Friday, December 8, 2017

Person of the Year Hypocrisy: How has Trump Escaped the Sex Scandal Avalanche?

by Nomad

Trump and Sexual accusers

Since October, Americans have witnessed an unprecedented and- some think- disturbing- spectacle. Sexual accusations against some important names have been flying from all sides. From celebrities to business figures, from journalists to politicians from both sides of the political spectrum.
So far, however, one man has managed to escape scrutiny that's been a long time in coming - the President of the United States.

The Weinstein Rumblings

The conflagration all seemed to begin with the stomach-turning revelations of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein back in October. That's when the New York Times and the New Yorker published the statements of a large number of women claimed that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted by the 65-year-old Weinstein. It was a disgrace litany of predatory behavior.

Initially, Weinstein went into denial mode with lawyerly threats to sue the news outlets. However, the accusations - lurid tales of forced massages and promises to advance careers in return for sexual "favors"- were both detailed and damning.

It seems like it was an open secret in Hollywood. Literally, hundreds of people must have known about the Weinstein problem and for decades, nothing was done about it.

In his own forced mea culpa, director Quentin Tarantino told reporters:
"I knew enough to do more than I did."
The fact that nobody wanted to speak out had as much to do with the privilege of power as the social dynamic of male-female relations. Weinstein could make things very difficult for an ambitious filmmaker or actor.
For that reason, nobody wanted to cross this very powerful Hollywood player. And so, if the stories are true, Weinstein carried on for years. Or should I say, he was permitted to carry on for years. 

Then came Kevin Spacey on October 29. Anthony Rapp, an actor on Star Trek: Discovery, declared that when Rapp was a 14-year-old child actor, Spacey made sexual advances in 1986. Rapp admitted that these advances led nowhere. But, cried the outraged public, a 14-year-old boy?

Spacey acknowledged that it might have happened. he couldn't recall. He was out-of-control at that time in his life, he said. But if the incident, he apologized for this apparently one-off incident.

In colossal misstep, Spacey took that opportunity to come out of the closet for the first time in public
Immediately, Spacey was declared persona non-grata when more alleged victims came out of the woodwork. Within days, the entertainment industry- along with much of the Western world- dropped Spacey like a rotten slab of meat. The public seemed satisfied with the "off with his head" approach.

Then along came the politically-outspoken Star Trekker George Takei. He was accused by a former model and actor of “groping at my crotch and trying to get my underwear off” after he was passed out at the star’s home.

The accuser said he “pushed him off” and left Takei’s house. He also claimed to have met up with Takei for coffee years later, but never discussed the incident with Takei. 
For his part, Takei simply said he was "shocked and bewildered" and issued this statement- which was clearly an improvement on Spacey's.
I do take these claims very seriously, and I wanted to provide my response thoughtfully and not out of the moment.
Right now it is a he said/he said situation, over alleged events nearly 40 years ago. But those that know me understand that non-consensual acts are so antithetical to my values and my practices, the very idea that someone would accuse me of this is quite personally painful.
Accusations against some top names went into overdrive in November, swamping the mainstream press and social media.
Time magazine gave a short list of accused - 100 in all. (and that's just since the Weinstein story broke!)
The list includes
  • newscasters Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose and Geraldo Rivera, 
  • NPR chief news editor David Sweeney
  • White House correspondent for the New York Times, Glenn Thrush 
  • entertainer and author Garrison Keillor
  • former boy band member Nick Carter
  • actors Sylvester Stallone, Tom Sizemore, Steven Seagal, Jeremy PivenDustin Hoffman, Jeffrey Tambor, and Richard Dreyfuss 
  • the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animations Studio John Lasseter
  • celebrity interviewer Ryan Seacrest
  • music and TV producer Russell Simmons
  • Producer and comedian Louis C.K. 
  • Mad Men producer Matthew Weiner
  • Oh yeah, even shlumpy porn star, Ron Jeremy.
Then came the accusations against political figures. Those names included
  • Al Franken (D)
  • John Conyers (D)
  • Blake Farenthold (R)
  • Ruben Kihuen (R)
  • President George H. W. Bush (R)
  • Roy Moore (R)
And that list will -beyond any question- continue to grow. 

