[And don’t give me that “locker-room talk” defense. Men don’t say those things in locker rooms or anywhere else unless they mean it.]
— RECENT HEADLINES —
“Jared Kushner Withheld Russia Emails From Senate Judiciary Committee” (11/16/2017)
“Trump Begins Paying Own Legal Fees; Relieves RNC; Considering Fund for WH Staff” (11/19/2017)
“Journalist Charlie Rose Accused by 8 of Sexual Harassment, Dropped by Networks” (11/20/2017)
“2nd Franken Accuser Alleges He Grabbed Her Buttocks During MN State Fair Photo Pose” (11/20/2017)
“DOJ Sues to Block ATT-Time Warner (CNN) Merger; Trump Influence Suspected” (11/20/2017)
“McMaster Reportedly Called Trump ‘Idiot,’ ‘Dope,’ ‘Kindergartner’ at Private Dinner” (11/20/2017)
“Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) Accused of Sexual Misconduct, Hiding Payoff Via No-Show Job” (11/21/2017)
“Trump Administration and FCC Announce Plan to Repeal Net Neutrality Protection” (11/21/2017)
“President Endorses Accused Child Molester Roy Moore, ‘Doubts’ the 9 Women’s Stories” (11/21/2017)
“Trump Nominates Census Head: Not a Statistician; Wrote ‘Competitive Elections are Bad for America’” (11/21/2017)
“Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) Caught Sexting; Threatened Retaliation if Woman Went Public” (11/22/2017)
“Roy Moore (R-AL) Campaign Communications Director Quits 3 Weeks Before Election” (11/22/2017)
“Congress Paid Out $1M This Year to Settle Sexual Harassment Suits Against Members” (11/22/2017)
“2nd Federal Judge Blocks President’s Transgender Military Ban” (11/22/2017)
When the news broke Monday about legendary television journalist Charlie Rose being accused of sexual misconduct by eight women, I was crestfallen, dejected, despondent, hangdog, heartsick, mournful, woebegone, and every other synonym I could find for depressed in my thesaurus. We love Charlie Rose. His brand of thoughtful journalism is a large part of my defense for why I watch more TV than I should. He is the epitome of gentlemanly, intelligent, critically thoughtful discussion and information dissemination.
Then I read the Nov. 20, 2017, article in The Washington Post by Irin Carmon and Amy Brittain. Our beloved Charlie Rose is a pig.
The article is in keeping with the Post’s excellent brand of investigative journalism (without which, President Nixon would have moved the Justice Department into the West Wing, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be fetching diet Cokes for President Trump — oh, wait; Sessions is already doing that).
The article is long, detailed, and airtight. With on-the-record, similar accounts by separate women, and multiple confirmations of their contemporaneous reports to people close to them about the harassment, there is virtually no doubt as to Charlie’s pattern of piggly behavior.
With Mr. Rose’s subsequent qualified admission, there is literally no doubt.
Here’s the thing: It’s not that I disbelieved the story when the headlines first emerged. It’s just that my affinity for Charlie Rose was kept aloft by not knowing the details. The details are everything. The documented details are what quickly changed my affinity for Rose to disgust. That’s why the vast majority of Roy Moore’s supporters won’t read the details. More on that later.
I consider myself an observant and empathic man. But after a legion of credible accounts of sexual misconduct by well-known men over the past several months, I admit I had no idea how pervasive this societal cancer is — and clearly not just among celebrities.
One might say President Trump got in just under the wire of increased sexual harassment awareness and raised consciousness. I say the tidal wave of sincere women coming out, telling their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of men, and having the confidence they will be believed, is a direct backlash to America’s anger at The Donald having gotten away with murder.
Look at the men with established patterns, some whose politics I agree with (liberal or independent) and some whose politics I don’t agree with (conservatives or Republicans): Harvey Weinstein (Hollywood mogul, Democratic donor); Charlie Rose (Bloomberg, CBS, PBS); Glenn Thrush (The New York Times); Louis C.K. (comedian, liberal); Roy Moore (GOP U.S. Senate candidate); Michael Oreskes (NPR, The New York Times); Hamilton Fish (New Republic); Kevin Spacey (actor, liberal); Mark Halperin (NBC); Leon Wieseltier (New Republic); Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.); and Donald Trump (U.S. president).
