The Left is politicizing the #MeToo movement, undermining a valid and important resetting of our cultural norms. Spotlighting sexual misconduct has become a cudgel in the hands of those who would unseat President Trump, lessening its impact and even its validity. This is a tragedy, because behavior that demeans and damages women needs to be called out. But, as sexual abuse becomes yet another partisan battleground, even those sympathetic to the complaints of women will tune out.
The latest round erupted over President Trump’s response to the firing of White House aide Rob Porter, accused of physically assaulting two former wives, and the resignation of speechwriter David Sorensen, who faced similar charges. The accusations are ugly and, in the case of Porter, appear to have been sufficiently credible that they held up his FBI clearance.
As the story surfaced, Trump initially stood by Porter, saying, “It’s obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career.” The White House’s reaction was further garbled by a statement from communications director Hope Hicks, who expressed support for Porter, whom she is dating.
But the row intensified over the weekend as Mr. Trump turned to Twitter, as he so often does, to make a broader point. He tweeted: “Peoples (sic) lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?”
The New York Times suggested that Trump’s tweet “appeared to raise doubts about the entire #MeToo movement” and described his comments as “seeming indifference to claims of abuse.”
But Trump actually was voicing concerns that people across the country are raising, at dinner parties and around office water coolers, as men increasingly become vulnerable to losing their reputations and jobs under an avalanche of accusations. Many of those charged occupy positions of importance in the arts or in business; many are ordinary people who have made a mistake. Against many, such as Harvey Weinstein, the weight of evidence is overwhelming; others face charges that border on ludicrous, such as Aziz Ansari, who dated a woman who complained that he had missed her “nonverbal cues.”
The #MeToo movement has swept up hundreds of men, many of whom slink offstage, unwilling to defend themselves, knowing that to do so simply fans the flames. In many cases, certainly, there is no defense. But everyone knows of innocents whose lives have been destroyed unfairly. All it takes to get fired at many workplaces is an accusation of inappropriate behavior; most managements and boards of directors do not want the complications or possible reputation risk of defending an employee in today’s hothouse environment.
What many would consider the overreach of #MeToo is propelled in part by politics, which taints the movement. Hatred of Donald Trump, and hopes that charges of sexual abuse might ultimately bring down his presidency, provide critical infrastructure for the cause. The linking of partisan politics with a heightened sensitivity to inappropriate behavior is beyond unfortunate; we do actually need to change a culture that gives men broad license to demean and harass women. And, yes, any woman who has been physically attacked by a man must be heard.
But President Trump’s concern about the wanton disregard for “due process” is entirely valid. Men rarely have the chance to argue their case; the liberal media does not want to provide that opportunity lest the cause is diminished.
Of course, not all of the accused are treated equally. The New York Times, for example, decided not to fire White House reporter Glenn Thrush, who was accused by several women of sexual harassment. He initially was suspended and then given a different beat, as though a new assignment would wipe clean the slate. Tom Ashbrook, NPR host, was suspendedbriefly in December for “engaging in ‘creepy’ sex talks and unwanted contact with 11 mostly young women and men,” as reported by CBS.Ashbrook is back on the job, with no explanation.
Friends of the accused also are treated differently. Joe Scarborough announced on “Morning Joe” reports of accusations made against “our friend Mark Halperin during his time at ABC News over a decade ago, [involving] unnamed sources detailing unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior.” That sure sounds like Donald Trump instinctively standing by an aide and friend who worked hard for him and did a good job.
The Times over the weekend portrayed Trump’s defense of his aide as politically dangerous, suggesting that women en masse would view it as another reason to rally against the president. That’s the hope of Democrats, who have highlighted grievances among Hispanics, African-Americans and now women to attract voters. They assume that women will be so incensed that Trump calls for fairness in dealing with sexual misconduct that they will rush to the voting booth to oppose him or his allies.
That is naïve. Most women I know are as concerned as the men in their lives that the push to reveal sexual misconduct will go too far. And few are single-issue voters. They also care about the economy, and jobs, and the security of the nation.
The Times acknowledges near the end of its article that “Mr. Trump’s call for due process does reflect a fear shared by others that the #MeToo movement has gained so much momentum that in some cases, men accused of misconduct are being judged too quickly and punished too severely for sexual behavior that falls into a gray area.” Yes, that fear is real — and in identifying that fear Trump once again has put his finger on the nation’s pulse. Even Mika Brzezinski has said, “But right now any woman can say anything and a man’s career is ruined.”
Published on The Hill