For the most part, this is less of an opinion piece and more of a statement of current events.
What follows is an incomplete list — and it goes back only back two years — because who the hell can keep track anymore? It is a list of famous, now infamous, names. It is a list of shame. It is a list of the costs and consequences, and lack thereof, of sexual harassment accusations.
It is a list of double standards.
In the last 24 months:
Bill Cosby lost his career and reputation.
Roger Ailes lost his job at Fox News.
Bill O’Reilly lost his job at Fox News — and at least $32 million.
Billy Bush left his job at NBC — for basically just standing there on a bus and laughing along.
Harvey Weinstein lost his job and his wife.
Kevin Spacey lost his job. He was dropped from his show. His movie was recast.
David Sweeney lost his job. He was NPR’s chief news editor. Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director at NPR, resigned.
Brett Ratner lost his job. He had a $450 million movie deal with Warner Brothers.
Glenn Thrush was suspended from the New York Times.
Mark Halperin lost his job at MSNBC and his book and movie deals.
Charlie Rose lost his jobs at PBS and CBS and Bloomberg cut ties with him.
And now, Matt Lauer has lost his job. Where in the world is Matt Lauer? I don’t know. Under a rock somewhere. He is certainly no longer at NBC’s “Today” show.
But in the world of politics:
US taxpayers have, over the years, paid for $17 million in settlement claims against members of Congress. We don’t know specifically against whom. We don’t know how much of the $17 million went to pay sexual harassment claims.
Al Franken is still in the US Senate even though we saw a photo of him appearing to grab a woman’s breasts and he apologized for alleged conduct ranging from unwanted kissing to groping.
John Conyers is still in Congress even though he settled at least one sexual harassment claim. Nancy Pelosi called him an “icon.”
Roy Moore is a US Senate candidate, and may win the seat, even though he’s been accused by at least 8 women, on the record, of preying on or pursuing teenage girls. He was an Alabama District Attorney in his 30s at the time. One of the girls was 14 years old when he allegedly fondled her. One pastor defended him for seeking the “purity of young women.”And then there was the Alabama State official who made a comparison to Mary and Joseph, which I just can’t begin to explain.
Donald Trump is still President of the United States. Even though more than a dozen women accused him, on the record, of sexual assault before he was elected to office. He denied those allegations even though we heard him, his very own unmistakable voice on video, boasting of sexual assault, of grabbing women by a place no woman should ever be grabbed without her consent. Trump said, “And when you are a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Donald Trump was wrong. It turns out, it’s not TV and movie stars who can do anything without paying a price. It is politicians — from the President of the United States on down — who can do anything and get away with it.
This is where the opinion part comes in. We cannot hold elected leaders to a lower standard than we hold people who make movies, star in movies, tell jokes and deliver news. They are our representatives. They make our laws. They set a national tone. They should be role models for our children. We must have zero tolerance with sexual harassment. Even when we admire the harasser because he’s done other things we like. Even when we want to look the other way because he is a member of our political party and we need that vote.
Changing the culture means this is not about profession or creed or color or sexual orientation or partisan affiliation. Sexual harassment is not about Hollywood versus Washington. It is not about Right and Left. It is about right and wrong. America, letting politicians get away with it, is simply wrong.