This is a partial list, focusing on established patterns of misconduct, courtesy of Sarah Almukhtar, Larry Buchanan, and Michael Gol from their Nov. 21, 2017, article, “After Weinstein: The Fallout for 34 Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct, From Lewd Texts to Rape,” in The New York Times. As you can see, most of these guys fall on the left side of the political spectrum. Most conservatives purport that The New York Times and NPR have a liberal slant (though Monica Lewinski’s blue dress and Hillary’s emails might dissent with a smirk). And the New Republic represents the traditional forefront of liberal media (though its elite star has fallen over the years).
With the exception of Mark Halperin, who can be politically amorphous, the only clear Republicans on my list are Donald Trump and Roy Moore. All the rest are stinking, rotten, liberal, tree-hugging Democrats who got their comeuppance. Notably, the president holds the current record for documented accusers at 17; Judge Moore probably comes in second with nine, including a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old, and other teenaged girls. Doubly notably, Trump and Moore are the only ones on that list not to be held accountable so far.
“Well, he denies it. And by the way, he totally denies it.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; White House lawn Q&A with reporters; 11/21/2017.) (responding to a reporter asking if a Democrat was worse than a child molester, i.e., Roy Moore, in the U.S. Senate)
As Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post satirically illustrated in her Nov. 20, 2017, article, “The GOP Readies Itself to Welcome Roy Moore,” prominent GOP politicians are not subject to the same laws of gravity as liberal celebrities in the private sector. As long as the Republican perpetrators deny, deny, deny, their voters are the sole determiners of their fate.
As President Trump has asserted, far-right wing Republican Roy Moore has denied the documented allegations of his — count ‘em — nine accusers, therefore he must be given the benefit of the doubt.
[FUNNY COINCIDENCE]: Mr. Trump also denies all accusations by his many accusers. Employing faux outrage during the campaign, Donald famously averred that he would sue all of them after the election.
[UPDATE]: No suits have been filed
Ms. Rampell outlines several instances of conservatives’ use of the electoral justification/nullification of sexual harassment:
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — She stated that accusations aimed at President Trump had been covered in depth during the campaign: “We addressed that then. The American people I think spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president.”
Donald Trump: Innocent.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — He was asked if it was time to re-evaluate the claims against the president: “Well, it happened in the middle of the campaign last year … and the American people had their say on that.”
Fox News’ Howard Kurtz — “We had an election after [candidate Trump was accused]. And he won.”
Donald Trump: Innocent.
Roy Moore hasn’t been elected U.S. Senator — yet — though Catherine Rampell skillfully lays out the arguments that will be used to defend him if he is victorious.
Until then, there are the pre-election defenses, by many Christian evangelicals — Christian evangelicals! — and Alabama politicians.
The “Sure-he-dated-young-girls-but-…” defense:
“I think that, number one, you need to understand, 40 years ago, what the [social context] was like in Alabama. Judge Roy Moore graduated from West Point and then went on into the service, served in Vietnam and then came back and was in law school. All of the ladies, or many of the ladies that he possibly could have married were not available then, they were already married, maybe, somewhere. So he looked in a different direction and always with the [permission of the] parents of younger ladies … He did that because there is something about a purity of a young woman, there is something that is good, that’s true, that’s straight, and he looked for that.”
(Benham, Flip, pastor; interview conducted by Murphy, Matt & Lindenberg, Andrea; Talk 99.5’s [Birmingham, Ala.] Matt & Aunie show; 11/20/2017.)
The “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I” defense:
“[These accusations are a] war on men. … More women are sexual predators than men. Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don’t hear about that because it’s not PC.”
(Raddish, Franklin, pastor, nationwide Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries; as cited in Harress, Christopher; “Some Pastors Stand Behind Roy Moore, Cite ‘War On Men’”; AL.com; 11/18/2017.)
“Where is that road?”
(Colbert, Stephen; CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; 11/20/2017.)
