BY JOE CONASON
The accumulating allegations of sexual assault and harassment raised against Harvey Weinstein in recent days are deeply disturbing, and may well result in criminal prosecution of the Hollywood producer. Beyond Weinstein’s own fate, this latest episode in the very old history of women’s mistreatment by unscrupulous men seems likely to expose still more perpetrators, in occupations and industries far beyond the movie business. Sexist thugs prey on the defenseless in corporate suites and military bases, from factories and farms to restaurants and retailers.
Yet while media outlets ferret out more alleged villains, as they surely should, let’s not forget the alpha creep, who has so far escaped real accountability.
His name is Donald J. Trump.
Despite Trump’s confession on the Access Hollywood videotape and complaints by more than a dozen alleged victims, he isn’t a target of renewed outrage over male misconduct. Last year, he swore publicly that the women who charged him with assaulting them were liars. He vowed to sue them for besmirching his not-so-good name, as well as The New York Times – the same newspaper that finally broke the Weinstein scandal and devoted considerable ink last year to Trump’s decades of misogynist misadventure. [Some of the same reporters, notably Megan Twohey, worked on both stories.]
Now we know that Trump’s blustering threats of litigation were entirely hollow. The statute of limitations for him to sue the Times expired last month without a hint of action, and he has filed no lawsuits against any of the women who came forward to accuse him of assaulting them.
One of those aggrieved women, a former contestant on The Apprentice named Summer Zervos, is instead suing Trump for defamation, claiming damages because he said she was lying about the unwanted kissing, groping and humping he inflicted on her. Rather than suing any of his female accusers, Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz has tried to have the Zervos case thrown out with a claim of presidential immunity – which seems unlikely to prevail, based on the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Jones v. Clinton.
So the question of Trump’s culpability is far from settled. Now that his friend Roger Ailes is dead, he and Weinstein appear to be in competition for the title of top predator.
Yet thanks to partisan framing of the Weinstein scandal, the finger of accusation is pointed not at Trump but at Hillary Clinton. As any savvy feminist will explain, such shifting of blame from men to women is characteristic of our culture, starting with “she asked for it” as an alibi for rape. But Hillary Clinton is a special case, too, since she is to blame for pretty much everything. Either she is speaking up too quickly and too frankly, as in her recent book, or she isn’t speaking up quickly or frankly enough.
It should be obvious, however, except to the most cynical right-wingers, that the scourge of sexual harassment, abuse and violence has nothing whatsoever to do with the former Democratic presidential nominee [aside from her efforts in the White House, the Senate, and the State Department to ameliorate its ongoing damage]. This is merely the latest in a long series of false narratives about her.
Of course, Clinton has already suffered the worst and final loss of her political career. There isn’t much more that her critics in the media can do to harm her, much as they cannot let her be even now. She has heard all of this before – including last year, when Trump brazenly tried to blame her for Bill Clinton’s alleged abuses of women [for which there is much less plausible evidence than in the cases of Trump, Ailes or Weinstein]. The mainstream media colluded in that bogus gambit, too.
So let’s stop distracting ourselves with Hillary Clinton, or the Obamas, or any other tangential figures. If the righteous pursuers of Harvey Weinstein care about the women who swear he violated them – or the millions just like them who have suffered silently for decades – then they must hold Trump answerable, too. Otherwise he will stand as a permanent symbol of impunity: the lowest character, occupying the highest office.
– Joe Conason’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer