It is a measure of how quickly the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is hurtling down the tracks that this excellent post by JutGory, an overview of the issues raised by the game-changing sexual misconduct accusations against Senator Al Franken by a former model, current radio host, almost seems out of date. This was the fourth Comment of the Day that arrived over the weekend, and I apologize to Jut for not getting it up sooner. Nonetheless, his analysis is excellent, and his last point is more germane than ever.
Just today, Senator Franken was hit with a second woman’s accusation, CBS and PBS journalist Charlie Rose was accused by eight women, and subsequently suspended from his morning show duties by CBS. NY Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush was accused by several women, and the Times has suspended him pending an investigation. Best of all, some women came forward with as yet unheard allegations about the Godfather of celebrity sexual harassment, Bill Clinton himself.
In the aftermath of all this, Roy Moore’s plummeting polls are reversing themselves. If everybody seems to be doing it, some are reasoning, especially so many “feminists” and “progressives,” then why punish Moore? Everybody isn’t “doing it,” but the #MeTooers and the news media have been so incoherent and hypocritical that it has become difficult for the insufficiently attentive to define what “it” is. Right now, nobody seems to care about material distinctions., or context, or time lapse, or even confirmation. This a real witch hunt, with previously ordinary and relatively powerless citizens sensing an opportunity to destroy careers and reputations.
Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/17/2017: Groping And Griping:
I am no defender of Al Franken, though I hail from the State that Mondale Won. I think you are right that he should not resign.
But there are excuses that distinguish him from Moore.
The timing is suspicious?
That is stupid. Everyone is coming out of the woodwork now. And, the timing on the accusations regarding Roy Moore is suspicious (with an election coming up); Franken has no similar timing issues.
It’s only one time?
Yes, and no. Franken has always been an obnoxious jerk, and this is one of many variations on that theme. So, yeah, it may have only been one time he did THIS sort of obnoxious thing.
But, in that regard, people are characterizing this as sexual assault, which I think is pretty superficial. Leaving aside the kiss and focusing on the picture, Franken’s behavior is not much more obnoxious than the many, many, many Frat-Boy style photos of a sleeping individual with a mustache drawn on his face with a Sharpie. Those are obnoxious and denigrating (and an assault), and Franken’s photo is more comparable to THAT than to Bush Sr.’s “feel-copping.” Calling what Franken did “groping” is a bit of a stretch, even if technically true. To me, this falls into the “prank” category.
This is politically motivated?
No real evidence of that. Do we know Tweeden’s politics?
We need his vote regardless?
Stupid. Conservatives need a Republican vote in Alabama, but they don’t NEED Roy Moore. Besides, in the State that Mondale Won, it is entirely likely that his vote could be replaced by someone comparable. Hell, with our record, Bob Dylan could be the next Senator from Minnesota. He is just about old enough.
I believe him, not her?
I don’t know about the “kiss.” Accounts can be very subjective. I could believe both of them. But, being as obnoxious as he is, I can fully understand her perception of him as an obnoxious jerk, and his perception that he was just being himself and playing the role as he thought it should go.
It was a long time ago?
Yes, sort of. It was 10 years ago, far more recent than the Moore fiasco and the Stacey/Rapp incident. More importantly, It was before politics, when he was supposed to be entertaining and funny.
Why did she wait so long?
Same reason as everyone else. Right now is the right time.
He wasn’t in politics then?
This is the most important for me. Roy Moore’s allegations were 30 years ago, but they were at a time when he was a public servant. The allegations are that he abused his position. There is also an ICK factor to the age difference between him and the girls involved. Also, there is a demonstrated contempt for the law in his judiciary capacity that lends credence to the fact that he would have abused his power back then, making him an unfit public servant all along.
Franken, on the other hand, was a comedian, commentator and entertainer before politics. If he has risen to the occasion (as many wish Trump would), his pre-political behavior should be judged against a different standard than Moore’s and in the context of his current role and responsibilities.
What about Trump?
Yes, Trump should get a “pass” on his pre-political actions, in the sense that a public servant should be held to a higher standard. However, on the scale of comparison, from worst to “best,” I would put Moore (abused public trust), Bush, Sr. (still, technically a public figure obliged to maintain the dignity of the Presidency…assuming he has adequate faculties), Trump (obnoxious, but not a public servant at the time he made his denigrating remarks, or took denigrating actions—of course, this says nothing about his juvenile tweeting since he was inaugurated, but his tweets have not been sexist as much as juvenile); Franken (juvenile prankster pulling an unfunny prank in the long-tradition of SNL players doing unfunny things, but now a public figure that should answer for his behavior in order to maintain the public trust); Kevin Spacey/Louis, C.K/Harvey Weinstein. public figures who have no obligation to account to the public (unless in the criminal sphere, which would make Weinstein worse than Spacey or Louis, actually).
I actually feel a little bit sorry for Spacey and Louis. Yes, both are jerks, but they owe me nothing. Just as I don’t care about their political beliefs, I don’t care about their personal lives. Of course, their behavior, if not criminal, is subject to market forces and those forces are particularly unforgiving right now. Their employers are too frightened of those forces to keep them on; but, their employers may be rightfully scared of potential future liability if they act similarly in the future; they are a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen at this point. (Damn Lawyers!)
Everybody does it?
Not everybody does it. And, not “everybody” is the same. We have different standards for different people. Franken did not do this while he was a Senator, so he should not be held to the standard of a Senator.