The classic “Just-in-case-he-did-it” defense:
“The hypocrisy of Washington has no bounds. So many [are] denouncing Roy Moore when they are guilty of doing much worse than what he has been accused of supposedly doing.”
(Graham, Franklin, evangelical preacher, son of Billy; as cited in Herndon, Astead W.; “Why Evangelicals Are Again Backing a Republican Despite Allegations of Sexual Misconduct”; The Boston Globe; 11/20/2017.)
“[Alabama Pastor Earl] Wise said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women. ‘There ought to be a statute of limitations on this stuff,’ Wise said. ‘How these gals came up with this, I don’t know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line. Plus,’ he added, ‘there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.’”
(Herndon, Astead W.; “Why Evangelicals Are Again Backing a Republican Despite Allegations of Sexual Misconduct”; The Boston Globe; 11/20/2017.)
Finally, the “I-do-believe-he-did-it-but-we-need-a-Republican-in-there” defense:
“I certainly have no reason to disbelieve any of [Roy Moore’s accusers … but] I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for. … So that’s what I plan to do, vote for Republican nominee Roy Moore.”
(Ivey, Kay, R-Ala., governor; governor’s mansion turkey pardon Q&A with reporters; as cited in Cason, Mike; “Gov. Kay Ivey to Vote for Roy Moore in U.S. Senate Race”; AL.com; 11/17/2017.)
Finally, finally, the “I-admit-I-did-it-but-vote-for-me-the-Republican-anyway” defense:
“I moved on her [Nancy O’Dell, Billy Bush’s Access Hollywood co-host], and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f**k her. She was married. And I moved on her very heavily. … I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony t*ts and everything. She’s totally changed her look. …
“I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her [actress Arianne Zucker]. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p***y. You can do anything.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; private, inadvertent hot-microphone exchange with Bush, Billy, co-anchor of Access Hollywood, and seven other staff; celebrity bus, NBC Studios parking lot, Burbank, Calif.; September 2005.)
These are the Roy Moore supporters who likely have not read the detailed, documented accusations by nine women against the former Alabama Supreme Court judge — you know, that same judge who was removed from the bench twice for violating the Constitution, and the same judge who for five years took a $180,000 annual salary for part-time work from his Christian charity before claiming he hadn’t. To be fair, some Alabama citizens, pastors, politicians, and newspapers have denounced Roy Moore and/or unendorsed him after the sexual harassment of minors charges surfaced. Let’s hope they carry some weight.
I can’t end this piece without mentioning Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken and the accusations against him. Let me give a full disclosure: I loved his work and admired him as a comedian and author, and I love his work and admire him as a force for liberal values in the U.S. Senate.
The strange story of Al Franken is emerging as a test case for examining gray areas in the judgment of sexual harassment committed by a politician.
To recap, Al’s first accuser, former model and radio host Leeann Tweeden, alleged that he forcefully French-kissed her during a skit rehearsal while they were on a 2006 USO tour together. Then a photo was taken, on their flight home, showing Al feigning cupping her breasts while she slept and mugging for the camera. (She only saw this photo later and legitimately felt embarrassed, belittled, and humiliated.)
Contrary to the writer’s embellishment of conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, Mr. Franken did not keep up a campaign of harassment for two weeks. In fact, other photos from that trip showed Al and Leeann appearing friendly. Sen. Franken has profusely apologized for the kiss and the photo and called for a Senate ethics investigation of his own behavior. Ms. Tweeden has publicly accepted his apology.
The second accuser alleges that Al grabbed her buttocks during a pose with her at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair while her husband snapped the photo. Mr. Franken doesn’t recall the incident, says that he’s posed for thousands of state fair photos, but still apologizes for the woman feeling disrespected.
Preponderance of the Evidence
Hugh Hewitt has damaged his credibility on this issue (and critical thinking in general). On Thursday, during MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, he made the assertion that they should all not be allowed in Congress — Roy Moore (R-Ala.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and recently accused John Conyers (D-Mich.) — based on a “preponderance of the evidence.” Hugh has been pushing this legal term to judge the veracity of sexual harassment accusers for the past few weeks. A preponderance of the evidence in this case means there is greater than a 50 percent chance the accusations are true.