Here Are All the Public Figures Who've Been Accused of Sexual Misconduct After Harvey Weinstein

Since the New York Times and The New Yorker first published allegations of sexual harassment and rape against Harvey Weinstein by Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and dozens of others, the disgraced producer has been fired from his company and Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance is reportedly seeking an indictment against him.

House Cleaning or Witch Hunt?

So if you have felt overwhelmed by this blizzard of sexual misconduct claims, it's quite understandable. It's important to note that in each case, there have been no lawsuits claims (as far as I can tell.) The accusations have varying degrees of collaboration and detail and each one is different. No judge has heard any of these cases and the only jury has been the merciless court of public opinion.  
That sort of court as we have seen is an extraordinarily fickle one.

What the hell is going on? 
Even that's a debatable issue. Some have deemed these events as a  defiant demolishing of the male power structure by courageous women. Something that's been long overdue. A house-cleaning of male privilege run amok.

Others have seen this as a miscarriage of due process and a frenzied national witch hunt. In the political arena, it has been labeled as a smear campaign lead by dirty tricksters of the  Breitbart Alex Jones and Roger Stone variety.
Or is this just a case of journalistic malpractice? It wouldn't be the first time. 

As the Hollywood Reporter observes, back in the 1980s, Los Angeles (and most of the country) was gripped by a story of witchery, sodomy at the McMartin school for toddlers.

Six teachers and administrators were accused of performing the most heinous sex acts on children, some involving small animals, others satanic rituals. The story soon took on a life of its own and the press didn't seem to question whether any of these bizarre claims were factual. Reputations were destroyed on the flimsiest of evidence, which mainly consisted of the possibly tainted testimony of children.
And yet none of it was true.
After years of investigations and multiple trials, not a single person connected to the McMartin preschool scandal (as the case was known) was ever found guilty, though many of the accused had their lives left in ruins. One alleged culprit, Ray Buckey, endured two separate trials, and both ended in hung juries, after he’d spent five years waiting in jail.
Children were traumatized and livelihoods were trashed.

It should have been an important and cautionary lesson for all journalists. Accusations can be made by anybody- by the genuine victims and by people who crave attention or have a score to settle or who are paid to perform a "service," namely, character assassination and reputation demolition.

Until the accused and the accuser have their own days in court, the rule of law declares that due process -no matter how difficult or slow it might be- is how real justice is achieved.
Throw out that fundamental rule and tomorrow you could be accused of shoplifting by a near-sighted shopkeeper or of child beating by a delusional busybody. You could be run out of your own neighborhood, based only on a series of vulgar innuendo s and juicy gossip from people who prefer to remain anonymous.  

False accusations are a fact of life and we would be naive to believe every accuser without a careful examination of the facts. We owe it not just to the accused but to every genuine victim of sexual abuse. Nothing can damage the case for all sexual abuse victims than for false allegations to be made and later disproven.

In spite of all these allegations, there's something still worse. Even if you believe in your heart that this is only way the truth can ever come out, it is a sorry type of justice that allows the worst offender- alleged offender- to escape without breaking a sweat.

Trump's Well-Worn Teflon

Since October, there's one man who has appeared to have remained inexplicably untouched throughout these proceeding. The President of the United States- the man who actually boasted about committing sexual assaults worse than the "scandal" that destroyed many on Time's list.

The Pappy-Daddy of all sexual misconduct allegations against Trump is, of course, the lawsuit filed in June 2016 by "Jane Doe." According to that lawsuit, in 1994, Trump went to a party with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire who later became a registered sex offender, and raped a 13-year-old girl that night in what was called a "savage sexual attack."

Here's a copy of the California lawsuit (filed on 26 April 2016)

The account was corroborated by a witness in the suit, who claimed to have watched as the child performed various sexual acts on Trump and Epstein even after the two were advised she was a minor.
Immediately following this rape Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump’s sexual and physical abuse of me, my family and I would be physically harmed if not killed," Jane Doe wrote in the lawsuit, filed in New York.
The lawsuit was dropped in November 2016, just four days before the election, with Jane Doe's attorneys citing "numerous threats" against her.
It is only an allegation, of course. We ought to take it just as seriously as any of the other allegations we have heard in the last two months.

