Paul Ryan Wine Accuser Susan Feinberg Clams Up

Byron York had some not unreasonable questions for Susan Feinberg, the woman who confronted Paul Ryan over $350 wine he consumed at a Capitol Hill restaurant. She won't answer.

The Examiner’s Byron York had some not unreasonable questions for Susan Feinberg, the woman who confronted Paul Ryan over $350 wine he consumed at a Capitol Hill restaurant.

On Saturday, I sent Feinberg an email asking a few questions about the incident and about her unhappiness with Ryan.  First, the photo she snapped of Ryan and two men sitting a few tables away appeared to be taken from her own table, and on that table was a bottle of wine.  (Feinberg told TPM that she and her husband had shared a “bottle of great wine.”)  A check of the Bistro Bis wine list — in much the way that Feinberg did at the restaurant — shows that the wine was a Thierry et Pascale Matrot 2005 Meursault, which is $80 per bottle at Bistro Bis. Was that, in fact, Feinberg’s bottle of wine?

I asked Feinberg, an economist, what price constituted outrageous in her mind.  Would she have been as upset if Ryan’s wine were $150 a bottle?  Or $100 a bottle?  Or perhaps $80 a bottle, like her own — which is, after all, more than a day’s labor for a worker making the minimum wage.

If the problem was not just the wine’s cost, then what other factors were involved in Feinberg’s anger? Was it because she thought Rep. Ryan was a hypocrite for drinking expensive wine while recommending reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid?  Was it because she believed Rep. Ryan was corrupt for drinking with two men she suspected were lobbyists?  And finally, did Feinberg believe she behaved appropriately in the matter?  Would it be appropriate for a conservative who felt strongly about, say, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, or Rep. Barney Frank, to do something similar to them under similar circumstances?

My instinct was that the $80 bottle was actually among the cheapest on the menu. But the Thierry et Pascale Matrot is a white Burgundy and actually among the more expensive of that varietal on the restaurant’s wine list.

Regardless, a perfectly reasonable set of questions for a professor who went out of her way to make a scene at a nice restaurant and then turn this into a minor Internet sensation by forwarding the photo and a sensationalistic story to Talking Points Memo.

Feinberg’s response was brief: “I’m sorry.  I have no comment on this.”

Well, that’s certainly more decorous than I’d have expected given what little I know of her comportment. But rather odd that she suddenly doesn’t want to discuss the story she brought up.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ken says:

    “I’m sorry. I thought I would get only positive uncritical attention for my behavior, not negative and/or skeptical attention. I don’t want to play any more.”

  2. WR says:

    “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that if I made a political statement I’d have hordes of right-wing thugs demanding that my employer fire me, since I am technically (according to them) a public employee and thus a parasite. I should have seen what they were willing to do to the family of a small child who expressed gratitude to the S-Chip program for saving his life and realized they have no shame and will stop at nothing to destroy someone they consider their enemy.”

  3. @WR:

    She didn’t make a political statement, she acted like a fool. Perhaps thanks to those $80 bottles of wine she was helping to consume

  4. Ken says:


    If someone has called for her firing, that person is an ass. But assitude is not a zero-sum game. It’s perfectly possible for some of her critics to be assess without diminishing her assitude.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Ken: Exactly. Her conduct was rude and, frankly, an embarrassment to the university. But it wasn’t a firable offense.

  6. James says:

    It is illegal and unethical for Congressmen to accept gifts of expensive wine and dinner from lobbyists.In fact, they aren’t allowed to accept any gift with a value exceeding $100. Two bottles of wine @ $350 a pop is therefore an illegal gift. Why do you think that Ryan was so quick to pay for the wine once he was caught? That’s actually what the problem is — Ryan’s illegal and unethical behavior. Instead of addressing that, you smear the character of the person reporting the behavior. Classic Republican smear tactics.

  7. WR says:

    @James Joyner: It is terribly rude for the peasants to speak to their betters, I understand that. Even if the lords and ladies are attempting to destroy the social safety net and condemn millions of people to poverty and early death, the peasant may only bow politely to their social betters. Otherwise they are embarassments to all us civilised people, who must maintain the fiction that those who are attempting to wreak truly evil consequences on this country are actually trying their best to do good.

    Amazing. Scratch a libertarian and you find a royalist. No wonder you guys hate the idea of taxing billionaires. What you really want is a return to feudalism.

  8. MaryBeth says:

    @James: Except THEY WEREN’T LOBBYISTS, you fool!

