple order room service from the Ritz Hotel, which is connected to the Ritz Residences, because “it’s easy.” The special guest usually enters alone and, says Fields, a little uncomfortable. “We’ve had individuals come and bad news broke about them a few hours prior to them arriving, so we’re sitting here talking about it. They know we’re talking about it and they’re walking into the lion’s den, in a way.” Sometimes a special guest asks in advance which reporters will be there, but usually they don’t.
The evenings last around four hours. At some point the guests retire from the round, reclaimed wood table to the RH Belgian Track Arm Sofa and Swivel Chairs, where the guests talk under the glare of Steve Penley oil paintings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Occasionally, the special guests play a game of bumper pool. Who has wanted to play pool? “No comment.” How many bottles of wine do they drink? “Some more than others.”
It’s a strange paradox of our times, but the couple whose guests pose with a portrait of Winston Churchill holding a tommy gun emblazoned on the Union Jack (which, for the record, Fields thinks is silly, but not so silly she doesn’t post the photos on Instagram) also pride themselves on having the least leaky dinner table in Washington. One special guest commended them on it, they say. Some former guests I contacted in reporting this story refused to talk to me without their permission.
A television show would change all of that, of course. Sources familiar with the parties confirm that a production company has already filmed two dinners, with Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut and Congressman Mark Sanford from South Carolina. Nuzzi from New York mag was among the regular guests. And the interview-style show is being pitched to mainstream networks rather than cable news channels. The dinners won’t be off-the-record anymore, but it’s easy to see how the promise of a home audience will lure “bigger and better guests” to the dinner table.
Which all coheres with what the couple say they really care about right now, after everything that went down in 2016, which is conversation. They use the word conversation a lot, as in “I think in order for the country to do well we need to have conversations with people that we don’t agree with” (Fields) and their passion for “bringing people of all ideological backgrounds to have serious conversations” (Weinstein) and “I really have a desire to do conversations” (Weinstein). The couple have started a conversation-adjacent political consulting firm, which helps companies that want to “engage” with right-wing outlets.
They don’t see anything wrong with reporters and the subjects they report on having conversations at their dinner parties either. “I understand what they’re saying, but people have lunches and drinks with sources all the time, and that’s the way they get information,” says Weinstein. He continues: “I guess I don’t even see the distinction there. If it was at a private room at the Palm, we could do the same thing there.”
For what it’s worth, one of DC’s most legendary party hosts thinks Weinstein and Fields have found a “smart” way onto the scene. “In Washington, you can’t just be someone who has a party anymore if you’re trying to get ahead socially. You need to have a gig. You need an agenda. So it’s whatever works—’It’s a working event,’” says Sally Quinn.
And we never do settle on what to call these dinner parties, which aren’t actually parties because you can’t bring a date and you talk about work and you can’t tell your friends who weren’t invited what happened. “It’s clever not to have spouses,” Quinn says. “So it can feel like a working event.”
“It’s not an elitist dinner. It’s a nerd dinner,” says Weinstein. “It’s swank. It’s nice. It brings back a little bit of the romantic era of the salons in Washington, but it’s different. We’re having conversations, doing interviews.” Then he adds: “And it’s fun, too. I will say that.”
And so ends our conversation. The newlyweds walk me to the door together and congratulate me on how easily I found the building, which takes up an entire city block. On my way back out to the cold, I pass what I’m pretty sure is the RH Vintage Wallpaper Factory Bar Cart, an arcade Pac-Man machine Fields threatens to throw out in Weinstein’s sleep, and, yes, that silly portrait of Churchill, who is one of Weinstein’s heroes.
The couple and their home seem almost made for television.