No sooner had many Democrats and more than a few Republicans ganged-up on Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore for engaging in alleged sexual misconduct than similar accusations were leveled against Sen. Al Franken, a liberal Minnesota Democrat. All of which tells us sexual harassment and misconduct are bipartisan activities ... but we already knew that.
Nine or 10 women have recently come forward to accuse Moore of sexual harassment, even sexual assault, 40 years ago when he was a 30-something assistant district attorney and they were teenagers. One of the women was only 14 at the time of an alleged sexual assault by Moore, who has denied all charges, refused to withdraw from the Senate race and described the whole tawdry episode as a Democrat-fueled media conspiracy to put an end to his ultra-conservative political career. He now trails his Democrat opponent by double digits in a deep red state President Trump carried by 30 percentage points last year.
In his own defense, Moore said he couldn’t recall dating teenage girls when he was a young man, but added he never dated anyone without her mother’s permission. Personally, I think many of the accusations against Moore are credible and believe he should do the right thing by withdrawing from the Alabama Senate race. Nevertheless, when I see any of his accusers sitting alongside obnoxious celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, I discount that particular “victim.”
Moreover, three of my favorite female friends have told me they don’t believe 40-year-old accusations of sexual misconduct. They don’t think such ancient accusations are fair to Moore and undermine his ability to defend himself against the charges. They also object to the media’s “guilty until proven innocent” approach to coverage of this and other similar cases. Nevertheless, I think Moore should withdraw.
Which brings us to Franken, a former writer for “Saturday Night Live” who’s accused of kissing starlet Leann Tweeden against her will and groping her while she was asleep on a USO tour to the Middle East in 2006. Several Democrats condemned Franken’s behavior including fellow Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who called for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. In other words, senators investigate themselves, and taxpayers foot the bill for any damages.
So it’s readily apparent sexual misconduct is a bipartisan activity that goes way beyond the current cases involving Moore and Franken. Don’t get me started about President Trump, ex-President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Ted Kennedy (remember Chappaquidick?), impeached ex-President Bill Clinton (a serial groper), or aptly named ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was married to Hillary Clinton’s chief aide, Huma Abedin. When women accused President Clinton of sexual assault, his wife — an alleged champion of women’s rights — trashed his accusers and chief apologist James Carville talked about dragging hundred-dollar bills through trailer parks.
Some Democrats are talking about reopening the cases against former President Clinton, which would be graphic and ugly because public attitudes have changed dramatically since the “boys will be boys” 1990s.
As for Franken, a former member of the Hollywood glitterati, sexual abuse and misbehavior is business as usual in Hollywood. Everyone now purports to be “shocked” and “stunned” by accusations against mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, actor Kevin Spacey and comedians Bill Cosby and Louis CK. Weinstein is a serial abuser and many young men have come forward to describe Spacey, a fine actor and terrible person, as a compulsive sexual predator.
A cautionary note: He who throws the first stone may be hit by stones later on. As we say in Spanish, “Con cuidado” (be careful).
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.