Kirsten Gillibrand, long a champion of women, finds the nation joining her

The New York Times reports: For much of the year, Kirsten Gillibrand’s critics — sensing a presidential aspirant in their midst — had assumed that the New York senator could not hear enough about herself. For one day at least, it appeared she had.

It had been about 10 hours since President Trump accused her of “begging” for campaign contributions that she “would do anything” to secure, and the Ms. Gillibrand, driving with her 14-year-old son on Tuesday evening, flipped on the radio looking for an update on the Senate race in Alabama. The top story, instead, was her. The radio went off again.

What, exactly, had the president said about her? her son asked.

“He thinks mommy is doing a bad job,” she recalled telling him, taking care to censor.

After a Senate career spent elevating victims of sexual harassment and assault as a defining political focus, Ms. Gillibrand has assumed her place at the head table of the Democrats’ anti-Trump movement. The reason is simple: Her cause became the country’s. And she has made sure to stay out front in the reckoning.

Ms. Gillibrand was the first in her caucus to say Senator Al Franken of Minnesota should resign. She was the first prominent Democrat to say President Bill Clinton should have left office for his own sexual misconduct in the 1990s. She called for Mr. Trump to step down, citing his “numerous” and “credible” accusers. Then came Mr. Trump’s Twitter counterpunch, which was widely viewed as innuendo-laden and which Ms. Gillibrand denounced as a “sexist smear.”

Yet Ms. Gillibrand’s strengthening hand in national Democratic politics owes to more than mere circumstance. Circumstance does not transform an upstate congresswoman, who once boasted of keeping guns under her bed and pushed English as the official language of the United States, into an avatar of progressivism in 2017.

Ever since her long-shot entrance into a 2006 House race against an entrenched Republican in a conservative district, Ms. Gillibrand has been underestimated. Colleagues in the House once derided her as “Tracy Flick,” the hyper-ambitious blonde played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie “Election.” And when David A. Paterson, New York’s governor at the time, made her the shock pick to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009, she was immediately seen as vulnerable, especially from the left.

“She had very middle-of-the-road points of view,” Mr. Paterson said. “It just kind of appeared that she sort of flipped. I think in retrospect, it would have been better to evolve.”

That knock has not stuck, and she appears to be looking at the next rung of the political ladder. While Ms. Gillibrand and her political team play down all talk of 2020, saying she is focused on her own 2018 re-election and those of her fellow Senate Democrats, she has for months been doing the type of spadework endemic to past presidential candidates: expanding her fund-raising network, courting key constituencies like black voters and polishing her image nationally. [Continue reading…]

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Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames: The two expat bros who terrorized women correspondents in Moscow

Kathy Lally writes: There’s more than one way to harass women. A raft of men in recent weeks have paid for accusations of sexual harassment with their companies, their jobs, their plum political posts. But one point has been overlooked in the scandals: Men can be belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex. (Try sloughing off heaps of contempt with your self-esteem intact.) We have no consensus — and hardly any discussion — about how we should treat behaviors that are misogynist and bullying but fall short of breaking the law.

Twenty years ago, when I was a Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, two Americans named Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames ran an English-language tabloid in the Russian capital called the eXile. They portrayed themselves as swashbuckling parodists, unbound by the conventions of mainstream journalism, exposing Westerners who were cynically profiting from the chaos of post-Soviet Russia.

A better description is this: The eXile was juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys. It is back in the news because Taibbi just wrote a new book, and interviewers are asking him why he and Ames acted so boorishly back then. The eXile’s distinguishing feature, more than anything else, was its blinding sexism — which often targeted me.

