As a US Senate candidate in Maine, Dr. Cathleen London spent the last days of her twitter account harassing human rights activists, before deleting all her social media in response to a complaint advanced by the Maine Board of Medicine. Or at least that’s what she said the reason was, before telling me I should “find a short pier and walk off.”
I became aware of Dr. London when Intactivists – human rights activists against circumcision and the forced genital cutting of children- began sharing my film American Circumcision on a twitter thread on sexual dysfunction she was involved in. She responded by calling me an anti-semite, without ever reading a word I’d written or seeing my film. Naturally, I decided to interview her.
Those are the first two paragraphs of an op-ed I’d submitted on Maine US Senate candidate Dr. Cathleen London, before she ended her campaign without warning or explanation.
When I’ve talked to friends about the Dr. Cathleen London saga, they think I’m joking till I show them the abusive email and texts this woman sent me. This would be a funny meltdown story if Dr. London hadn’t been seeking real political power. She had power over her children as a mother, power over her patients as a doctor, and was seeking power over all of us through the US Senate. Prior to my interview with her, Dr. Cathleen London received a glowing profile in the New York Times, and was the kind of person the media would have turned to as an expert on circumcision, medicine, and politics.
So what happened? Did Dr. London abandon her campaign because of my reporting? Was it because of complaints filed with the Maine Board of Medicine? Was her campaign destroyed by her emotional meltdowns? Or was it something else?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Dr. Cathleen London’s Twitter Meltdowns
This began when Dr. London tweeted an article on how society is reluctant to talk honestly about women’s sexual issues. Intactivists replied in the comments that this was a universal problem, since we don’t talk openly about men’s sexual issues as well. Dr. London responded by melting down, and her feed became a constant attack on Intactivists.
I became aware of her when someone linked my film in the comments. She replied that I was anti-semitic, and refused to watch my film or read anything shared with her. This is a serious and entirely false accusation. It was also an unprompted personal attack, since I had not engaged with her. I became curious and wanted to know why she was attacking me.
I wrote to Dr. Cathleen London, and asked to interview her about the response she was getting from the Intactivist community. She agreed, and called me.
The Interview: Denial of Circumcision Deaths
The interview I had with Dr. Cathleen London was one of the most bizarre I’ve ever recorded. Dr. London repeatedly got basic facts about the issue wrong. For example…
She claimed it was not possible for babies to die from circumcision. In reality, babies die regularly from circumcision. One study put it at over 100 deaths per year and recent studies have shown that infant circumcision increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. When I asked her if it would that change her opinion if infants did in fact die from circumcision, she said it would. Dr. London has performed numerous circumcisions, and clearly never given informed consent on this possibility.
Dr. London specifically said the Mogen clamp used to circumcise her own sons – a device made by a company that was sued out of business after their product removed the head of a child’s penis and was deemed unsafe in court. She said she chose this device because she is Orthodox Jewish. So as a doctor, she selected an unsafe medical device to cut her children’s genitals.
Traditional Orthodox Jewish circumcision involves something called metzitzah b’peh, in which the mohel or Jewish ritual circumciser sucks the blood from the infants bleeding circumcision wound. In New York, this practice lead to a mohel giving several infants herpes. Although Orthodox Jewish, Dr. London said she is against this practice. However, she also claimed the New York Health Department had banned it, when in fact all the New York Health Department was able to do was require parental consent, because Orthodox Jews said putting a mouth on children’s bleeding genitals was their religious practice.
Were I to correct each falsehood as they came, I’d spend the whole interview arguing with her. On twitter, when someone would try to correct her, she would spew hateful labels at them, calling them trolls, anti-Semites, and misogynists. She would belittle men’s feelings by telling them to “go get help… #FragileMaleEgo.” I decided just to listen during the interview, rather than inform her.
At the end of the interview, I asked if I could call or email if I had any follow-up questions. She was very friendly and said yes. We ended the conversation on good terms.
The Follow-Up: “Find a short pier and walk off.”
I wasn’t sure I was going to write anything about this, till two weeks later when Dr. Cathleen London deleted all her social media, both personal and her campaign. When I texted her to find out why, and Dr. London said it was because “Maine board of medicine is out of controlling” after someone made a complaint to them about her.
I was going to call and find out more, but the next day she texted me “you are one of the trolls aren’t you? You did the film.” Then she told me to “find a short pier and walk off.”
Keep in mind – I gave this woman my full name when I contacted her. She knew who I was. How do you call someone an anti-semite on twitter, not recognize them when they email you and do a twenty minute phone interview with you, and then tell them to kill themselves after the interview?
Of course, that’s the problem – Dr. Cathleen London doesn’t research, she just emotionally reacts. This how narcissists behave. Narcissists explode when you refuse to acknowledge their idealized self-image. The only research a narcissist needs to do is “will this position make me look good?” She is Jewish, so circumcision must be good, because that makes her look good. Intactivists disagree with her, so they must be anti-Semites, because they make her look bad. What’s a few dead children to preserve her narcissistic self-image?
