Democrats face hot-potato politics of sexual predation, too
Democrats have been quick to support the “me too” chorus of women – and some men – who have stepped up to allege sexual misconduct and name names. But now “me too” stains the Democrats, too, putting them in an awkward place as they calibrate how forcefully to respond.
Allegations against Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan are part of the newest chapter in the hot-potato politics of sexual predation for the party, which has its own fraught history on the subject.
The latest revelations have prompted a hard look back at the way Democrats and their allies once circled the wagons around President Bill Clinton, dismissing allegations that extended to serious assault as mere dalliances or the tales of “looney” women.
In her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton drew a clear line on behalf of women who allege sexual assault, saying flatly: “You have the right to be believed.” But she equivocated when asked if her husband’s accusers from another decade should be believed, too: “I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”
The pressure’s on now to act without equivocation.
Franken’s prankish photo of his hands over a napping woman’s breasts on a military plane, combined with her allegations that he kissed her forcibly on another occasion, prompted swift condemnation from throughout the party’s ranks and inspired calls for an ethics investigation that the senator-in-hiding supported, too. Then a second woman came forward, alleging Franken grabbed her buttocks during a photo op at a state fair.
And now, BuzzFeed has published affidavits from former employees of Conyers who said they saw the Democrat inappropriately touching women who worked for him and asking them for sexual favors.
It reported that his office paid more than $27,000 to a woman who alleged she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. On Tuesday, Conyers denied he made that settlement – but his office later acknowledged it while still denying that the allegations were true. The House Ethics Committee has initiated an investigation.
Democrats, predictably, have spoken fiercely and with one voice against Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama who is accused of disrobing a 14-year-old girl in his house when in his 30s.