For many years, the media, pressured by Republicans, have continued to compare the activities of Democrats with those of Republicans – even when there was no true comparison. For example, most accused the two parties of being equally divisive. (They are not.) And most equated MSNBC with Fox News Channel even though Fox received daily talking points from the RNC. But MSNBC had no such direct ties to the DNC.
During the run-up to the 2016 elections, many in the media equated the allegations against Hillary with the proven transgressions of Trump. What was lost in the conversations was the context. For example, Benghazi, Emailgate, and Pizzagate were all unproven accusations made by highly partisan political opponents while many of the accusations against Trump were actually proven. He had been found to have cheated many suppliers. He had been found to have made fraudulent claims about Trump University. And he had been found to have misused the charitable contributions to his foundation. There was also credible evidence that Trump laundered money for Russian oligarchs, that he was unethically profiting from his campaign contributors and that his campaign was using information stolen from his opponents.
Now the same kinds of false equivalencies are being applied to the men accused of sexual assault.
The long overdue avalanche of such accusations began when Bill Cosby was charged with raping dozens of women who were willing to step forward and publicly tell their stories. The Cosby accusations were followed by news of the many sexcapades of Harvey Weinstein. (Is anyone really surprised that the jokes and stories about Hollywood casting couches are true?)
In the wake of those revelations, we have seen predators such as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly forced out of their positions at Fox. We have heard credible stories of sexual assaults by celebrities such as Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. And we have heard accusations of sexual improprieties by politicians such as President Donald Trump, President H.W. Bush, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Rep. John Conyers, and Sen. Al Franken.
In addition, we have heard accusations leveled against a host of former presidents and politicians, such as President Bill Clinton, President John F. Kennedy, President Dwight Eisenhower and President Franklin Roosevelt.
Unfortunately, we are now in the midst of a media feeding frenzy. And far too many people are caught up in a sensational rush to judgment. But, I ask you, are these men all equally guilty? Are the accusations proven? Are the men being afforded a fair hearing?
I submit that they are not.
To start, I see no value in trashing the legacy of someone already dead and unable to defend themselves. Second, there is a great disparity in seriousness of the accusations against these men. For example, in the cases of Cosby, Ailes, O’Reilly, Lauer, Rose, Spacey, Louis C.K., Roy Moore and Donald Trump, multiple individuals willing to be identified have come forward with credible stories of abuse.
Now let’s examine the cases against Roy Moore and Donald Trump.
At least 9 women have told their stories about Moore. We also know that he was banned from a shopping mall for harassing underage women. Yet he is likely to be elected to the US Senate. And at least 16 women have come forward to tell their stories about Donald Trump. These stories range from groping to lurking in beauty pageant dressing rooms among naked – in some cases underage – women to child rape. He was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy. Yet he now sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the accusations against President Bill Clinton and Senator Al Franken.
President Clinton was proven to have received consensual oral sex from a 22-year-old White House intern. The key word is “consensual.” So, though his actions may have been unethical, they do not rank alongside the accusations that have been leveled against the others mentioned.
As for Sen. Al Franken, he was accused of sexual harassment during a USO trip to entertain the troops. There was a photo of questionable humor showing him with his hands poised over the accuser’s breasts as she slept. Yet there was no contact since she was still wearing a flak jacket. He was also accused of sticking his tongue down her throat during a rehearsed kiss. But this accusation loses some credibility after it has become clear that she did the same thing – and more – to soldiers on stage. And she loses even more credibility when you realize that she is a “shock jock” and a right-wing political ideologue who is a regular guest on the Sean Hannity Show.
A second woman claims that Franken grabbed her buttocks while posing for a photo with him at the Minnesota State Fair. Really? The photo was being taken by her husband standing just a few feet away! And they were in the midst of a crowd of tens of thousands of people! It’s very difficult to believe that, if he did touch her butt, it was intentional.
Finally, several anonymous women have accused Franken of inappropriately touching them while posing for photos with him at other public events, such as book signings. The key word here is “anonymous.” It’s difficult to believe an accusation from someone who is unwilling to be named. Nevertheless, Franken publicly apologized to his accusers and called for a Senate ethics investigation of himself. Yet many people, including Democratic senators and representatives, are already calling for Franken to resign without waiting for the hearing.
In no way am I condoning sexual assault by anyone, including Franken. But are we really willing to throw someone – especially someone who has been an admired public servant and a staunch defender of women’s rights – under the bus without due process? Without looking at the evidence? Without hearing his side of the story? If so, where do we stop? How much, or how little, evidence is enough to ruin someone’s career or someone’s life?
If Franken is forced to resign, the reality is that we could be replacing a senator accused of inappropriately, and possibly inadvertently, touching one or two women with a senator who has been accused of sexually assaulting women, including at least one woman who was underage at the time!
The offenses are not equal!
Moreover, if we’re willing to demand the resignation of someone – anyone – who has done something deemed sexually inappropriate, why are we willing to overlook the many accusations against der gropenfuhrer – Donald Trump?