Over the last few weeks, starting with Harvey Weinstein, we've all been back to school: taking a graduate course in sexual harassment. Call it "Sexual Abuse 101." And we've learned at least two big things: how widespread it is; and how to deal with it.
What's shocking is how long prominent men have abused their power to take sexual advantage of women and, until now, gotten away with it. It's universal. In the media: Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Mark Halperin. In Hollywood: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Toback. In politics: Roy Moore, Al Franken, Donald Trump. And that doesn't include: Wall Street, the Pentagon, police departments or corporate boardrooms.
Sexual abuse has been going on forever. It used to be wrongly considered the price women paid to be part of the workforce. It's only come to the surface and widely condemned now thanks to the courage of many women who, knowing full well the personal attacks they would face, nonetheless decided to come forward to expose their predators. Every one of them is a hero.
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Second lesson. There's no acceptable way for a man to take advantage of a woman, either by sexual abuse or sexual assault. Under any circumstances, it's wrong, whether the assailant be priest, politician or pediatrician.
But, once exposed, there's a right way and wrong way for the man accused to deal with it. The right way is to admit one's wrongdoing, apologize to the victim(s), express one's shame and regret and accept the consequences. The wrong way is to deny it, lie about it, refuse to apologize and attack the credibility and innocence of the victims. Sen. Al Franken did it the right way. Senatorial candidate Roy Moore continues to do it the wrong way. And so does President Donald Trump.
With nine women now asserting he preyed on them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, Moore still not only calls all his accusers liars, but denies even knowing the women, even though he signed the yearbook of one, was banned from the local shopping mall for predatory behavior and admits that he did, indeed, like to date teenage girls, but only after asking their mommy's permission.
In a move that gives all Christians a bad name, Moore also trotted out leading evangelicals to defend him and attack his victims. "This is a man who does not lie. Compare that to his accusers," Gordon Klingenschmitt, head of the group "Pray in Jesus' Name" told a Moore campaign rally. Calling out two of the women by name, Klingenschmitt turned the tables by accusing them, and not Moore, of breaking the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not bear false witness."
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Court reporter Gina Boggs told a gathering of female Christian supporters: "I have found his character to be only one thing: and that is godly. He cares more about what God says and thinks than anything else in his life." Yuck! One wonders what God thinks, according to Leigh Corfman's on-the-record comments, about Moore's forcing her as a 14-year-old girl to touch his penis through his underwear.
But, of course, in his denials and personal attacks against his accusers, Roy Moore's only following the playbook of Donald Trump. Over a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual abuse. One of those cases is still pending before the New York Supreme Court. On the "Access Hollywood" tape, Trump even bragged about committing serial sexual assault, grabbing women by their genitals.
Yet, to this day, Trump dismisses their stories as "total fabrication," and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters "the official White House position" is "that all these women are lying." And then Trump has the audacity to condemn Al Franken for conduct he himself is far more guilty of – while uttering not one word of condemnation against Roy Moore. In Donald Trump's world, sexual harassment is OK for Republicans, but not for Democrats. He doesn't care what Roy Moore's done wrong. He wants his vote on tax cuts.
We've seen a lot of hypocrisy in Washington: Republicans who claim to be deficit hawks while adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit; politicians who piously mourn the victims of mass shootings but refuse to do anything about it. But Washington's never seen anything approaching the rank hypocrisy of Donald Trump. How dare the nation's No. 1 sexual predator accuse anybody else of sexual misbehavior? Doesn't he know? People who live in glass (white) houses shouldn't throw stones.