Taking Harassment Seriously Requires Serious Distinctions

Editor and columnist Jonah Goldberg questions his fellow conservatives who call for the resignation of Al Franken (a Democrat; junior senator from Minnesota), equating the allegations against him with the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, all the while downplaying the serious allegations against Roy Moore (a Republication; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama).

Franken, formerly a writer and performer for Saturday Night Live, has been accused of “forcibly kissing” an actress while rehearsing a skit that he wrote, and also for a photo that appears to show him preparing to grope the same woman while she is sleeping on a military flight. When these allegations surfaced, Franken apologizes very quickly, though he also stated that he remembered the rehearsal differently; he also requested an ethics investigation. (A second woman recently came forward to accuse Franken of groping her; he has not responded to that accusation as far as I know.)

Two women have accused Roy Moore of sexually assaulting him when they teenagers; another woman accused him of assaulting her when she was in her 20s; another half dozen women have described Moore pursuing them for dates when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers, and multiple sources allege that he was banned from a local mall because of his habit of trying to pick up teenaged girls.

The allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein involve dozens of people and dozens of incidents, including rape. Weinstein is not a politician, but because Franken is an entertainer-turned-politician, comparisons are inevitable.

Liberals who were content to excuse Bill Clinton’s personal excesses should still take hard look in the mirror. Nevertheless, even if Franken is guilty of the charges that have been laid against him, Goldberg is correct to note that the case against Franken is very different from the cases against Moore and Weinstein.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.)

The problem is that the logic of zero tolerance often renders every bad act as equally unacceptable. As much as I dislike Franken, making a gross pass at an adult woman is different than molesting a 14-year-old girl. Groping a woman’s backside is not the same thing as raping a woman. And yet Franken’s name is routinely listed alongside Moore’s and Weinstein’s. Some of this leveling is simply journalistic laziness. But a lot of it is partisan demagoguery and opportunism. Partisanship also leads to what you might call anti-leveling: people who ignore wrongdoing on “their side” even as they attack their enemies. — National Review