At the risk of sounding hopelessly naive, it’s time to put aside the political point-scoring in sexual-harassment coverage.
Conservative media has had a field day since revelations surfaced about Hollywood mogul and major Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein, relishing an opportunity to administer perceived payback for the criticism directed at the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
Fox’s Sean Hannity spent Monday decrying liberals’ silence, saying it was indicative of the “selective moral outrage we have come to expect from the left.” Yet Hannity ignored his own selectivity, which has included standing behind Ailes by dismissing Gretchen Carlson’s original harassment claim as “BS” and featuring O’Reilly on his program a few weeks ago.
O’Reilly has called the campaign that resulted in his ouster from Fox a “political hit job.” While that reflects the former host’s flair for the dramatic, many of Fox News’ detractors did appear gleeful seeing the network forced to play defense and put through public humiliation over alleged transgressions by its stars, which also led to the departure of Eric Bolling.
In April, some reports described the Twitter response to the O’Reilly news as “a party.” At the time, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell introduced attorney Lisa Bloom — who most recently made headlines by representing Weinstein — as “the lawyer who drove Bill O’Reilly out of Fox News.”
By Tuesday night, the conservative meme espoused by Hannity and others that liberals — from actors to late-night comics — had failed to disavow Weinstein melted amid a torrent of condemnation. While one can argue that it came, a chorus of voices have weighed in as the accusations have mounted.” (Through a representative, Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex or retaliation against women for rejecting his advances.)
On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow interviewed the author of the explosive New Yorker piece about Weinstein, Ronan Farrow, on Tuesday and asked why NBC News, ultimately her employer, let the story slip away. She also questioned the “level of complicity and knowledge” surrounding Weinstein and noted that a secondary aspect of the story is “about everybody who had contact with these allegations.”
For celebrities and the politicians who embrace them, take their contributions and showcase them at rallies, the Weinstein deluge has offered a stark reminder of the dangers in guilt by association. But the by-now-familiar emphasis on seeking to damage the highest-profile figures with a connection to the accused does little more than cloud the issue in terms of identifying those responsible for helping to enable them.
Taking someone’s money, it seems fair to say, doesn’t automatically indicate knowledge, or endorsement, of everything else they do.
Perhaps foremost, dragging these stories into the political realm risks obscuring the central issue — leaping to charges of hypocrisy so eagerly as to potentially elide over the underlying conduct about which one’s opponents are being hypocritical.
Simply put, awful is awful. As CNN’s Jake Tapper stated in regard to allegations surrounding figures across the ideological spectrum, “You don’t get to pick and choose which ones you find valid and outrageous based on political party.”
To use another analogy, if you overlook an athlete’s misbehavior strictly because he plays for your favorite team, it’s time to fold up that jersey and reassess your priorities.
The tit-for-tat-style finger-pointing not only sounds childish, but in this context, an eye for an eye really does make the whole world blind. And when it comes to sexual misconduct involving people in positions of power, too many have turned a blind eye long enough.