At the time, the paper had its defenders, even those who acknowledged its misogyny and praised it anyway. A Rolling Stone article by Brian Preston in 1998 described the eXile’s “misogynist rants, dumb pranks, insulting club listings and photos of blood-soaked corpses, all redeemed by political reporting that’s read seriously not only in Moscow but also in Washington.” A 2010 Vanity Fair reminiscence by James Verini wrote: “They call Ames and Taibbi, singly or in combination, children, louts, misogynists, madmen, pigs, hypocrites, anarchists, fascists, racists, and fiends.” But “what made The Exile so popular, and still makes it so readable, was its high-low mix of acute coverage and character assassination, sermonizing laced with smut — a balance that has also characterized Taibbi’s work at Rolling Stone, where he has been a contributing editor for the last five years.” Taibbi still writes for Rolling Stone; Ames, too, works in journalism, running a podcast on war and conflict. [Continue reading…]

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Head of congressional ethics office sued for abusing position, accused of assaulting women

Foreign Policy reports: A top congressional ethics official who oversees investigations into misconduct by lawmakers is accused in a federal lawsuit of verbally abusing and physically assaulting women and using his federal position to influence local law enforcement, according to a complaint filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania last month.

The ongoing lawsuit against Omar Ashmawy, staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, stems from his involvement in a late-night brawl in 2015 in Milford, Pennsylvania, and includes a range of allegations relating to his behavior that evening and in the following two-and-half years.

Ashmawy’s office conducts the preliminary investigations into allegations of misconduct in the House of Representatives, deciding which cases to pursue or refer to the Committee on Ethics. He is named in congressional documents as the official who presented one of the investigations into John Conyers, the Democratic lawmaker from Michigan accused of sexual harassment, to the ethics committee for further action.

Among other allegations, Ashmawy is accused in the lawsuit of “threatening to use his position as staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics to induce a criminal proceeding to be brought against Plaintiff and/or others,” according to the federal lawsuit filed against him.

In court filings and in statements to Foreign Policy, Ashmawy denied the allegations laid out in the lawsuit. [Continue reading…]

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‘Nikki Haley stuck a knife in his back’: Roger Stone is already writing the story of Trump’s downfall

Gabriel Sherman writes: In the closing days of the Alabama Senate election, Steve Bannon told people that Donald Trump’s political survival depended on Trump supporting Roy Moore. Bannon’s argument, according to those who spoke with him, was that establishment Republicans and Democrats would use Moore’s defeat as a political weapon to force Trump to face the sexual harassment allegations that have dogged him since the 2016 election. Bannon called Alabama Trump’s “firebreak.”

Last night, the flames leapt into the West Wing. Moore’s dramatic loss to Democrat Doug Jones in a state Trump carried by 62 percent is sowing panic among some of Trump’s kitchen Cabinet. “This shows the public is taking the sexual harassment issue seriously. The president has a big problem,” a Republican close to the White House told me. Even before the election, Democrats renewed calls for Trump to resign for his alleged treatment of women. This week, three of Trump’s accusers launched a media tour to elevate the issue. Even a member of Trump’s administration weighed in. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Face the Nation that Trump’s accusers should be “heard” and “dealt with.”

One Trump ally is making plans to commercialize Trump’s downfall. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told me he is working on a book titled The Unmaking of the President as part of a multi-book deal with Skyhorse Publishing. (Last fall, Skyhorse published Stone’s campaign account, The Making of the President 2016.) “I’ve been writing it as we go along,” he told me. [Continue reading…]

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Harvey Weinstein is my monster too

Salma Hayek writes: In the 14 years that I stumbled from schoolgirl to Mexican soap star to an extra in a few American films to catching a couple of lucky breaks in “Desperado” and “Fools Rush In,” Harvey Weinstein had become the wizard of a new wave of cinema that took original content into the mainstream. At the same time, it was unimaginable for a Mexican actress to aspire to a place in Hollywood. And even though I had proven them wrong, I was still a nobody.