It was not the only allegation against Trump. Not by a long shot.
In her 1990 divorce deposition, his own wife, Ivanna, claimed she had been orally raped by her husband during an argument. She later retracted that claim, implying either she had been misunderstood or had exaggerated the claim. In 2015, Ivanna officially denied the story- her own story- as being "totally without merit."
So she lied under oath and denied the lie while not under oath. 

There have been plenty of other women who haven't been so willing to retract their statements.

The Atlantic Monthly recently highlighted the list of Trump's accusers- 19 in all. Many of these women came forward following the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016.
According to the women, it was Trump's denials that provoked them into going public with their allegations. Compared to the current public outrage, the reaction a year ago was very very different.
And this has rightly confused the accusers. As New York Mag points out:
(I)n recent weeks several of Trump’s accusers have said that while they’re happy sexual harassment is being discussed more openly, they’re still dismayed that their own stories seem to have had little impact.
That tape exposed the true Trump for all the world to see. A man who thought he could get away with anything when it came to women.
But then, why shouldn't he think this way? He has been escaping accountability all of his life. And when he somehow managed to win the election, his faith in his Teflon-ness proved more accurate than even he could have imagined.

Despite being a boast about sexual assault, Time Magazine even gave Trump the "Person of the Year" cover slot for 2016.

Taking Liberties

Admittedly some of the accusations could be cataloged as- to use a good Victorian expression- "taking liberties" rather than outright sexual assault. It's a fine line to draw but journalists have not shied away from crossing the line when it came to Al Franken and Charlie Rose and Garrison Keillor and a few others.

Here's what I mean. A contestant in season four of The Apprentice, Jennifer Murphy alleges that Trump kissed her on the lips after a job interview. There was no question that the kiss was neither expected or appreciated. 
Does this claim qualify as a sexual assault or simply inappropriate behavior?

In any case, if the claims of other women are true, it certainly established a pattern of misbehavior. And more importantly, it is exactly the same behavior he himself has admitted to, bragged out privately.

Journalist Natasha Stoynoff claimed that Trump pushed her against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat while on a tour of Mar-a-Lago. This, by the way, was the worst of the accusations filed against outgoing Senator Al Franken. 

Jill Harth's allegation dates back to 1993 when she claimed that Trump made repeated unwanted and aggressive sexual advances.Harth said,
“He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again and I had to physically say: ‘What are you doing? Stop it.’ It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George [her husband], he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I’m there for business?”
Kristin Anderson claimed that back in the early 1990s while she was out at a New York club with friends someone slid his hand under her miniskirt and touched her vagina through her underwear. The man in question- you guessed it- wild and crazy Donald Trump.

And there's Summer Zervos, a contestant on the fifth season of The Apprentice. She claims she was assaulted by Trump which included aggressively kissing, breast-grabbing, thrusting his genitals against her after she repeatedly demanded he desist. Trump's reaction to the allegation was characteristic. He attacked the accuser.
Days before Trump was inaugurated, Zervos filed a defamation suit against him. The lawsuit alleges:
" response to the accusations she made during the election, Trump “debased and denigrated Ms. Zervos with false statements about her,” referring to his claims that all of his accusers were liars looking for “ten minutes of fame.”
“In doing so, he used his national and international bully pulpit to make false factual statements to denigrate and verbally attack Ms. Zervos and the other women who publicly reported his sexual assaults in October 2016."
The case has yet to come before a court. Whether it will and when is still uncertain.
Trump’s attorneys have sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the president can’t be sued in state court, and that his comments amounted to protected political speech.
Other legal experts say that's a load of hogwash.
However, the Supreme Court has never addressed the question of whether (and when) a sitting president can be sued in state court. 
President Trump has already shown the world that he believes the executive branch is above the land and the president is untouchable. He has the power to do as he wishes, to whomever he wishes and there's zilch you or anybody can do about it.

And therein lies the bitter irony.

In the minds of many people, this entire phenomenon is based on the premise that finally women are finally standing up for themselves and saying to men "Hands off." They are telling the masculine world that you no longer can do as you like with the female body. Or least you can no longer expect passivity. The tide has turned. That's the narrative that the editors of Time Magazine appear to promote.

And that may be true but there's one conclave of male privilege - one last refuge for this backward mentality. The White House. And until President Donald Trump is called upon to explain himself, to apologize and/or resign from office, then the very notion that anything has actually changed for the better for women is a lockerroom joke.