Senator next target, sexual harassment reckoning floodgates

The Harvey Weinstein revelations and accusations seem to have opened the floodgates of accusations of sexual harassment in the US. Kevin Spacey has also been publicly disgraced, Republican candidate for the Senate Roy Moore is under fire and now  a Democratic senator, Al Franken, the latest to be accused publicly.

Sexual impropriety by politicians is nothing new in the US, with prominent examples John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, and the current president Donald Trump, but it now seems that accusations are being taken seriously and are getting traction.

The GOP has just been rocked by a string of accusations against a Senate candidate – Trump has distanced himself as more accusers emerge – Two more women describe unwanted overtures by Roy Moore at Alabama mall:

Gena Richardson says she was a high school senior working in the men’s department of Sears at the Gadsden Mall when a man approached her and introduced himself as Roy Moore.

His overtures caused one store manager to tell new hires to “watch out for this guy,” another young woman to complain to her supervisor and Richardson to eventually hide from him when he came in Sears, the women say.

Richardson says Moore — now a candidate for U.S. Senate — asked her where she went to school, and then for her phone number, which she says she declined to give, telling him that her father, a Southern Baptist preacher, would never approve.

Richardson says Moore asked her out again on the call. A few days later, after he asked her out at Sears, she relented and agreed, feeling both nervous and flattered. They met that night at a movie theater in the mall after she got off work, a date that ended with Moore driving her to her car in a dark parking lot behind Sears and giving her what she called an unwanted, “forceful” kiss that left her scared.

Moore’s campaign did not directly address the new allegations. In a statement, a campaign spokesman cast the growing number of allegations against Moore as politically motivated.

There is a possibility some accusations may involve political motivations but the number of people being exposed suggest the tip of a much bigger iceberg, an insidious iceberg.

And a sitting Senator has also just been accused: Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It:

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Unwanted advances are not uncommon at all levels of society, but it seems like the male political and media elite in the US are finally being exposed.

Prior to now acceptance and tacit approval of the actions of Kennedy, Clinton and Trump have been swept under political carpets, with power being seen as more important for both Democrats and Republicans than confronting and dealing properly with sexual harassment.

Jeff Greenfield writes: How Roy Moore’s Misdeeds Are Forcing an Awakening on the Left

Years of excusing Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct suddenly seems morally indefensible.

Watching the political contortions of Republicans to defend a candidate accused of sexually molesting teenage girls, Democrats and liberal pundits are reckoning publicly with their own history of fervid rationalizations on behalf of a recent president. But this should be just the beginning of a painful re-examination.

This new consciousness was glimpsed first in a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, a commentator of a stoutly progressive persuasion. “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is,” he wrote, “it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”

It was glimpsed in passing in a New York Times editorial, Ground Zero of conventional liberalism. “Remember former President Bill Clinton, whose popularity endures despite a long string of allegations of sexual misconduct and, in one case, rape—all of which he has denied,” it said.

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, where coastal elitism is a badge of honor, acknowledged the elephant in the room this way: “That so many women have summoned the courage to make public their allegations against Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly—or that many have come to reconsider some of the claims made against Bill Clinton—represents a cultural passage.”

These allegations have long been a part of the right-wing media’s talking points. Sean Hannity invoked them on an almost daily basis during the 2016 campaign, and they were used by Donald Trump as a protective shield, to ward off the charges of serial sexual harassment and the boastful confessions of same on the “Access Hollywood” tape. During the 2016 campaign, Trump brought these three women to a presidential debate, as living, breathing arguments for “whataboutism.”

But from the political center leftward, those allegations never reached critical mass. Maybe it was the very way the Right not only seized on the stories, but made them part of a much broader, far less credible series of accusations. The late Rev. Jerry Falwell spent years peddling “the Clinton Chronicles,” a series of videos that charged the Clintons with complicity in any number of murders. A congressional committee chair used a rifle and a watermelon to try to show that White House aide Vince Foster had been murdered, rather than taking his own life; As late as last year, the fever swamps were rife with stories of a pedophilic sex trafficking ring operating out of the basement of a popular Washington pizza parlor. Any one of these flights of lunacy acted as the 13th stroke of the clock, casting doubt not only on itself, but on every other allegation.

So what changed? Three people: Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

At the height of the Lewinsky impeachment melodrama, Clinton’s defenders always argued that the president’s behavior was a private matter. To this day, you can find references to Clinton’s “dalliances” and “peccadilloes.”