One of the forces that gave me the determination to pursue my career was the story of Frida Kahlo, who in the golden age of the Mexican muralists would do small intimate paintings that everybody looked down on. She had the courage to express herself while disregarding skepticism. My greatest ambition was to tell her story. It became my mission to portray the life of this extraordinary artist and to show my native Mexico in a way that combated stereotypes.

The Weinstein empire, which was then Miramax, had become synonymous with quality, sophistication and risk taking — a haven for artists who were complex and defiant. It was everything that Frida was to me and everything I aspired to be.

I had started a journey to produce the film with a different company, but I fought to get it back to take it to Harvey.

I knew him a little bit through my relationship with the director Robert Rodriguez and the producer Elizabeth Avellan, who was then his wife, with whom I had done several films and who had taken me under their wing. All I knew of Harvey at the time was that he had a remarkable intellect, he was a loyal friend and a family man.

Knowing what I know now, I wonder if it wasn’t my friendship with them — and Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney — that saved me from being raped. [Continue reading…]

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Trump attacks Gillibrand in tweet critics say is sexually suggestive and demeaning

The Washington Post reports: President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” the president wrote. “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”


The tweet came as Trump is already facing negative publicity from renewed allegations from three women who had previously accused him of sexual harassment, which are coming amid the #MeToo movement that is roiling the nation and forcing powerful men accused of sexual misbehavior from their posts. [Continue reading…]

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#MeToo spotlight increasingly pointed at past Trump conduct

The Associated Press reports: Donald Trump sailed past a raft of allegations of sexual misconduct in last year’s presidential election.

Now the national #MeToo spotlight is turning back to Trump and his past conduct. Several of his accusers are urging Congress to investigate his behavior, and a number of Democratic lawmakers are demanding his resignation.

With each day seeming to bring new headlines that force men from positions of power, the movement to expose sexual harassment has forced an unwelcome conversation on the White House. In a heated exchange with reporters in the White House briefing room on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders steadfastly dismissed accusations against the Republican president and suggested the issue had already been litigated in Trump’s favor on Election Day.

But to Trump’s accusers, the rising #MeToo movement is an occasion to ensure he is at last held accountable.

“It was heartbreaking last year. We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try and show America who this man is and how he views women, and for them to say, ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt,” Samantha Holvey said Monday. The former beauty queen claimed that Trump ogled her and other Miss USA pageant contestants in their dressing room in 2006.

“Let’s try round two,” she said. “The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”

Holvey was one of four women to make her case against Trump on Monday, both in an NBC interview and then in a news conference. Rachel Crooks, a former Trump Tower receptionist who said the celebrity businessman kissed her on the mouth in 2006 without consent, called for Congress to “put aside party affiliations and investigate Trump’s history of sexual misconduct.”

“If they were willing to investigate Sen. Franken, it’s only fair that they do the same for Trump,” Crooks said. [Continue reading…]

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand calls on Trump to resign

CNN reports: Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told CNN on Monday that President Donald Trump should resign over allegations of sexual assault.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.

“These allegations are credible; they are numerous, ” said Gillibrand, a leading voice in Congress for combating sexual assault in the military. “I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

If he does not “immediately resign,” she said, Congress “should have appropriate investigations of his behavior and hold him accountable.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump accusers renew sexual misconduct charges against him, say it was ‘heartbreaking’ to see him elected

The Washington Post reports: As the country grapples with a national reckoning over sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men, three women who accused the most high-profile man in America again questioned Monday why their claims did nothing to stop him from winning the presidency.

It was “heartbreaking” for women to go public with their claims against President Trump last year, only to see him ascend to the Oval Office, said Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant who in October 2016 said Trump inappropriately inspected pageant participants.

“I put myself out there for the entire world, and nobody cared,” Holvey said Monday on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” show.

During the television appearance and a news conference, Holvey sat alongside Jessica Leeds, a New York woman who said Trump groped her on a plane, and Rachel Crooks, who said he kissed her on the lips at Trump Tower, to renew their allegations against the president.

