When Julia Pierson took the helm of the predominantly male U.S. Secret Service last year, it seemed every news story headline included the fact that she was the "first female" to run the ultramasculine stronghold in its almost 150-year history.

Then she let someone run into the White House with a knife. And she missed seven bullets that hit the family residence. And in a testy congressional hearing, she ducked responsibility.

She should have been fired. Instead, she did the right thing and resigned — putting a damper on the public relations fallout.


Yet a sliver of a silver lining peaks through the dark cloud that hovers over the group. In the media's incessant coverage (rightly so) of the wrongdoings, I couldn't find one journalist who blamed her leadership failures on the fact that she is a woman.

Not so true for pundits Joe ScarboroughCharles (Joe) Joseph ScarboroughScarborough pleads with Biden to mandate vaccines for teachers, health workers Trump ramps up attacks on media Scarborough hosts critical race theory debate on 'Morning Joe' MORE and Laura IngrahamLaura Anne Ingraham'You' star responds to viral Laura Ingraham hoax Neil Cavuto says he got threatening emails after urging vaccination 90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive MORE who talked of quota systems. On "Morning Joe" Wednesday, Scarborough surmised that maybe Pierson got her job because "it would be really good for the Secret Service brand to have a woman running the place." On Fox News, Ingraham said of Pierson, "You get the sense at some point that it's the 'first' that's more important than the common sense."

When she was nominated 18 months ago, The New York Times' Peter Baker wrote that people "will be watching closely to see how or if she changes a male-driven culture that came under harsh scrutiny when agents were caught employing prostitutes in Colombia before Mr. Obama arrived for a visit."

Some partisans saw her appointment as a purely political play to appease agency critics concerned about the optics of another male-appointed leader immediately after the oversexed male agents-gone-wild weekend.

The Daily Beast's Eleanor Clift wrote at the time that Pierson's rise was "especially remarkable considering the macho culture that she was operating in and had to navigate." Others cited her humble, hardscrabble beginning in Orlando's police force, where male cops didn't want to ride with her. And a women's blog pinned hopes on Pierson to reinforce "efforts on issues from domestic violence to human trafficking, now that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is no longer in office to push for reforms."

While not much was written — pro or con — on these topics in the last 18 months, and I’d argue there should have been, the striking gender-neutral reporting of the Beltway scandal du jour is a feather in both Pierson's and the Secret Service's caps. It would have been oh-so-easy to interview anonymous sources saying her timid, feminine ways made her unfit for the job. Or that her personal life interfered.

Equally as impressive are female politicians, including Obama-loving Dems, who hung her out to dry. Forget sisterhood solidarity. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeDetroit voters back committee to study reparations Biden's policies have been disastrous to the US security, the economy Best shot at narrowing racial homeownership gap at risk, progressives say MORE (D-Texas) called for additional congressional hearings by the House Homeland Security Committee and Wednesday, before Pierson's resignation, said on MSNBC: "I do believe heads should roll. I believe they should start rolling today."

Proud of my kin for — up until now — mostly leaving gender out of the equation.

Ashburn is a veteran Washington-based reporter and analyst covering media and politics.