  9. WR says:

    @MaryBeth: Just a billionaire hedge fund manager working a powerful congressman to make sure his billions are only taxed at half the rate his secretary pays.

    But even so, it’s an illegal gift. Even if they were best friends, it’s illegal for Ryan to take as much as a hundred dollars in meals from any person over the course of a year.

  10. BT says:

    What I would like to know is what was the tab for her and her husbands meal so that we can be the judge of whether it was appropriate or not? Chances are that will never come to light. TPM will certainly not investigate as they are in the business of comforting D’s and their minions.

  11. Jim Treacher says:


    It is terribly rude for the peasants to speak to their betters, I understand that.

    If she’s a peasant, what was she doing there? Busing tables?

  12. Loren Ibsen says:

    It is terribly rude for the peasants to speak to their betters, I understand that”

    Wrong talking points. Those are from the town hall meetings two years ago. Stick to Soros’ auto updates. You’ll save a tree while avoiding unnecessary public embarassment. BTW, “feudalism” doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does.

  13. JorgXMcKie says:

    @WR: Odd. Scratch a “Progressive” or a “Lefty” and find a totalitarian with a thirst for damaging any opponents.

  14. JorgXMcKie says:

    @WR: Hoo!! Your reading comprehension is just execrable, isn’t it? Ryan paid for his own meal moron. He has the bill [and TPM has a copy] to prove it.

    As I said. Totalitarian who also is willing to twist the law to improperly punish his opponents, How do you feel about AG Holder breaking various laws, WR? Shouldn’t he go to jail for longer than Scooter Libby?

  15. Dan Rather says:

    I don’t find Feinberg’s current behaviour surprising.

    It’s pretty common for drunks to not want to talk about the stupid, rude, obnoxious things they did while they were wasted, once they’ve finally come down off their bender and sobered up a little. She’s probably now wishing the whole incident had never happened, as she realizes that even her slanted version of events says a lot more about her (and TPM) than it does about Ryan.

    Next time she gets smashed she ought to stick to just drunk-dialing old boyfriends rather than bragging to some propaganda mill about how much of an asshole she managed to be to some other diners in a fancy restaurant before the waitstaff threw her out.

  16. NoNameWorks says:

    You have a reading comprehension problem?

    Ryan didn’t take anything. He paid for a bottle of wine (he drank one glass — unlike Ms Feinberg) and whatever he had for lunch.

    Are you really that stupid to think Paul Ryan doesn’t know the law?

    Or is it Tony Rezko making a payment to Obama that this works as a distraction for? In Chicago nothing’s against the law.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @WR: It’s simply rude to interrupt someone’s private dinner to harangue them about their food choices, I don’t care who it is. I encounter famous people in restaurants now and again. I leave them the hell alone.

    If Ryan were having a town hall meeting, and Feinberg were his constituent, then asking direct questions is fine. But even Congressmen have a right to a private life without yahoos interrupting them.

  18. James says:

    @James Joyner: He took an illegal gift from a hedge fund manager who stands to benefit significantly from the committee on which he is chairman.

    What’s with this rating thing, @James? My comment is too horrible to be seen, while someone who calls me a fool is “well-loved”? Maybe you ought to rethink that system.

  19. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So she was an out of control drunk, but Paul Ryan and his friends were not at all inebriated from their manly wine consumption? Gotcha.

    By the way, I eagerly await for Doug, James, and all the conservative commentariat to issue apologies to Al Gore for criticizing him as a hypocrite for his “private purchases,” because the gist I’m getting from them is that no pattern of behavior can be inferred from what someone does in public vs. what they do in private. Especially if you’re a Republican politician.

    I’m mainly interested in consistency, but James and Doug and their friends seem quite eager to demonize and discredit this woman into oblivion. Who’s trumpeting the non-story now?

  20. jcrue says:

    @WR: When have you ever seen a college professor treat someone else as their better?

    It is out of character for an academic to treat anyone upon which their tenure does not rely as a better, just look at her behavior.

  21. James Joyner says:

    @Lit3Bolt: First off, I would never go up to Al Gore in a restaurant and berate him. Second, I’m not sure what hypocrisy you’re talking about.

    If, for example, you’re talking about criticizing him flying around the world on private jets and living in a ginormous mansion while telling the rest of us we should cut down our carbon footprint to save the planet then, yeah, I point that out. But I don’t criticize liberals for, for example, arguing that we shouldn’t issue vouchers for those who want to send their kids to private school while simultaneously sending their own kids to private school on their own dime.