The women also called for Congress to investigate these allegations amid the dramatic shift happening nationwide in response to charges of sexual misconduct against men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. Claims have erupted across industry after industry, against lawmakers and movie stars alike, as the country has shown a sudden, newfound willingness to take such accusations seriously. [Continue reading…]

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Why the #MeToo movement should be ready for a backlash

Emily Yoffe writes: In the final five years of his presidency, Barack Obama’s administration undertook a worthy and bold challenge: the elimination of sexual assault on campuses. In fact, Obama’s team had a much more ambitious goal in mind. Vice President Joe Biden, the point person for the campus initiative, said at the end of his term that the administration was seeking “to fundamentally change the culture around sexual assault”—everywhere. New rules of sexual engagement between college students were written at the directive of the administration, but top Obama officials said they wanted these to be applied in the workplace and beyond. “You’re going to change the workplaces you work in,” Tina Tchen, director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said at a 2016 event honoring campus sexual assault activists. “You’re going to raise your sons and daughters differently.”

They expected this transformation to take years. But with the daily toppling of powerful men who have committed sexual violations in Hollywood, the media, Congress and more, these changes have become seismic. The silenced have been given voice, and their testimony has resulted in the swift professional demise of perpetrators. Shocking descriptions of the behavior of powerful men have shown that it’s not universally understood that it’s unacceptable to display one’s genitals at work or to sexually abuse colleagues.

We now have an opportunity for profound reform, for women and men to join together to treat each other with dignity and respect. But as this unexpected revolution unfolds, we should also keep in mind the dangers of creating new injustices in the service of correcting old ones.

For that, it’s useful to look at how reforms played out on campus, where, unfortunately, many of the Obama administration’s good intentions went awry. Among the principles and polices that have become entrenched at schools—and are now spilling out into the wider world—are the beliefs that accusers are virtually always telling the truth; that the urgency to take action is more important than fair procedures; that we shouldn’t make distinctions between criminal acts and boorishness; and that predatory male behavior is ubiquitous. These beliefs have resulted in many campus cases in which the accused was treated with fundamental unfairness, spawning a legal subspecialty of suing schools on behalf of these young men. Examining what happened on campuses shows where the politics and social rules of interaction between the sexes might be headed—and how to avoid making the same mistakes on a larger scale. [Continue reading…]

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Don’t let the alt-right hijack #MeToo for their agenda

Rebecca Solnit writes: That was fast. In this #MeToo moment, feminism has been coopted by both people who don’t understand it and by people who oppose it. Worse: it’s now being used against people who are feminists and allies.

The most recent example comes from Mike Cernovich, the alt-right conspiracy theorist who led the way on the Pizzagate hoax that claimed senior Democrats were involved in a child abuse ring in the basement of a Washington DC restaurant. That whole ruckus should’ve given MSNBC pause when he went after one of their regulars.

Cernovich recently orchestrated a campaign to pressure MSNBC to fire contributor Sam Seder over a joke he made in a 2009 tweet. The network did fire him – only to then rehire him after a backlash against their decision.

If you have ever been exposed to jokes before, you’d know the tweet was sarcastic. It mocked people whose defense of Roman Polanski from child rape accusations rested on the fact that he was a ‘great artist’. It was an anti-rapist rape joke, like the kind that Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer and even Jay Leno later told about Bill Cosby.

We’re now at the point where people are being canned for jokes, by people who don’t get the jokes, don’t get feminism, don’t get that maybe there should be some proportion in this thing, and don’t get that right-wing men with a public record of misogyny might not be your best guides through all this. [Continue reading…]

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Ambassador Haley on Trump’s accusers: ‘They should be heard’

The Washington Post reports: Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that the women who have accused President Trump of touching or groping them without their consent “should be heard.”

Haley’s comments, made on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” diverged from the White House position on the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of misconduct. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said that the White House’s position is that the women are lying and that the American people settled the issue by electing Trump despite the accusations.

