Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Dustin Hoffman. I was surprised when their names surfaced as sexual harassers and who knows, perhaps worse. Surprised? They ‘seemed’ like good guys. They appeared to be honourable. All were marketed as individuals who would be expressing shock at the appearance of names of harassers and abusers on the rapidly and publicly expanding list, rather than cloyingly apologizing for being there.
Harvey Weinstein whose exposure as a serial harasser and accused abuser/rapist seemed no real surprise. Not because I’d heard rumours, but, unfair as it may be, rather because Weinstein’s appearance is central casting’s version of a man you’d never leave alone with your wife or daughter.
Harassment of women by the famous is not a new phenomenon. Bill Cosby, anyone? Or, William Jefferson Clinton. The poster boy of miscreants. Accused of sexual harassment, accused of sexual assault, accused of rape. The names of alleged victims of the former U.S. president are familiar. Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Lesley Millwee and Paula Jones to whom Clinton paid $850,000 in a sexual harassment suit settlement.
There were consensual infidelities. Sometime actress and magazine model Gennifer Flowers in 2012 insisted she and Clinton would still be together if it weren’t for the birth of Bill and Hillary’s daughter Chelsea. The most infamous of Bill Clinton’s consensual extra-marital encounters was with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Remember “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
It was Kathleen Willey, who appearing on Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News, directed focus squarely on the largely soft treatment reserved for Clinton. “Everyone in mainstream media is calling all of Bill Clinton’s crimes infidelities. Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are not infidelities. They are crimes and they are misdemeanours.” Ms. Willey has repeatedly stated Clinton sexually assaulted her both in the Oval Office, as well as in a small room nearby.
I’m writing this column on November 30. As of today alleged harassers named since Weinstein’s exposure just a few short weeks ago include, comedian Louis C.K (volunteered his guilt), John Lasseter, Disney’s animation boss (sorry for those he made feel uncomfortable), Kevin Spacey (Oscar winner accused by at least 24 men of sexual harassment or assault) and Al Franken (U.S. Senator and SNL alum has apologized).
The list of accused’s names is much, much longer, as women and in some cases men, have responded to the #metoo initiative to expose sexual harassers. I counted fifty-two in just one news story. For the purpose of this column I have named only those who have admitted to their sexual misconduct.
Then there is this cautionary tale. A former radio associate told me he had complimented a female co-worker on her appearance as they passed each other by one morning. He was summoned to a meeting with management later in the day. The woman reported feeling uncomfortable with such attention.
Was he out of line? Was his co-worker guilty of over-reaction? I’ve mentioned this case on air from time to time. There is never a clear consensus.