  22. Jim Treacher says:


    What’s with this rating thing, @James? My comment is too horrible to be seen, while someone who calls me a fool is “well-loved”? Maybe you ought to rethink that system.

    Yes, a fool tends to bristle when reminded of it.

  23. Jim Treacher says:


    By the way, I eagerly await for Doug, James, and all the conservative commentariat to issue apologies to Al Gore for criticizing him as a hypocrite for his “private purchases,” because the gist I’m getting from them is that no pattern of behavior can be inferred from what someone does in public vs. what they do in private.

    Al Gore flies around the world on private jets to tell everybody else to take the bus. What that has to do with Paul Ryan buying a bottle of wine in a restaurant is unclear.

  24. Ken says:


    Your comparison of Ryan to Gore only works if you make certain assumptions about the money in Ryan’s pocket.

    Gore, as I understand it, advocates everybody reducing their carbon footprint, preferably under government mandate, whilst simultaneously maintaining a large footprint. That’s worthy of note, if banal — politicians on all sides are hypocrites.

    By contrast, Ryan is buying expensive wine with money out of his own pocket, whilst arguing that the government should spend taxpayer money (that is, money from your pocket and mine) more stingily. This is only inconsistent if you think — and Feinberg seems to — that The People have an interest in the money in Ryan’s pocket (and yours, and mine). I don’t.

    Of course, only certain belt-tightening attitudes are likely to incur the wrath of Feinberg’s ilk. If Ryan were a guy who argued that we can’t afford I-can’t-keep-track-of-how-many-wars, and that Congress should shut down special war spending and slash the defense budget, do you think Feinberg or her ilk would find it inconsistent if he spent his own money on expensive wine?

  25. miriam says:

    If Rutgers is paying this nincompoop to teach a course on “Love and Money,” Rutgers has way too much money.

  26. WR says:

    @NoNameWorks: Wow, the Ryanbots are out in force again, shutting down all the messages they’re terrified to have out there. I’m sure they’ll vote to hide this one, too, but there is one inconvenient fact they continue to ignore:

    Ryan didn’t pay for his own meal until he was caught on camera. He’s even said that after the encounter he realized he should pay his part of the check.

  27. WR says:

    @jcrue: Oh, boy, another high school dropout terrified of academics who think he’s ignorant. Spare us your stereotypes of people you’ve obviously never met.

  28. TheLastBrainLeft says:

    @WR: Translation: I am a blindingly hypocritical parasite who never expected people to actually call me on it, since I am just trying to fight the good fight for the poor and disenfranchised. That’s why I am allowed to purchase ridiculously expensive wine, but conservatives who support cutting the budget cannot.

  29. TheLastBrainLeft says:

    @WR: WHO CARES? They are not lobbyists.

  30. TheLastBrainLeft says:

    @James: @James:

    You do realize neither men were lobbyists, right? Your talking points are outdated.

  31. TheLastBrainLeft says:

    @WR: Conservatives would like this story to gain wider traction, only because it’s quite embarrassing for the left. The real story here is this idiotic professor and the morons who took to her drunken rampage.

    No one cares how much Ryan’s wine actually costs!

  32. Dan Rather says:

    Ryan didn’t pay for his own meal until he was caught on camera.

    Yes, the real scandal here is that Ryan didn’t try to pay for his meal until he after finished dining and the waitstaff brought the check to his table. That scoundrel!

    He’s even said that after the encounter he realized he should pay his part of the check.

    What he said was that he didn’t realize how much the wine his companions ordered had cost until Feinberg stumbled up to his table and slurred out her accusations.

    (I don’t think anyone’s “terrified” of your “inconvenient facts”, WR. They might be a little bored with reading through your tedious lies and distortions, though, which could explain the downratings.)

  33. MarkedMan says:

    The new comment system is a great improvement, but judging from this thread the next logical step is a way to make not just a comment invisible, but all replies to that comment.

  34. @James: How does this guy know thay were lobbyists? Even TPM denied that. No wonder the comment was so low-rated.

  35. jcrue says:

    @WR: And yet you make the same assumptions about someone you’ve never met by accusing them of being a high school dropout. Swing and a miss….

    I work with academics just like Feinberg daily. They come to me for help. So please forgive me for thinking I have a pretty good idea what she’s all about.

  36. Lit3Bolt says:


    Ryan’s plan also included tax cuts…very very generous tax cuts in addition to cutting spending.

