I enjoy watching documentaries and interviews. On YouTube the other day I caught an interview clip between disgraced TV journalist Charlie Rose and American investor Ray Dalio on the potential for “civil war” in the states…Dalio pointing out that we’re now in “Go ahead, make me!” territory, where it’s okay to trample on the rule of law and the Constitution. Dalio claims this could lead to large-scale violence, even larger than what we witnessed at the U.S. Capitol in 2021.
Dalio specializes in hedge funds and, even though he’s a smart guy, I take what he says with a grain of salt. I was actually more interested in Rose. Most television journalism is superficial at best (the Big Three), and polemical at worst (FOX News and MSNBC). Rose was on PBS and his interviews on The Charlie Rose Show always had much more depth.
In 2017, eight women accused Rose of sexual misconduct. PBS, CBS, and Bloomberg L.P. summarily fired Rose—based on accusations and without due process—and since then he’s been residing in the #MeToo purgatory chamber.
After the accusations, his close friends, talking heads Norah O’Donnell and Gayla King, expressed shock and dismay:
“I’ve held him in such high regard and I’m still struggling,” lamented King, adding that he “does not get a pass here.”
“There is no excuse for this alleged behavior,” huffed O’Donnell. (Nice that she used the qualifier “alleged.”)
Then I did some more clicking and found a HuffPost video entitled “A Brief History of Charlie Rose’s Creepy On-Air Behavior.” The video features both King and O’Donnell engaging in, and even prompting, sexual flirtation with Rose. But I saw very little “creepiness” by Rose (whatever that word means).
The misleading and libelous click-bait title of the video—which is not your typical, amateurish YouTube compilation, but an official HuffPost production—is one thing. Another is the question of, to what end does this video serve, besides being #MeToo eye and ear candy? In the video, after Rose compliments her on her tan, King pulls the top of her dress toward her breast. O’Donnell spanks her ass. It’s standard frivolous morning-show fun and games.
Double standard here? If so, should we allow double standards? Borrowing King’s language, do women “get a pass”?
For his part, Rose (a bachelor) admitted after the anonymous charges that his behavior may have been “inappropriate” and “insensitive,” but “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
Garrison Keillor—also banished to the #MeToo gulag for alleged sexual harassment, and whose saga I wrote about here—recently made a similar statement about “shared feelings” on CBS News Sunday Morning. Keillor was also abruptly fired for “alleged” behavior, but is now having a bit of a comeback, traveling his A Prairie Home Companion stage show around the country again. His archived, filmed shows, plus A Writer’s Almanac, have been restored for public viewing.
Evidently Minnesota Public Radio had a change of heart.
While Rose has remained quiet, Keillor is largely unrepentant. He argues that his behavior toward his accuser, an assistant, was “mutual flirtation,” the sort of behavior that “thousands of people did before me.” He says “The culture changed…you should not be friends with a female colleague. It’s dangerous.”
(If true, what a sad state of affairs. I would never have dated and later married my wife of 36 years, whom I worked with in 1985-86.)
Al Franken, who was forced to resign from the Senate before he had a chance to defend himself in front of his colleagues, is also back in the public eye. He has a podcast and recently toured the country with his The Only Former Senator Currently on Tour Tour.
Clicking around yet again, I landed on an essay by race and gender activist Ijeoma Oluo. In 2017 Oluo was contacted by USA Today and asked to provide an editorial rebuttal to the idea that due process (a legal term) should always be followed when sexual harassment charges are levied against a man. In other words, they wanted her to say that sexual harassment charges are occasions when due process should be brushed aside.
I’m hardly a fan, but to Oluo’s credit, she declined this appalling request. I don’t read comic books like USA Today, but I’m not surprised a vanilla publication like USA Today would pursue a debate where one side suggests the rule of law be abandoned in a drumbeat of “guilty until proven innocent.” False equalization once again.
Like the problems of climate change and guns, sexual harassment shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s not liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican. It’s common sense and affects everyone. Liberals and the “mainstream media” shouldn’t be capitulating to the harshest voices of #MeToo, and the alt-right should stop being apologists for Republican misogynists (and, I might add, electing them to the White House). Period.
And Rose, Franken, and Keillor should not “get a pass.” But at the same time, their punishment should fit the crime. There’s a difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment, and there are different shades of harassment. Painting with one impulsive brushstroke to erase careers based on allegations is a dark alley I don’t think we want to venture down.
Like Keillor correctly noted in his CBS interview, the #MeToo movement began with a noble goal in sight: inappropriate advances and sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, are a form of bullying, and bullies shouldn’t be tolerated.
At the same time, and as I’ve analogized before, the idea is to hit the bullseye. But pulling back too far on the bow not only misses the entire target, it can cause a lot of collateral damage. Gayla King agrees.
We’re already mired in a civil—rather, uncivil—war between two distinct political ideologies. Do we really want to start another uncivil war between the two genders? I, for one, hope not.
8 thoughts on “A Peek into the #MeToo Purgatory Chamber”
Thanks Pete. Great food for thought.
I miss Roses’s TV interview show. It was high quality.
What are your thoughts on the circumstances of his “downfall”?
To be honest, I don’t know enough about it to say for sure. If he was forcing himself on ladies, though, despite their saying “no”, then I can’t support him.
I agree to an extent. One time with a warning, you get a pass. After that it’s harassment & you suffer the consequences. But even then, the “consequences” should be fair. Losing one’s job based solely on accusations and without the chance to defend is unfair.
Peter, I’ve read most of your post. I have to say I could not read it to the end. I’m not going to respond in full here but I will read it again and make a considered reply. However I can’t let this one go… so it’s ok with you, if in a work context, a man puts his hand up a female colleague’s dress,without her consent, and as long it’s the first time, he gets a pass? Really?
Yeah, you’ve got a good point. There’s grayness with these matters. There’s verbal flirtation. Putting a hand on a bare shoulder or back. A kiss on the cheek. A hand up a dress to me sounds more like assault over harassment. My observation is that there are innocuous forms of male-female behaviors that have been occurring for hundreds of years that are now being treated as heinous crimes. And especially in high-profile cases (like these 3 men), careers & lives are being destroyed without due process. They’re convicted in the court of public opinion. I’ve never cared much for lynch mobs.
Maybe I was careless with my word choice in responding to Neil. Sorry, & hope I did better here!
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