OPED: Liz Peek: Sexual Harassment Charges
Becoming Politicized And Thats A Dangerous Precedent For Us All
Roy Moore’s defeat in the Alabama
Senate race tells us that charges of sexual improprieties can be a
potent political weapon.
This is not good news for President Trump, whom several women accuse of
past misbehavior. It is also not good news for women who become victims
of serious attacks or of rape.
Moore joins a growing list of celebrities, business titans and
politicians toppled by claims that they behaved inappropriately towards
women; his loss will inflame a red-hot movement. Because the issue has
rapidly become politicized, with Democrats hoping that sex harassment
charges will damage or even oust President Trump, there is a real danger
that it will go too far, and hurt the very women its leaders want to
Already, charges of assault and rape have become conflated with
accusations of gross behavior. Failing to distinguish between serious
threats faced by women and unpleasantness in the workplace will lead the
public to tune out and belittle the issue; that is the worst possible
fall-out for victims of abuse.
It is important, in other words, to distinguish between louts and
criminals. The former is offensive, and should be met with hostility and
shaming. The latter should bring on penalties, like job losses or legal
Consider the case of Samantha Holvey. The former Miss America contestant
has accused President Trump of ogling her and other women in the beauty
pageant dressing rooms. Ms. Holvey is one of several women saying that
Mr. Trump behaved “inappropriately” towards them and who, according to
the New York Times, want to be taken more seriously.
The former Miss North Carolina was disgusted that Mr. Trump, the pageant
organizer, intensely scrutinized the participants, which made her feel
“the dirtiest I’ve felt in my entire life.” It wasn’t just Trump that
offended her. The Southern Baptist college student also objected to
“private parties where the contestants mingled with "old, rich drunk
guys ogling all over us," as she told CNN.
With all due respect, maybe Ms. Holvey wasn’t cut out for the beauty
pageant life. There’s a reason many beauty pageants feature things like
swimsuit contests; men like to look at beautiful women, and Donald Trump
is no exception. That’s what supports such entertainments. Was his
behavior attractive? No. Criminal? No.
Another person under fire is Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, who
has settled various suits for $84,000 of taxpayer funds. Like most
Americans, I am offended that even one of my tax dollars goes to resolve
such claims of wrong-doing. But a long piece in the New York Times
mainly focuses on the congressman’s office culture which apparently
featured frequent off-color jokes, “sexually explicit conversations,” a
focus on women’s looks and other obnoxious behavior, including Mr.
Farenthold’s “explosive temper.”
Mr. Farenthold’s actions were examined in 2015 by the Office of
Congressional Ethics, an “independent, nonpartisan board,” according to
the Times, which cleared him of wrong-doing. Now he is under
investigation again, by the House Ethics Committee, which will look into
the charges brought by the woman who accepted the $84,000 payment.
The case against Mr. Farenthold does not, as far as we know, involve
physical attacks against women. Instead, he is accused of being a pig.
Attractive? No. Criminal? It would not seem so.
Politicizing sexual assault comes at a good time for Democrats, and
especially for some aspiring females in the party, like Senator Kirsten
Gillibrand. Democrats have fought to convince women they deserve their
vote. Protecting abortion rights and vowing to close the bogus “wage
gap” are just two of the female-friendly issues that have become litmus
tests for Democrat candidates.
Rooting out sexual misconduct has now joined that list, promoted by the
opportunistic Gillibrand. For several years New York’s junior senator
has made a name for herself by challenging the military to confront what
she claims is a culture riddled with abuse. Armed with that credential,
she has pounced on the opportunity to stand with the many newly revealed
victims of sexual harassment and assault.
She sent shock waves through her party when she declared that Bill
Clinton, her mentor and friend, should indeed have resigned, based on
his affair with Monica Lewinsky. She was also one of the first to call
for fellow Democrat Senator Al Franken to resign after he was accused of
inappropriate behavior. Riding the wave, Gillibrand is skillfully
navigating the crowded field of Democrats hoping to challenge Donald
Trump in 2020.
But Gillibrand and others who stand to gain politically from the outing
of sexual misbehavior, or the sensationalizing of it, need to be
careful. The most horrific thing that could happen to women is that the
public begins to confuse, as the media is now starting to do, serious
assault with piggish behavior.
As women have come forward to complain about unwanted groping or
forcible kissing, many have said they were “ashamed” by the event. They
are left not only angry, but feeling as though they themselves were
responsible. That’s one of the reasons it has taken some women years to
reveal a sordid or dangerous episode. If the public begins to belittle
charges that seem petty or spiteful, it will further dissuade women from
telling their stories.
Women may also find themselves shunned by male colleagues; for some,
socializing with co-workers has become fraught. Why risk making an
innocent remark that could be misinterpreted if it could end your
career? Already men are talking about this.
These are perilous times. Combatting a social wrong should not become a
political opportunity. Assaults on women are neither Right nor Left;
they are a matter of right or wrong.
Liz Peek is a writer who contributes frequently to FoxNews.com. She is a
financial columnist who also writes for The Fiscal Times. For more visit
LizPeek.com. Follow her on Twitter@LizPeek.