Liberal journalist fervor for the #MeToo movement comes packed with caveats and reservations when the target is Democratic politicians -- but it’s open season on conservative figures.
Case in point: Former Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt’s Friday newsletter, which dealt with a New Yorker report by liberal journalist Jane Mayer -- a hypocritical defense of Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live writer/comic turned Democratic senator for Minnesota, who resigned in disgrace in December 2017 after multiple allegations of sexual harassment, the most prominent from Leeann Tweeden, who had photographic evidence.
Did Al Franken’s fellow Senate Democrats judge him too quickly and harshly?
Jane Mayer has written a deeply reported piece in the current New Yorker arguing strongly (if implicitly) that the answer is yes. And the case against Franken -- for sexual harassment -- looks weaker once Mayer has finished examining it. Still, this isn’t an easy case to evaluate, and I encourage you to read the piece.
Leonhardt just comes out and says he finds a women accusing a man of harassment “not very credible.” Can one imagine a liberal journalist saying the same about Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford?
Franken’s original accuser, Leeann Tweeden, is not very credible. She has told demonstrable falsehoods and as a conservative radio host and friend of Sean Hannity’s, she had a political motive for damaging Franken. This much is clear: Franken and Tweeden appeared in a ribald skit together, and Franken posed in an inappropriate picture referring to the skit. Many of the other things Tweeden has said about the tour, including her description of the skit, don’t seem to be true.
Franken had a pattern of touching women in ways that made them feel uncomfortable (such as kissing them on the mouth as a social greeting). Not all the allegations are clear cut. Taken together, though, they suggest that Franken behaved inappropriately.
The Senate shouldn’t have rushed to judgment....A hearing could have helped clarify whether his behavior was merely inappropriate or closer to predatory. Either way, he may have had to resign, because serving in Congress is a privilege not a right, but the complexities of his case would have come out much sooner.
Wherever you stand on his case, I think it is worth thinking through....
Leonhardt looks extremely partisan while he accuses others of raw partisanship, considering how he treated far less-documented accusations hurled at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh back in September 2018. He couldn't acknowledge that Christine Blasey Ford had obvious political motives for damaging Kavanaugh:
It’s true that there is no way to resolve this nomination without creating anger. The allegations against Kavanaugh are too grave, and his denial is categorical. One side will be left feeling embittered.
But the way that the Senate conducted the hearing -- and the way Kavanaugh responded -- created something close to a worst-case scenario for the Supreme Court.
With no supporting evidence (unlike in the cases of Franken, and Joe Biden) Leonhardt suggests Kavanaugh was unreliable.
I don’t think we will ever know for sure what happened on that night in 1982. But there are serious factual questions to pursue. As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal notes, Kavanaugh’s calendar -- listing a gathering on July 1 -- is more consistent with Blasey’s version of events than Kavanaugh’s. The people listed as attending that gathering, starting with Mark Judge, could be called. There is also reason to believe Kavanaugh did not tell the truth about multiple aspects of his high school experience.....Maya Sen of Harvard had perhaps the best summary: “A genuinely terrible day for this country, and for American norms and institutions.”
Then in April 2019, Leonhardt desperately tried to give “hands-on” Democrat Joe Biden the benefit of the doubt for his touchy-feely ways with women. Before turning his newsletter over to Harvard professor Theda Skocpol to defend Biden, Leonhardt wrote: “I’m increasingly thinking that it should not become a defining issue for his likely campaign.’’
Here’s Skocpol, speaking for Leonhardt:
The piling on about Joe Biden’s sometimes unwanted affectionate touches by political competitors and media outlets is shameful. Both women who have come forward so far are not talking about workplace abuse or sexual misconduct. I can believe them, and still ask why they are speaking up now.... Is this what gender equality really means? Is this the kind of society we want to live in -- where right-wingers can do any vicious thing they want to anyone and shrug it off, while people on the center-left are supposed to expel from public life anyone who says a single wrong word or has done something benignly intended in the past that now does not fit changed norms?
Not me, that is not the kind of America I want to live in....
But an America where a conservative judge can have his career and reputation ruined based on a single unsubstantiated allegation? That’s just fine.