People have long excused sexual impropriety and harassment as normal ‘red-blooded male’ behaviour, which has allowed what I think is a small minority of males to continue as sexual predators virtually unchecked. That seems to have suddenly change.

In the end, though, neither Clinton nor Kennedy can escape the “reckoning” of which Hayes and Flanagan refer. In the case of Kennedy, his treatment of women was not simply callous, but jeopardized his presidency. In the case of Clinton, his public policies cannot erase the serious doubts about whether a sexual predator occupied the White House for eight years. And even measured by partisan concerns, Clinton’s behavior materially, perhaps fatally, wounded the campaigns of Gore and Hillary Clinton.

For many of us, it is easy to look at Weinstein, Trump and Moore as case studies in pathological behavior. Looking closer to home is a lot more painful; it is also compulsory.

Unless and until partisans across the board stop justifying unconscionable behavior out of political self-interest, the more likely it is that the pervasive cynicism about the process, and everyone involved in it, will fester and grow.

Emboldened victims (mostly but not all female) may stem the festering. The dirty most male non-secret may finally be addressed.

There are risks of course – trial by media, false or exaggerated accusations, political agendas may all play a part in some cases of unfairness and injustice.

But they are likely to be small degrees of shall we call it collateral damage. For a long long time unfairness and injustice has been allowed to continue virtually unabated, creating a large number of victims. This has had a profound and damaging effect on our society.

While the direct victims are obviously the worst affected there has been a lot of damage done to families and partners and others too. Innocent males have been indirectly affected by association and suspicion – it is understandable that victims become suspicious of and can have difficulty with relationships with far more than the actual perpetrators.

Addressing this insidious problem properly – with some inevitable unfair damage – is overdue, and may have a massive effect on our society in the future. We will all benefit.

 

53 Comments

  1. Patzcuaro

     /  November 17, 2017

    Unfortunately the current POTUS is not a very good role model in this area.

  2. Gerrit

     /  November 17, 2017

    Is the USA in for a repeat of a McCarthy type witch hunt? Who stands to gain?

    http://www.ushistory.org/us/53a.asp

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  November 17, 2017

      McCarthyism refers to the use of reckless and unsubstantiated accusations, or to demamgogic attacks on political adversaries.

      Gerrit your use of the term here is reckless and unsubstantiable – i.e. McCarthyist

      The accusations made against these powerful men seem to be pretty well-founded, and appear to be more about the cult of personality in which victims are reluctant to speak out about abusive behaviour from privileged “charismatic” nmen.

      Status, power, stardom, strong reputation… call it what you will…. they all make it difficult for victims’ stories to be treated as credible complaints.

      • Gerrit

         /  November 17, 2017

        Just like Peter Ellis was recklessly and with unsubstantiated rumours hounded and convicted. So is the risk that anyone can be recklessly and insubstantially hounded in a McCarthy style witch hunt.

        I stand by my use of the term. There has to be caution and every accusation has to be taken seriously, but at the same time, if many recklessly and with unsubstantiated rumours are proven false, than a lot of sexually harassment cases will be seen in the light of a McCarthy type witch hunt.

        it is not good enough to have “pretty well founded” accusations. They must be real and verify-ably assessed in a court of law.

        Otherwise it is a witch hunt.

    • phantom snowflake

       /  November 17, 2017

      Who stands to gain?? Mostly those who may now be spared from sexual abuse and harassment in the future due to this issue being blown wide open.

  3. Tipene

     /  November 17, 2017

    A common theme of this development is that it is allegation, not evidence, that is the threshold for taking action against the accused.

    It’s become the Salem Witch Trials, where anyone can make an accusation against anyone, and the sacrificial bonfire is then built on the back of “she said it, so it must be true”.

    Now let me think: who was the NZ Politician who was accused of sexual harassment, for which there was no evidence of the claim, and even a High Court Judge came to the conclusion that no sexual harassment had in fact occurred?

    • I understand the problems of allegations without evidence (although the woman accusing Al Franken had some photographic evidence, there is evidence of Clinton and Kennedy impropriety and also Trump).

      But there has been a bigger problem of rampant harassment that neither proper legal process nor society has addressed adequately. Something has to make that change happen.

      • Tipene

         /  November 17, 2017

        Hmmmm…..not buying it.

        If I do buy it, then I am refusing to accept that the acknowledged narrative of Hollywood is that a number of the women coming forward entered into a culturally accepted transactional process (I think Hollywood calls it the “casting couch”) in order to either embed or advance their careers; that a lot of people in Hollywood knew this went on, and said nothing, most likely because they had engaged in similar transactions themselves; and that when “Stage 1” thinking informs “Stage 1” action (i.e. “I feel something about something, so it must be true, because my feelings would never lie to me”), truth is sacrificed on the alter of virtue signalling.