Asked by CBS’s John Dickerson whether she considered the allegations a “settled issue” given last year’s election results, Haley responded, “You know, that’s for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.”

She addressed Trump’s accusers after praising women who have come forward with allegations about powerful men in various other industries. Dickerson then asked her how “people should assess the accusers of the president.”

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Haley responded. “And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.” [Continue reading…]

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In Franken’s wake, three senators call on President Trump to resign

The Washington Post reports: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and two of his Democratic colleagues have suggested that President Trump should consider resigning, after a run of sexual-harassment scandals has driven out some members of Congress.

Sen. Al Franken “felt it proper for him to resign,” Sanders said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, referring to the Democrat from Minnesota. “Here you have a president who has been accused by many women of assault, who says on a tape that he assaulted women. He might want to think about doing the same.”

Sanders’s comment, which built on a tweet he sent last week, came after Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) suggested that the “#MeToo moment” should prompt another look at the women who accused Trump of sexual harassment during the 2016 presidential campaign. [Continue reading…]

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The tech industry’s gender-discrimination problem

Sheelah Kolhatkar writes: One day in 2013, AJ Vandermeyden drove to Tesla’s corporate headquarters, in Palo Alto, California, sat down on a bench outside the main entrance, and waited, in the hope of spotting someone who looked like a company employee. Vandermeyden, who was thirty years old, had been working as a pharmaceutical sales representative since shortly after college, but she wanted a different kind of job, in what seemed to her the center of the world—Silicon Valley. She knew that Tesla’s ambitious, eccentric co-founder Elon Musk was managing companies devoted to space flight and solar energy, in addition to running Tesla, which was producing electric cars, and she was inspired by his mission. Tesla was growing quickly and offered numerous opportunities for employees to advance. The company, Musk liked to say, was a “meritocracy,” and Vandermeyden wanted to be a part of it.

Vandermeyden saw a man wearing a Tesla T-shirt and walked over to introduce herself. After she found out that he worked in sales, the department she wanted to join, she decided to deliver her pitch to him right then. He seemed impressed by her nerve. A few weeks later, she was hired at Tesla as a product specialist in the inside-sales department.

At first, Vandermeyden thrived at Tesla. After almost a year, she was promoted to the job of engineering project coördinator in the paint department. The new position involved working out of Tesla’s automotive manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, where hundreds of apple-red robot arms assembled Tesla vehicles on a white factory floor. The whirr of the robots in motion gave the plant the feel of something out of science fiction.

But even in this futuristic environment there was something about life at Tesla that seemed distinctly atavistic—and deeply wrong. Vandermeyden, who worked closely with a group of eight other employees, soon learned that her salary was lower than that of everyone else in the group, including several new hires who had come to Tesla straight out of college. She was, as it happened, the only woman in the group. Her supervisors, and her supervisors’ supervisors, were male, all the way up the chain, it seemed, to Musk himself.

At Tesla, as at many tech companies, gallows humor prevailed among some of the women. There was a sense that the male executives had little understanding of the challenges women faced at the company. One former Tesla employee told me that women made up less than ten per cent of her working group; at one point, there were actually more men named Matt in the group than there were women. This became a source of rueful comedy. One male colleague quipped that they should change the sign reading “Women’s Room” to “Matt’s Room.”

Vandermeyden was a dedicated employee. Before long, a manager from the general-assembly division, who had heard that Vandermeyden had worked for twenty-six hours straight on a particular project, persuaded her to switch to his group. She started wearing steel-toed boots and safety glasses at work. She noticed that sometimes, when female employees walked through certain areas of the plant, male workers whistled, catcalled, and made derogatory comments. Women called it the “predator zone.” [Continue reading…]

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Kirsten Gillibrand’s moment has arrived

