New allegations and evidence of sexual harassment and assault emerge daily, leaving yet another cultural or political leader bespattered with disgrace. The flood of revelations is revealing a systemic problem in which men in power abuse their position to molest women.
The latest addition to the conversation is Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who groped a woman on a USO tour while she was asleep. Should this ruin Franken and trigger his resignation from Congress? That’s up to him, other senators, and the people of Minnesota. It also probably depends on whether this was a one-time mistake or other victims soon come forward.
What shouldn’t enter the equation is consideration of Franken’s political party, and that's not because he would probably be replaced by another Democrat.
Both parties contain serial sexual harassers. Leaders on both sides should do a better job of weeding them out, through investigations and evidence, not hearsay.
When allegations arise, officials and journalists are not to score partisan points or circle the wagons. The focus must be on investigating allegations through due process and holding the guilty to account, regardless of party or political implications.
Which brings us to Judge Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama. As we wrote in a Monday editorial, “Roy Moore should step aside, and Trump should push him.” The allegations have advanced past he-said/she-said into she-has-evidence/he-has-no-credible-defense.
Some opportunistic Democrats are trying to use Moore’s behavior to taint the image of Republicans as a whole, and some cynical Republicans seem dead set on making this happen.
As conservative CNN contributor Amanda Carpenter said on Thursday, “For every Clinton, there will be a Trump. For every Roy Moore, there will be an Al Franken. Once you’ve covered up for one, you’ve lost the moral credibility to hold the other to account.”
Sexual harassment is an issue on both sides, and not a political one. We can start by holding our leaders accountable, by withholding our votes. We can boycott movies and TV shows that enrich predators. But if public retribution and a thinner pocketbook are the only reasons a man keeps his hands to himself, then there’s a bigger cultural and ethical problem.
Fathers need to raise their sons into moral men. Leaders from Los Angeles to Washington need to set a better example and a higher standard of acceptable conduct. The norm needs to be established that men in power see power as a constraint, not as license and an opportunity to take advantage of those among the weaker and more vulnerable who attract their baneful eye. Members of the media should investigate claims of sexual harassment, instead of filing the rumors away as stories of boys being boys.