Another week, another set of explosive sex abuse allegations of the rich and powerful from Washington to Hollywood to New York. This week, Matt Lauer was outed as a sexual deviant, and the public’s shock and disgust in him was rivaled only by Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.
While Lauer was allegedly fired over one complaint from one woman, Variety reported that Lauer abused and harassed a multitude of women, including one woman who described an assault that comes close in its allegations to rape. As with all other high powered examples we’ve seen so far, those in his inner circle describe Lauer’s attacks as open secrets; they always knew he was lousy.
It’s this last point that’s particularly sobering: people like Weinstein and Lauer don’t commit isolated crimes. Hollywood in the case of Weinstein, and NBC in the case of Lauer, enabled, protected, and defended sexual predators. NBC may say that it fired Lauer over the “first complaint” they’d ever received regarding him, but it’s more likely that this was the first complaint they’d ever accepted from any woman. NBC fostered a culture that facilitated Lauer, just as Hollywood enabled Weinstein.
Weinstein and Lauer were the chickens that kept laying golden eggs for their businesses. And because of that, they received a pass.
But even with all the protections Weinstein, Spacey, and Lauer set up for themselves, they still lost their jobs and legacies. The exposure of their sins to the light of public transparency has utterly destroyed them for the rest of their lives. Harvey Weinstein became wholly removed from a company he helped create. He was written out of show credits and whitewashed from Hollywood history.
Kevin Spacey got kicked out of projects, films, and TV shows. Other actors reshot entire scenes from Spacey’s current movies to remove Spacey from everything.
Matt Lauer lost his job, career, and legacy as a journalist at a top company.
While these events are happening in the media at large, the same is not true of our political establishment. Roy Moore, who is not worth the time to defend by Republicans, is headed toward a likely election victory.
Democratic House Representative John Conyers continues to receive support, even after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recanted her defense of him as more accusers came forward.
And to top everything off, Congress continues to keep all its sexual harassment settlements sealed and private, even though it was all paid for using tax-payer dollars.
We have many politicians accused of the same or worse behavior as people in the media, and our politicians get held to a lower standard. Even if they’re acting out of sheer self-preservation, Hollywood and media executives are operating with a better moral code than our elected officials. The media is firing its top talents, whereas political parties are refusing to rid themselves of second tier candidates.
We’ve seen more transparency and accountability from the media with regard to sexual assault than the government. Between the two of them, only the government has actual laws that force it toward transparency. The media has no such rules, which means our political leaders have no excuse for why they get to hide and not answer for their sexual assaults while the rest of the world lay bare.
Political parties and the pundits that live off them play off the fear of losing power. If one side loses one member or any control at all, it’s a sign of the apocalypse. They govern and persuade on fear, not leadership or morality.
But as I’ve written, politicians are easily replaceable. It’s easy to find a Democrat to replace Al Franken in Minnesota. It’s easy to locate a Republican to replace Roy Moore in Alabama. Only people who prey on fear claim otherwise.
Politics should never guide or lead our morality or ethics; our morality should control our governments. Ronald Reagan noted, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” And that is what we must do now.
We know sexual assault is wrong. We know people should be held accountable for those wrongs. Standing up for the victims of assaults and harassment takes courage. Those who are defending Franken, Moore, and Conyers are no different than the enablers of Weinstein, Spacey, and Lauer.
Politicians shouldn’t get a pass just because of their position. They need to be held to the same standards and punishments that we judge our TV show hosts, which means it’s time for some politicians to lose their jobs and legacies too.