Roy Moore? Check. John Conyers? A little soon to know for sure, but a likely check. Al Franken? Definite check because Al has ‘fessed up and apologized (though Hewitt makes no consideration for Franken’s much lesser degree of offenses and total lack of established pattern). But when MTP Daily host Katy Tur asked Hugh why he voted for Donald Trump in light of the 17 accusers — most of whose stories are documented on the record and their contemporaneous reports corroborated — Hewitt had the arrogance to state the president’s accusers did not meet the preponderance of the evidence.
Hugh Hewitt believes there is less than a 50 percent chance any of the multiple Trump accusers are telling the truth. Katy and the two women journalists on her panel politely stifled gasps. Then Tur pointed out that Donald’s admission on the Access Hollywood video was pretty strong corroboration.
I don’t believe in the zero-tolerance, falsely equivalent policy that if Roy shouldn’t be a senator, neither should Al. And don’t give me the phony Sarah Huckabee Sanders contention that Al admitted his wrongdoing but Donald and Roy are still innocent until proven guilty (that should be proved guilty, by the way — just sayin’).
Degrees and Patterns
Contrary to Hugh Hewitt’s self-serving, all-or-nothing standard of guilt, Sen. Franken’s example illustrates the need to consider two hugely important factors: 1) the degree of the offenses; and 2) the existence of a pattern of offenses.
Consider the degrees: Roy Moore tried to seduce a 14-year-old girl by sneaking her away from her mother to his house. And he threatened to rape a 16-year-old girl in his car, leaving her sobbing on the parking lot pavement of her employer’s restaurant when she would not comply. Donald Trump grabs women by the crotch. Al Franken kissed a woman against her will, embarrassed her in a photo while she slept (fully clothed), and grabbed a woman’s butt while posing with her for a picture.
Consider the patterns: Roy Moore has accumulated nine independent accusers, whose stories are corroborated in detail. His town knew Roy in his 30s as a pursuer, even a predator, of young girls. Donald Trump holds the current record of 17 accusers, whose accusations are also carefully documented and corroborated. He was recorded admitting, nigh bragging, that he gropes unsuspecting women. And don’t give me the “locker-room talk” defense. Like many professional male athletes and many regular men have stated, I’ve been in locker rooms — men don’t say those things there or anywhere else unless they mean it.
Al Franken has one forced kissing incident in 2006 and one butt-grabbing incident in 2010. No pattern.
Two instances of extremely poor judgment, insensitivity, boorishness, and a temporarily warped sense of humor.
But no pattern.
Sen. Franken needs to pay a price; there is no denying that. He has sincerely apologized. He has called for his own Senate ethics investigation. He might deserve to be censured. He will no doubt increase his already super-strong support of women’s issues, including strengthening sexual harassment policies. He should do a speaking tour or two (with all fees going to women’s causes) explaining his behavior, what he’s learned from it, and imploring other men to raise their consciousness about this issue.
But Al Franken should not resign or be expelled from the Senate.
Obviously, this would be re-evaluated if more incidents come to light. Then there would be a pattern. I’ll admit it. I’ll be crestfallen, dejected, despondent, hangdog, heartsick, mournful, and woebegone. But I’ll admit it.
In late-breaking news, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) was exposed Wednesday in a sexting scandal. Apparently Mr. Barton sent explicit nude photos and videos of himself, over a three-year period, to a woman he met on the internet. An unknown source publicly posted one of the most disgusting of those photos. When the relationship soured, Joe threatened the woman with retaliation if she tried to use the photos and videos to hurt his career. She recorded his threat and admission of sextual guilt on a phone call. In response to the story, Rep. Barton issued a statement saying that while separated from his wife he had “consensual … sexual relationships with other mature adult women.”
On a lighter note, even Joe Barton says Roy Moore is not fit to serve in Congress. ■
“2 More (Anonymous) Women Accuse Al Franken of Grabbing Their Buttocks During Photo Pose; Senator Says It’s Difficult to Respond to Anonymous Reports” (11/22/2017)