Wednesday morning, we learned, NBC brass fired “Today” show veteran Matt Lauer for sexual misconduct.
Almost simultaneously, public radio pioneer Garrison Keillor revealed that he had been fired from Minnesota Public Radio for “inappropriate behavior” with a colleague.
Blink these days, and you might miss the next professional beheading of some man once considered untouchable because of his power, popularity or gravitas.
Men all over American must be quaking in their loafers. Who’s next?
I’ll tell you who should be next: our sexually misbehaving commander in chief.
President Trump has been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting at least 16 women, dating back decades. Last year during the presidential campaign, we all heard the 2005 tape on which he boasted to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush about the way he assaults women.
“You know,” said Trump, “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 pussy. You can do anything.”
His aggressive techniques are frightfully reminiscent of those employed by now-disgraced men like Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose, both of whom have lost their careers.
At the time, Trump was contrite: “I said it, I was wrong and I apologize,” he said, in a video apology he released in October 2016. Now, according to the New York Times, he has suggested the tape is not authentic.
“Let us make this perfectly clear. The tape is very real,” said “Access Hollywood” host Natalie Morales. “Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”
This man lives in the biggest glass house on the planet and still cannot refrain from throwing stones. (But only at Democrats and other perceived enemies.)
In a pair of tweets, he rebuked Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who has a demonstrated proclivity for groping women’s breasts during photo ops. “The Al Frankenstien [sic] picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words,” he wrote. “And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women.”
Shortly after Lauer’s firing was announced, Trump tweeted, “Wow. Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”
A better question: When will congressional Republicans find their spines and take on Trump? When will they be true to the bedrock American ideal that no man is above the law?
And why is our ostentatiously Christian vice president silent? Mike Pence, you recall, is a man who will not dine alone with a woman not his wife to avoid accusations of misconduct or even the appearance of misconduct. His silence is a thunderous endorsement of his boss’s bad behavior.
In this moment of cultural reckoning, women are finding their voices. They are being heard and believed. In private and public companies, abusers are being called out and fired.
Why is it taking our elected officials so long to catch up?
On Tuesday, I sat for five hours in a California Assembly hearing room in Sacramento while women testified about their exploitation by powerful men. It was horrifically clear that our Capitol’s sexual harassment policy is tailored to employees who misbehave, not elected members, who, as a result, have been given an institutional pass on sexual harassment.
“What everybody here knows is that we have rapists in this building,” said Christine Pelosi, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party Women’s Caucus. “We have molesters among us. There are perpetrators, enforcers and enablers in this building causing a clear and present danger to the public and the people here. We know who they are. … People do tell. People do talk. They just don’t come forward.”
They do now.
Should we automatically believe every woman who dares to accuse a powerful man? Not necessarily.
The Washington Post demonstrated perfectly this week how to ferret out the tricksters in its takedown of James O’Keefe, the conservative activist whose 2015 “sting” against Planned Parenthood fell flat.
O’Keefe sent a woman to the Post who claimed she’d been impregnated by Republican Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and had an abortion. It was a lie. The Post was able to dismantle the claim while conducting its own sting on the tricksters, who apparently were trying to get reporters both to report fake news and to reveal a bias against Moore, who has been accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old.
Trump, naturally, has defended him. (Just as he defended conservative Bill O’Reilly, who was fired from the Fox News Network for sexual harassment.)
So, yes, sometimes women lie.
No matter how desperate the president is to make sexual harassment a partisan issue, it is not, and no one with a conscience should allow it to be framed that way. Whether it’s Franken or his Democratic colleague, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who is being pressured by Democrats to resign, Moore or Trump, the issue is justice for women.
I happen to think the novelist Rafael Yglesias offered an elegant solution the other day when he tweeted this suggestion:
“How about this for bipartisanship: Franken should resign, Conyers removed from office, Trump impeached and Moore go to jail?”