David Freedlander writes: The Washington sky was darkening outside her window, and Kirsten Gillibrand slumped down in her chair. It had been a long day. In the morning, the New York senator hosted a news conference with a mother whose twin 6-year-old daughters had been allegedly raped by their father’s military commander. As she walked off the podium, she’d been confronted by questions about her colleague Al Franken’s reported history of groping women, news that broke for the first time that morning. “Deeply concerning,” she replied, adding that she believed the story of his accusers. “I expect to hear more from Senator Franken.” And she had just come from a podcast interview with the New York Times in which she’d blown through the Democratic code of silence on Clinton misdeeds by saying that yes, if Bill Clinton were president now, he would have to resign after something like the Monica Lewinsky affair.

That last one wasn’t a piece of news Gillibrand had planned on making that morning. She had long been a supporter of the Clintons, both of them. She inherited Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate, and credits her with the decision to run for office in the first place. Bill Clinton campaigned for her in her first run for Congress. She strongly supported both of Hillary’s campaigns for president. But Gillibrand is no longer a rank-and-file Clinton Democrat. As the nation is convulsed with a deluge of allegations of sexual harassment and assault, one that seemingly every day fells another star, Gillibrand is at the political center of it. For years she has been battling against sexual assault in the military and on campus, and talking about sexual harassment in politics, and now at last it seems as if the rest of the world has caught up to her concerns. And so once the question has been put before you, in this political moment, when at long last it looks like all of that work is finally paying off and progress is being made, what else can you say about Bill Clinton lying about having oral sex with his 22-year-old intern other than that he should have stepped down and “things have changed today”?

The blowback was immediate. “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons endorsement, money and seat. Hypocrite,” wrote Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton confidant, on Twitter. “Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

The first half of the tweet was predictable, a Clinton loyalist biting back at a perceived threat to the family. But the second half was telling. The world is paying attention to Gillibrand in a new way. At least since the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, when Gillibrand thrilled the crowd at the Women’s March, jabbing the air with her finger and telling them, “This is the moment of the beginning of the revival of the women’s movement. This is the moment you will remember when women stood strong and stood firm and said never again. This is the moment that you are going to be heard!” The 51-year-old Gillibrand has come to represent a rising generation of Democratic leaders, one who came of age in an era when equality of the sexes was something almost taken for granted. And the buzz about her presidential ambitions has only grown. [Continue reading…]

 

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Dylan Farrow: Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?

Dylan Farrow writes: We are in the midst of a revolution. From allegations against studio heads and journalists, to hotel maids recounting abuses on the job, women are exposing the truth and men are losing their jobs. But the revolution has been selective.

I have long maintained that when I was 7 years old, Woody Allen led me into an attic, away from the babysitters who had been instructed never to leave me alone with him. He then sexually assaulted me. I told the truth to the authorities then, and I have been telling it, unaltered, for more than 20 years. Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon, greenlit by former Amazon Studios executive Roy Price before he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations? Allen’s latest feature, “Wonder Wheel,” was released theatrically on Dec. 1.

Allen denies my allegations. But this is not a “he said, child said” situation. Allen’s pattern of inappropriate behavior — putting his thumb in my mouth, climbing into bed with me in his underwear, constant grooming and touching — was witnessed by friends and family members. At the time of the alleged assault, he was in therapy for his conduct towards me. Three eyewitnesses substantiated my account, including a babysitter who saw Allen with his head buried in my lap after he had taken off my underwear. Allen refused to take a polygraph administered by the Connecticut state police.

In the final legal disposition of the matter, a judge denied him custody of me, writing that “measures must be taken to protect” me and that there was “no credible evidence” that my mother, Mia Farrow, coached me in any way. A prosecutor took the unusual step of announcing that he had probable cause to charge Allen but declined in order to spare me, a “child victim,” from an exhausting trial.