    Are you claiming politicians might not be self-interested when it comes to cutting their own taxes and benefits vs those of others? If Paul Ryan is merely concerned with balancing the budget, why slash revenue from those who pay the most in taxes? Indeed, if he’s so concerned about the debt and the deficit, why is he not offering more of his money to pay it down?

    I think this story should gain wider traction, just to point out how most, if not all, of our politicians are dining like Dauphins while simultaneously claiming benefits to the poor and elderly must be immediately slashed. They’re acting like aristocrats, not like public servants.

    But all of you are ok with that. That Susan Feinberg, she’s the real threat. I wonder once she starts getting harassed and death threats from those on the Right, will James and Doug do a follow up article condemning the bad behavior on the Right?

    Probably not.

  37. Ken says:


    You’re assuming that I support Ryan’s various budget plans. That assumption would be wrong. But whether or not I support them, the notion that it’s “aristocratic” to support cutting public spending while continuing private spending reveals a totalitarian attitude towards other people’s money.

    Now, if you want to argue that Ryan’s plan is foolish or inconsistent to the extent it offers boutique special-interest tax cuts for his cronies whilst simultaneously cutting broad social spending on the grounds that we can’t afford it, that’s a perfectly colorable argument. But it’s an argument about public money — money taken from taxpayers — not an argument about private money. I don’t care how Ryan spends his own money, and I am suspicious and hostile of people who do.

  38. Justin Casey says:

    At $350/bottle, the wine still cost less than a John Edward’s hair cut.

  39. WR says:

    @jcrue: I’m sure they flock for help to someone who has nothing but contempt for everyone in their field. You must be popular!

  40. jcrue says:

    @WR: It is an art in itself to treat others like they are important and not let them know you don’t give a crap how important they think they are.

    Like you, just responding to you assigns an importance far beyond what I feel you are worth.

    With you it’s sport.

    With them it’s a paycheck.

  41. WR says:

    @jcrue: I’m sure you must chuckle mightily at how you have these snobs fooled as you sweep their offices and empty their wastebaskets. Truly, you are one of life’s great winners.

  42. justine says:

    @James: was he taking the bottle or having a glass of dinner wine!!!! you are an idiot

  43. justine says:

    @Dan Rather: how did Dan Rather know Rep Ryan’s intentions…Dan Rather gets a bunch wrong don’t know I would believe if I heard on Network News

  44. jcrue says:

    @WR: And the only way for you to look smarter than you have already failed to do is for you to be right about your assumption of what my occupation is. Something you hit me on in your first attempt to reply to my comment.

    You don’t really know you are talking about but you’re willing to go out on a limb to save face or to share what you believe is your vast intellect and valuable opinions.

    As you can see, you are an example of those with whom I assist daily. Like the academic who comes to me for assistance, you feel as though your opinions and your retorts have value and you continue to communicate with me and hang on my every word.

    However, nothing could be further than the truth. You are being screwed with at this point just for the fun of it and because I know I can continue to bait you into replying to me for as long as I want completely separate from the original commentary I offered.

  45. WR says:

    @jcrue: Wow, you are a sophisticated game player, and a master of the intellect. I can almost hear your mwah-hah-hah coming through my computer. One hint — your bitterness towards people who have an education is creeping through again. Really, there’s no shame in sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets. You should be proud you’ve gotten this far in life.

    And see? You’ve cunningly manipulated me into answering again! My God, man, you are a veritable supervillain. I bow before your genius in the ways of the web.

  46. jcrue says:

    @WR: Bow before the janitor, little one.

  47. anjin-san says:

    wow, the attack gerbils are out in force today.

  48. An Interested Party says:

    It is fascinating to observe these two comment threads dealing with this incident with Paul Ryan…they are very different from just about any other comment thread on this site…

  49. RankFrank says:

    My Goodness FRENCH Wine in a Bistro ( I had to type the “o” with my ring finger cause my pinky got locked on up tilt when I typed that word)
    Try some of these fine affordable wines from Wisconsin Sir or should I say Monsier

  50. Bruce Majors says:
  51. mantis says:

    Wow. All this effort and vitriol over a bottle of wine?

    Seriously, who cares?

  52. Joe says:

    I wish that democrats and the media were as interested in the wine that nancy pelosi charged off to taxpayers while living it up in her weekly military transport as they are in the wine that Paul Ryan pays for out of his own pocket….how do they look themselves in the mirror when they cook up this kind of cr@p?

  53. MaryOk says:

    @James Joyner:

    Her behaviour is an embarrassment to the taxpayers, who pay her, many of whom disagree with her.