November 3 2011

All Conservatives Are Not Sexual Harassment Deniers

Sabrina Schaeffer

Not surprisingly, four days after sexual harassment accusations against Herman Cain started flying, the conversation has shifted to one about how “conservatives” don’t believe in harassment and that they think these charges are simply part of a “liberal conspiracy.”

This was the basis for Amanda Marcotte’s XX Factor article today over at Slate. To demonstrate just how deranged conservative thinking is, Marcotte points to two writers – John Derbyshire of National Review and David Brooks of the NYT…not exactly a representative sample.

Now, to be fair, Derbyshire’s post did seem a bit old-fashioned and bordered on making me uncomfortable:

Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing? Is there anyone who doesn’t know it’s all a lawyers’ ramp, like “racial discrimination“? You pay a girl a compliment nowadays, she runs off and gets lawyered up. Is this any way to live?

John, while it may be easy and inexpensive to file a claim, most women are not “lawyering up” and running off with a big pile of money. And I’m sure he knows, as well as I do, that there has been some despicable behavior right here in Washington conservative circles.

As for Brooks – who I don’t often defend as a great conservative – he conducts a rather honest interview with fellow NYT columnist Gail Collins about sexual harassment that is hardly one-sided. In fact he stresses that “people who care about the general moral atmosphere should pause when allegations are made, even about people on their own political team.” As for Cain’s behavior in particular, Brooks added, “My own guess is that this specific sort of behavior is insensitive, creepy and, given that Cain is married, sinful.”

So, I don’t think it’s fair to write Brooks off so quickly.

Still Marcotte would have benefitted from probing just a wee bit deeper…perhaps even taking a look at what IWF has had to say about the Cain situation.  As I wrote in The Hill on Monday, sexual harassment cannot be tolerated. And let’s be clear, it’s disgusting just how many political figures seem to have no moral backbone – Schwarzenegger, Clinton, Ensign, Edwards…the list goes on and on.

Still – and I don’t think this makes me a sexual harassment “denier” – in cases that are as high profile as this one, it’s important to make sure the public is getting all the facts. Politico ran with a story filled with unnamed sources and hyper-vague descriptions of what happened. And while the paper may have been right to go to press -- perhaps they really know there was a fire, but could only reveal the smoke – this kind of post-Watergate journalism makes it far more difficult to separate the truth from the fiction.

In the end, we don’t put an end to sexual harassment via media harassment. We ought to make it our goal to ensure that these accusations really do have to do with sex and not just political power.

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