It is a testament to Allen’s public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts. It also speaks to the forces that have historically protected men like Allen: the money and power deployed to make the simple complicated, to massage the story. [Continue reading…]

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Al Franken’s resignation and the selective force of #MeToo

Masha Gessen writes: On what he called the worst day of his political life, Senator Al Franken articulated two points that are central to understanding what has become known as the #MeToo moment. In an eleven-minute speech, in which Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate, he made this much clear: the force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country’s population—those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media.

There was one notable absence in his speech: Franken did not apologize. In fact, he made it clear that he disagreed with his accusers. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.” Earlier, Franken had in fact apologized to his accusers, and he didn’t take his apologies back now, but he made it plain that they had been issued in the hopes of facilitating a conversation and an investigation that would clear him. He had, it seems, been attempting to buy calm time to work while a Senate ethics committee looked into the accusations. But, by Thursday morning, thirty-two Democratic senators had called on Franken to resign. The force of the #MeToo moment leaves no room for due process, or, indeed, for Franken’s own constituents to consider their choice.

Still, the force works selectively. “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” said Franken, referring to Donald Trump and the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Trump and Moore are immune because the blunt irresistible force works only on the other half of the country.

That half is cleaning its ranks in the face of—and in clear reaction to—genuine moral depravity on the other side. The Trump era is one of deep and open immorality in politics. Moore is merely one example. Consider Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won his congressional race earlier this year after not only being captured on tape shoving a newspaper reporter but then also lying to police about it. Consider the tax bill, which is stitched together from shameless greed and boldface lies. Consider the series of racist travel bans. Consider the withdrawal from a series of international agreements aimed at bettering the future of humanity, from migration to climate change to cultural preservation. These are men who proclaim their allegiance to the Christian faith while acting in openly hateful, duplicitous, and plainly murderous ways. In response to this unbearable spectacle, the roughly half of Americans who are actually deeply invested in thinking of themselves as good people are trying to claim a moral high ground. [Continue reading…]

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Time Person of the Year 2017: The silence breakers

Time reports: Discussions of sexual harassment in polite company tend to rely on euphemisms: harassment becomes “inappropriate behavior,” assault becomes “misconduct,” rape becomes “abuse.” We’re accustomed to hearing those softened words, which downplay the pain of the experience. That’s one of the reasons why the Access Hollywood tape that surfaced in October 2016 was such a jolt. The language used by the man who would become America’s 45th President, captured on a 2005 recording, was, by any standard, vulgar. He didn’t just say that he’d made a pass; he “moved on her like a bitch.” He didn’t just talk about fondling women; he bragged that he could “grab ’em by the pussy.”

That Donald Trump could express himself that way and still be elected President is part of what stoked the rage that fueled the Women’s March the day after his Inauguration. It’s why women seized on that crude word as the emblem of the protest that dwarfed Trump’s Inauguration crowd size. “All social movements have highly visible precipitating factors,” says Aldon Morris, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University. “In this case, you had Harvey Weinstein, and before that you had Trump.”

Megyn Kelly, the NBC anchor who revealed in October that she had complained to Fox News executives about Bill O’Reilly’s treatment of women, and who was a target of Trump’s ire during the campaign, says the tape as well as the tenor of the election turned the political into the personal. “I have real doubts about whether we’d be going through this if Hillary Clinton had won, because I think that President Trump’s election in many ways was a setback for women,” says Kelly, who noted that not all women at the march were Clinton supporters. “But the overall message to us was that we don’t really matter.”

So it was not entirely surprising that 2017 began with women donning “pussy hats” and marching on the nation’s capital in a show of unity and fury. What was startling was the size of the protest. It was one of the largest in U.S. history and spawned satellite marches in all 50 states and more than 50 other countries.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, was one of roughly 20 women to accuse the President of sexual harassment. She filed a defamation suit against Trump days before his Inauguration after he disputed her claims by calling her a liar. A New York judge is expected to decide soon if the President is immune to civil suits while in office. No matter the outcome, the allegations added fuel to a growing fire. [Continue reading…]

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