        What do you think the Manus Island fiasco is all about? It;s about a Prime Minister who is displaying a dangerous absence of the ability to emotionally regulate.

        The media is suffering a similar condition in all of this, which is one of the reasons the media has become an enemy of the people.

        • Pickled Possum

           /  November 17, 2017

          Right on Tipene.

          • Such an enormous subject and commentary so easy to be misconstrued without qualifiers.

            This is all over the place as I have 10 minutes before work, but it’s not addressing specifically the awakening in the USA and other places to what is a deeply ingrained societal issue. Neither is my position political.

            Can I preface what I say by saying that I have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace on a number of occasions and one where serious groping was even accepted by higher management as part of a ” You know Bob (not his name), he’s not serious and he does it to everyone” culture. Dodging this one guy was like running the gauntlet, you’d time your every move to avoid him. Don’t get me started.

            As a mother with boys in the blend I purposefully educated them explicitly in the YES and NO status of women and begged them to confront issues around compliance, especially when drugs and alcohol were involved. Knowing women as I do, (being one helps), I am familiar with the remorse factor, the morning after, the walk of shame scenario. I know girls who have so deeply regretted sexual encounters for one reason or another they have concocted elaborate stories by way of excuse around said experiences. I also know women who are just as manipulative and coercive as any man when it comes to sex and who absolutely view it as currency. The difference between the sexes would be here that a coerced man generally gets over the whole thing a good deal easier. 😉

            So, that aside it’s time the whole “You know Bob,Joe he’s a cad – wink wink” culture was expunged. No mixed messages. We have a powerful sex drive otherwise we wouldn’t exist as a species. OTOH, we are endowed with a highly developed brain and if it’s schooled appropriately, ostensibly common sense override impulses. Sex addiction is quite another issue and maybe tools for early recognition might be of assistance.

            A problem in this world is that men in power are able to freely couple with some women. There are women very attracted to them, seek them out and there are enough women who not only understand the currency, but have no trouble exchanging it for mutual benefit. The problem then becomes the career paths/options for the vast majority who don’t perform for them. The whole she will, you won’t, is never going to go away in a hurry when women remain silent.

            SO in this conversation, all of us need to ask ourselves and be honest. Have I ever used sex to get my way?

            This won’t go down well, but in my case it’s YES.

            So, not on subject particularly but I’ll be back later. Let’s have some honesty about our own subjective morality. After all we’re the same Westerners who revered and still revere JFK, a serial womaniser from a family of similar men. People of our ilk not only allowed a philandering President who lied under oath off the hook, but we feted him and still do.

            • Blazer

               /  November 17, 2017

              Great post Trav.Nature wired men to pursue women for sex.Nature gave women a power that they can choose how to use.

            • Gezza

               /  November 17, 2017

              Agree with Blazer. Best post I’ve ever seen on the topic.

        • Patzcuaro

           /  November 17, 2017

          The “casting couch” is all about power. It doesn’t just occur in Hollywood it happens anywhere where there is power, business, politics.

          • Tipene

             /  November 17, 2017

            Power is as power is perceived – it;’s also a mutual process via reward and adaptation.

        • MaureenW

           /  November 17, 2017

          Why is the casting couch a requirement to work in Hollywood? Sure, there will be any number of women prepared to do “anything” for a chance of a big role, but why do they have to?
          Most of what I’ve read about recently is abuse of power that, amongst its other symptoms, includes sexual assault and abuse. None of these guys have been desperate, nor lacking the money to buy whatever perversion they choose. They like the idea that their status enables them to treat others like shit. Good riddance to them.

          • Tipene

             /  November 17, 2017

            I don’t think the casting couch is a “requirement”. But it seems to be an option in Hollywood for rapid career advancement. Free will, choice, and personal responsibility would all most likely contribute to influencing the decision.

            If one can be bought, then it’s just down to the currency on offer, isn’t it?

            • MaureenW

               /  November 17, 2017

              That isn’t what was going on with Weinstein, Spacey or Louis C.K.

          • David

             /  November 17, 2017

            “Sure, there will be any number of women prepared to do “anything” for a chance of a big role, but why do they have to?”

            Because there are a huge number of women prepared to do it, and only a very few roles that result in stardom. The gatekeepers of those roles are then free to exploit their position.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  November 17, 2017

      Inappropriate sexual advances are often very hard to prove unless there are witnesses, or video evidence or physical evidence. So it often comes down to she said he said. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen it just can’t be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  November 17, 2017

        Inappropriate is a weasel word. The correct terms are unwelcome, threatening and hurtful.

