What About Tomorrow?
The whirring sound you hear is of powerful men spinning their wheels in response to their friends’ and colleagues’ records of sexual abuse and misconduct.
Whether it’s the way Hollywood responds to revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., or journalism handles political journalist Mark Halperin and NPR’s Michael Oreskes, or the political establishment reacts to Roy Moore — no one is served by gatekeepers who are making up their response to criminal attacks on women as they go along.
We need a new set of rules that applies to the entertainment industry, the media, lawyers, Wall Street, professional sports, Silicon Valley — everywhere that the toxic mix of power, money and a culture of entitlement put women in danger.
In the wake of the latest round of revelations, movies and TV shows have been cancelled, TV contracts suspended and political endorsements called into question — but does anyone doubt that tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, more industry leaders will be caught trying to compensate for years of looking the other way when it comes to sexual predators?
When institutional leaders are forced to confront their own hypocrisy, misconduct or patterns of enabling criminal behavior, they tend to say the most appalling and horrifying things. Consider what Alabama’s political establishment has said in response to the news that their Senate candidate is a pedophile.
According to the Toronto Star, five of the GOP’s county chairs in Alabama thought the allegations against Moore were false, and three said they might vote for Moore even if they were true.
Geneva County chairman Riley Seibenhener told the Star, “Other than being with an underage person — he didn’t really force himself. I know that’s bad enough, but I don’t know. If he withdraws, it’s five weeks to the election . . . that would concede it to the Democrat.”
And Marion County chairman David Hall said, “It was 40 years ago. I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14.”
Supposedly 14! I’d say that I’ve never been more outraged by two seemingly simple words in a news story, but the first accounts of the way politicians responded to Roy Moore included this disgusting turn of phrase — “if true.”
Senator Mitch McConnell said it:
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”
So did his top deputy, Texas Senator John Cornyn:
“If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable.”
And also Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee:
“If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”
Vice President Mike Pence spoke through his press secretary:
“The vice president found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office.”
Only Senator John McCain refused to equivocate.
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they are proud of.”
That was all of five days ago. Now, in the wake of additional revelations about Roy Moore’s criminal past, even party stalwarts such as Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner and Paul Ryan are calling for Roy Moore to step aside. But their motivation is hardly a moral determination to protect women from sexual predators, or to punish their political colleagues who are found to have assaulted women and girls.
The Republican establishment is desperately trying to preserve their Senate majority, and they have finally come to recognize Roy Moore as a threat to their political survival. Witness their sudden turnaround on Roy Moore and their improvised effort to force him from the ballot, enlist a write-in candidate, or plot his expulsion from the Senate should he win the election.
But women need more than an ad hoc defense against sexual abuse and misconduct by powerful men.
Attorney Gloria Allred has proposed that the Weinstein Company set up a fund for Harvey Weinstein’s victims.
“It’s easy to weep crocodile tears for Harvey’s victims. Action and concrete steps are needed,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.
Other industries should follow this example, and set up mechanisms to compensate victims of powerful industry leaders, whether they’re Wall Street CEOs or Silicon Valley bros.
And the legion of agents, handlers and fixers who rally to defend sexual predators should adhere to a code of conduct that puts a stop to this culture of enabling.
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation this week to institute mandatory sexual harassment training for senators and aides. We’ll see if anything meaningful comes of this, or if it proves to be another in a long line of hollow gestures designed to make uncomfortable truths fade away.