Now that Americans are facing the truth about sexual harassment, will they hold President Trump accountable for his own bad behavior?
Last year, after Trump was heard on an “Access Hollywood” tape bragging about assaulting women, 16 accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior, ranging from voyeurism to assault.
They say he grabbed their breasts and genitals, and kissed them without permission. Beauty pageant contestants say he strolled uninvited into rooms where they were naked and vulnerable. None of the women is hiding behind anonymity. They are on the record. The White House spokeswoman has said they are all lying.
Their names are Cathy Heller, Jill Harth, Temple Taggart, Cassandra Searles, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Lisa Boyne, Karena Virginia, Mindy McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Samantha Holvey, Tasha Dixon and Summer Zervos, who has filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump for calling her a liar.
Snippets of their stories are featured in “16 Women and Donald Trump,” a new 31/2-minute video compilation by Brave New Films, the nonpartisan, nonprofit studio that makes short films on a range of social justice issues such as prison reform, gun control and immigrant rights.
Anderson, a Southern California photographer, was an aspiring model in her 20s when she happened to sit next to Trump in a Manhattan nightclub in the early 1990s. Without a word, the real estate mogul reached under her skirt, she said: “He did touch my vagina through my underwear.”
Virginia, a yoga instructor and lifestyle coach, encountered Trump while waiting for a ride outside the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in Queens in 1998. A total stranger, he walked right up to her. “Then his hand touched the right inside of my breast,” Virginia said. “I felt intimidated, and I felt powerless.”
Brave New Films founder Robert Greenwald said he was motivated to revisit the accusations against Trump after the Harvey Weinstein exposes in the New York Times and the New Yorker opened the floodgates on sexual harassment.
When the women first came forward, during the presidential campaign, said Greenwald, “they were threatened and bullied and told they were going to be sued. But it’s a different environment now.”
Many people — Democrats included — now say that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and sexually harassing Paula Jones. Why should Trump escape investigation?
Many Republicans have urged Alabama Republican Roy Moore, the “devout” Christian and Ten Commandments obsessive, to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race because at least eight women have accused him of sexual assault or improper advances when they were teenagers. If they believe he is unfit to hold office, how can they defend Trump?
For a long time, Trump was silent about the Moore accusations. Then, just before Thanksgiving, in comments to reporters, he gave Moore a pass. He might as well have been talking about himself: “He says it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him,” Trump told reporters. “I do have to say, 40 years is a long time.”
“Mr. Trump, perhaps you do not remember me or what you did to me so many years ago,” said Virginia, who spoke at a news conference in October 2016 with attorney Gloria Allred at her side, “but I can assure you that I remember you and what you did to me as though it was yesterday.”
As we’ve seen from the season’s parade of grotesque headlines about sexual harassment, entitled men seem unable to distinguish between sexual interest and sexual repulsion. It’s got to be some sort of pathology. I have taken to calling this disorder “Powerful Male Pattern Blindness.”
Did Charlie Rose, who is 75, really think that the 20-something assistants he took to his fancy beach home were turned on by his open bathrobe and naked outdoor showers?
Did Minnesota Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken really think it was funny to pose for a photo while pretending to grope the breasts of a sleeping woman?
Did Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, a bona fide champion of the civil rights movement, really not grasp the aggressive stupidity of meeting a high-ranking female staffer wearing only his underpants?
“He wasn’t doing it to hit on me,” attorney Melanie Sloan told the Detroit Free Press. “It was more like he could do what he wanted.”
Powerful Male Pattern Blindness strikes again.
Sadly, the only cure for this condition seems to be public humiliation.
Fox News Network founder Roger Ailes was canned. So was Fox star Bill O’Reilly.
Rose was fired by CBS from his popular morning show.
Weinstein was ousted from his own movie company, was kicked out of the Motion Picture Academy and is under criminal investigation.
Franken has apologized repeatedly, and said he welcomes a Senate ethics investigation.
Conyers has stepped down from his leadership post on the House Judiciary Committee.
On Monday in Sacramento, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, a Democrat from Pacoima, resigned after six women accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. (On Tuesday, Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman of Glendale will convene the first in a series of public hearings about the culture of sexual harassment in the state capital.)
There is also a petition asking the government accountability group Common Cause California to rescind an upcoming award for former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was accused of sexually groping and humiliating six women in 2003, shortly before he won his first term by a landslide.
Could that sort of travesty happen again?
On Dec. 12, Alabama voters will choose between Moore and his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, a former prosecutor who won convictions against two Ku Klux Klan members for orchestrating the 1963 bombing that killed four African American girls at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church.
Some Republican senators have already made noise about refusing to seat Moore if he wins. Yet only one — Susan Collins of Maine — has addressed the lingering allegations against Trump, calling them “very disturbing” last week.
“We are suddenly living in a very different universe,” Greenwald said. “In a world where people are appropriately being called out for abusive and horrific actions, Trump has gotten away scot-free.”
The powerful and entitled are being called to account. Why should Trump be an exception?