        Selfish vs sensitivity. What starts as unwelcome can then progress to the others. Alternatively, as traveller pointed out, what seemed exciting at the time can transform in retrospect to all of the above which is not necessarily fair on the other person.

        Women can use sex to get what they want. Men can use what women want to get sex. That’s a pretty old equation which is not going to change any time soon. The negotiation process is what is under the microscope.

        • Blazer

           /  November 17, 2017

          Men exchange love for sex…women exchange sex…for love…too simple.

          • PDB

             /  November 17, 2017

            Obviously too simple for you Blazer as some women also exchange sex for money and lifestyle as well. Were Hugh Hefners multiple ‘girlfriends’ living at the playboy mansion really there because they were all deeply in love with Hugh?

            • Blazer

               /  November 17, 2017

              I was talking ordinary ,everyday people who form relationships.Prostitutes are…prostitutes.

            • PDB

               /  November 17, 2017

              Many of those women marrying primarily for the money in NZ are ‘ordinary ,everyday people’.

            • Blazer

               /  November 17, 2017

              @PDB…I hope you’re not bringing Lani..into the conversation..again.

          • Gezza

             /  November 17, 2017

            Way too simple, that equation.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  November 17, 2017

          There’s another dynamic here in many of the publicised cases where men as well as women have been assaulted. That seems to be power figures have simply become accustomed to taking what they want when they want it from whoever they want it. There are enough of these cases to create a media storm and frenzy. We have to be careful more ambiguous cases don’t get swept up into the same category.

          • PDB

             /  November 17, 2017

            Yes – what constitutes ‘sexual harassment’ could extend to all sorts of things/situations that would currently be considered fine.

            Then you end up with terrible policy like that suggested by Labour a few years ago regarding consensual sex vrs rape. NZ Herald (2014) “The Labour Party’s plan to reform the criminal justice system would mean that the accused in a rape case would have to prove consent to be found innocent — a change it acknowledges as a monumental shift.

            The policy would mean that in a rape case, if the Crown proved a sexual encounter and the identity of the defendant, it would be rape unless the defendant could prove it was consensual.”

  4. duperez

     /  November 17, 2017

    “People have long excused sexual impropriety and harassment as normal ‘red-blooded male’ behaviour, which has allowed what I think is a small minority of males to continue as sexual predators virtually unchecked. That seems to have suddenly changed.” (This story.)

    “This follows a lengthy operation dubbed Operation Clover. The West Auckland teen group came to prominence last year with videos of themselves online boasting about having sex with drunk, underage girls.” (Roast Busters case.)

    How these things happen are different over the world. How long it takes for things to come to light too.

  5. patupaiarehe

     /  November 17, 2017

    People have long excused sexual impropriety and harassment as normal ‘red-blooded male’ behaviour, which has allowed what I think is a small minority of males to continue as sexual predators virtually unchecked.

    The thing is, that most ‘red blooded males’ enjoy a willing partner, who isn’t being co-ersed into something that she doesn’t enjoy. Ask any man, there is nothing ‘hotter’, than a woman who ‘makes the first move’… I have no time whatsoever, for ‘predatory males’, but the real question is, why didn’t these women say something at the time? They could have just slapped the offender, & walked away with their head held high. Complaining about it several years after the fact, doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it makes me wonder why it wasn’t a problem at the time…

    • MaureenW

       /  November 17, 2017

      It is a problem at the time. Often their income is linked to the abuse so they try to manage it gracefully or with minimum impact to their circumstances. I experienced an MD of a company I worked for once who tried that shit on me in a Wellington hotel – suffice to say I left, openly told the joke to everyone I was connected to in the company, and subsequently was fired. Lol.

      • patupaiarehe

         /  November 17, 2017

        I experienced an MD of a company I worked for once who tried that shit on me in a Wellington hotel – suffice to say I left, openly told the joke to everyone I was connected to in the company, and subsequently was fired. Lol.

