I called it!
Remember in December when I had this exchange on NPR during a panel about sexual harassment and political figures in the early states of #MeToo?
ME : A hostile work environment means that the recipient of this has to feel hostility. They don’t like it. So, for example, if somebody – I have a hypothetical that I’m sure has happened, where someone is grabbed by Donald Trump back when he’s a celebrity, and she comes home. And she’s kissed, and she tells her roommate, “That was cool! Donald Trump kissed me.” And then when everybody she knows detests Donald Trump, she suddenly says …”I was harassed.”
BUTLER: COME ON!
HOST MICHEL MARTIN: OK. Yeah, I think we’re going to go to a different…All right. All right, Jack, you’ve had your say on that. And I think there are a lot of people who would want to argue with – I’m going to let Paul speak his piece on this. What do you say to that?
But the professor didn’t go beyond his interjected cheap shot, and went on to his own agenda, leaving the impression that my exposition on the strangeness of sexual harassment law was off-the-wall. It wasn’t, though. I was 100% correct, and NPR listeners, thanks to a grandstanding law professor whom I suspect wasn’t up on sexual harassment (he’s a criminal law professor who concentrates on race issues), were left less-informed than when they tuned in.
My point was and is valid: nothing stops an object of sexual attention in questionable propriety and taste from treating it as welcome at the time, then choosing, months, years or decades later, when there are non-ethical motivations to vilify or harm her one-time suitor, to withdraw her consent and “welcome,” and claim, retroactively, that she was harassed and abused.
This is exactly what Monica Lewinsky has done.
From the moment the scandal broke, Lewinsky insisted that her relationship with President Bill Clinton was fully consensual and welcome despite the disparity in their position and age. This assisted the defense of the President’s unethical conduct “To Lewinsky’s credit, she never portrayed herself as any kind of victim of Clinton’s advances,” Jeffrey Toobin wrote in his 2000 book, “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.” Later, in a much-ballyhooed piece for Vanity Fair in 2014, Lewinsky again asserted that she felt abused by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, but not by sexy Bill. “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: It was a consensual relationship.”
Suddenly, however, Monica woke up “woke.” In a new Vanity Fair essay, she writes, “Now, at 44, I’m beginning . . . to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a President and a White House intern…in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.” She now believes the affair was “a gross abuse of power,” and is claiming her “#MeToo badge as a victim.
Had I chosen Bill Clinton as my example rather than Donald Trump—I admit, on NPR I was reluctant to be that provocative—this would have been my hypothetical come true.
Legally, Lewinsky was not sexually harassed, and no, she cannot fairly turn it into sexual harassment now to get another 15 minutes of fame. However Clinton had such power over her as her employer and President—the hypothetical I raised on NPR did not involve the workplace—that it was not a consensual relationship, and Clinton did engage in an abusive relationship based on his misuse of power and position.
Convenient retroactive decisions that what once were welcome sexual advances are welcome no longer after a decade or two has marked the #MeToo witch hunt from the start, with Al Franken being the most obvious victim. It’s no surprise that Monica Lewinsky figured out which way the metaphorical wind was blowing.
Pointer and Facts: New York Daily News