Now I understood her, and had something to write about. In researching her, I found she’d been in court for a physical altercation in the Trader’s Joe’s frozen food aisle. She’s also gotten negative reviews of her practice from patients across platforms. In text, she made it sound like she was in trouble with the Maine Board of Medicine because of Intactivist trolls, but a public release from them revealed she’d has disciplinary action taken against her in August 2018, long before Intactivists encountered her. This was a pattern of behavior, and human rights activists were just the latest target.
I wrote up an op-ed and submitted it a few places. Then I tweeted that I was looking for a place for the story. A few hours later, a reader told me Dr. Cathleen London had ended her campaign.
The Email: “Life is way more than your penis.”
Because the timing I was curious: did Dr. London end her campaign because she knew my interview was coming?
It was unlikely the op-ed would be published at this point, since the gist of the piece was “this woman should not be running for office” and now she wasn’t running. I tweeted out a bit about the interview and asked my followers what they thought.
Then a couple days later on Jan 21, 2019, I got this email:
you and your nutjob intactivist friends have nothing to do with my dropping out of the Senate race
You give yourself way too much credit.
Get a life
Get over your mommy and daddy issues
Life is way more than your penis
So why did you drop out?
And got this message back:
you are press I am not giving interviews
So Dr. Cathleen London acknowledges me as press… and this is the way she talks to press?
While I can now say that a former US Senate candidate has commented on my penis, flip the scenario to see how inappropriate this is. Imagine if a male politician told a female reporter covering women’s issues “life is about more then your vagina.” What would the reaction be?
Why Did Cathleen London End Her Campaign?
So why did Dr. Cathleen London end her campaign? So far, she has not given a public reason, and I wouldn’t trust a narcissist to give an honest one anyway, which means everything that follows is speculation.
Was it just because of my reporting? Probably not. I believe. Dr. Cathleen London’s attitude ended Dr. Cathleen London’s campaign. Her attitude made her to flame out at attack human rights activists, attack me, get into a physical altercation in the Trader Joe’s frozen food section, and get in trouble with the Maine Board of Medicine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this emotionally reactive attitude also caused other internal problems within the campaign we are not aware of.
My guess is that the Maine Board of Medicine was the biggest reason. Although she maintains the complaints they advanced have no merit, what they previously wrote about her does not look good. Likewise, her patient reviews across platforms are terrible. I would not be surprised if she loses her medical license in the near future, which would have been a death blow to her campaign. I suspect she did not want to fight on two fronts with a political campaign and the medical board complaints at the same time.
However, I also don’t think my reporting wasn’t a factor. If she was in the midst of legal issues with the Maine Board of Medicine, saying on record that a procedure she performs cannot result in death when it can, saying that she used a medical device on her own sons known to lead to botches, and exploding at reporters with personal insults and telling them to kill themselves doesn’t look good. It wouldn’t be hard for the Maine Board of Medicine to see an article like mine as evidence that she is the kind of person who should not be practicing medicine. Plus, why would you explode at someone who had no impact on your work? If I had to guess, my article was the straw that broke the camels back.
The Medical Establishment Must Answer For Their Abusers
Dr. Cathleen London is not an anonymous troll, but a member of the medical, political, and media establishment. She currently sits on the Washington County Democratic Committee, which has not disavowed any of her behavior. She was profiled in the New York Times by Shefali Luthra, which has not disavowed her behavior. Although she may face discipline from the Maine Board of Medicine, no other medical groups or doctors have disavowed her behavior.
Dr. London traded on her position in the establishment to verbally abuse and harass people. She frequently publicly insulted people on social media, sent me a text saying I should kill myself, and made lewd personal attacks commenting on my genitals.
Pro-circumcision groups have attempted to brand Intactivists as trolls by using a few anonymous tweets and emails, despite the fact the Intactivist leadership has been nothing but professional towards them. However, when a member of their establishment harasses reporters and activists, they do not hold their own accountable.
Her behavior is not unique. Activists who attempt to educate on the issue of circumcision are frequently attacked with similar insults by doctors. “Get a life.” “Get over it.” “Stop obsessing over penises.” These doctors are never called to answer for their insults, shaming, and sexual harassment. While I have written that activists should use peaceful dialogue to create change, no major pro-circumcision organization has even attempted to police the abusers within their ranks.
In the case of Dr. Cathleen London, this began when she accused me of anti-semitism. While the accusation is clearly false – Dr. London herself said she had not seen my film or read anything I’d written – even a false accusation can be career-ending if it sticks. Dr. Cathleen London made an attempt on my career, and I responded by ending hers. What I did was political self-defense. You can be sure if her attacks persisted, my response would increase in proportion.
In the past, members of the circumcision establishment have hurled accusations, insults, and harassment because they felt they could do so without consequence. However, the age in which abuse can continue in silence is over. I am asking members of the medical and media establishment to police their abusers, lest we police them for you. You can be sure that if a member of the establishment attacks at me or those I care about, I will respond accordingly. There is an activist saying that the only justice you get is the justice you create, and I am prepared to create a lot of justice.