        Good on you Maureen, that sort of behaviour speaks volumes of your character, IMHO.
        I worked for a ‘cowboy outfit’, a few years back, where I was instructed to do something that was not only dangerous, but also illegal, and was supposed to involve an apprentice in it. I laughed at my boss, & said “How about no fucking way!”. He then threatened me with a drug test (which I knew I would pass). So I told him, “Here’s the deal c-nt, I’m sick of this BS. I’m going to go & pack up my tools right now, and if what you owe me isn’t in my bank account tomorrow morning, I’ll be here tomorrow afternoon with an employment lawyer, and someone from WorkSafe!”. I was paid out in full before midnight. Funny that… 😀

        • MaureenW

           /  November 17, 2017

          Well done you – personally I think that satisfaction “is worth it”, oh, that’s a clue to the company I worked for.
          It got better, a few weeks after the Hotel event, the company was hosting another event in Wellington, where some other girl who had been harassed by this MD actually rang his wife in Auckland and told her. He found out and arranged individual interviews with all the staff. My turn came around and he asked if I knew who had contacted his wife? I looked him straight in the eye with a smile on my face, and told him i didn’t know, and that if I did I woudn’t tell him anyway. tick, tock my firing was not long afterwards.

          • patupaiarehe

             /  November 17, 2017

            Well done you – personally I think that satisfaction is worth it

            The look on his face was priceless. I strongly suspect that it was the first time an employee had looked him in straight in the eye, and told him that “I am not to be fucked with”…
            The problem is, that most employees don’t have a lot of equity, and don’t have qualifications. I could quite happily resign today, & not work for over a year, but I’d rather go forwards than backwards, financially speaking. The problem with the ‘cowboy outfit’ I spoke of earlier, is that all the other guys were unqualified, & needed a job. Unlike myself, they couldn’t tell the boss to GFY, & just rock up the road & get paid more…

            • MaureenW

               /  November 17, 2017

              Sadly, there’s a price to be paid for both reactions from a female perspective. If one succumbs you’d be fired eventually anyway- used and discarded, or for failing to comply – get rid of her. Once the predator takes and eye to you, you’re fucked. May as well get out with your dignity – was my point of view.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 17, 2017

              As I said earlier Maureen, good on you. You escaped with your dignity intact, & got a laugh at the dirty buggers expense. I’ll admit that I can’t see things from a female perspective, due to the body I was born into. I just wish that women would stand up to this sort of behaviour, at the time it occurs. Women might just be pleasantly surprised at how much support they get for doing so. Most men aren’t bad buggers, & dislike those who give us a bad name…

            • Gezza

               /  November 17, 2017

              Yeah that’s a nasty & stressful situation for any boss to put a female staff member through Maureen. Good on you for having the gonads to stick it to him.

              I got my bottom pinched a couple of times by the resident female predator in our office, but it was done in fun & not seriously harassment. The first time my glass of wine got spilled. The second time I didn’t even need to turn around to know who it was! She had a thing about my botty.

              Funny thing, she ended up being a very senior Ministerial Private Secretary. I expect a few male Parliamentary staff got a surprise from time to time.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 17, 2017

              The funny thing G, is that as a man, getting your ‘botty’ pinched by a female superior, is a little exciting. Because if her ‘advances’ became intolerable, you could fight her off, & win every time (if you wanted to 😉 ). Put the ‘shoe on the other foot’, & perhaps it might not be quite so entertaining. Just saying…

        • patupaiarehe

           /  November 17, 2017

          Upon reflection, I am just as guilty as anyone else. I got what I was owed, & didn’t take it any further.

          • MaureenW

             /  November 17, 2017

            What does that mean exactly?

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 17, 2017

              It means I should have reported him to WorkSafe, for expecting me to work 10m above the ground, without a harness!

            • MaureenW

               /  November 17, 2017

              Gotcha!!

        • MaureenW

           /  November 17, 2017

          You are just right. Those who were given the extra muscle to protect women, become the abusers. Woman are not able to respond physically, don’t have the power. Have to navigate around morons who want their cocks sucked. Basic but true, sadly.

          • patupaiarehe

             /  November 17, 2017

            If it’s any consolation Maureen, I despise ‘men’ like that, as much as you do

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  November 17, 2017

            Not so sure about that, Maureen. I wouldn’t have liked to be an abuser taking on either of my wives. My first wife’s twin sister broke a guy’s jaw who upset her. My second wife dropped a guy with a gun cold. Strangely neither were ever seriously troubled.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 17, 2017

              As they shouldn’t be Alan. I pity any man who picks on my wife, while I am not around. ‘Momma bear’ is not to be messed with. Anyone who does, will be unpleasantly surprised by a hard punch in the throat, just when they think they have the ‘upper hand’…

      • MaureenW

         /  November 17, 2017

        Should be recognised as a health and safety hazard. On the Risk Register, given there’s bugger all else in the office world.

  6. Patzcuaro

     /  November 18, 2017