Nov 21, 2017

The great reckoning: media and politics rocked by sex scandals


Three of the latest public figures to be accused of sexual harassment: Glenn Thrush, Charlie Rose and Sen. Al Franken (from left to right). Photos: Mark Wilson / Getty Images, Carolyn Kaster / AP, Kaster / AP

In 12 short hours, elites lost their star anchorman, the New York Times benched a star Trump reporter, and Congress moved one step closer to losing a star Democratic senator — and possibly inheriting a Republican senator who may be booted. Plus the longest-serving Democratic congressman used money to hide harassment charges. All from sexual impulses and actions, uncontrolled and unwanted.

Spoiler alert: Many more allegations are coming.

The morning began with a second accuser of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who had already been resisting calls to resign from "deeply disappointed supporters" and prominent party members back home.

  • At 10:30 a.m., during a weekly news meeting of the N.Y. Times Washington bureau, Vox published its long-rumored article on Glenn Thrush, who was suspended and says he "will soon begin outpatient treatment for alcoholism." His paper reported: "The meeting came to a halt as everyone stopped to read the article."
  • Then, the bookend ... At 4:45 p.m., a Washington Post news alert: "Eight women say longtime TV host Charlie Rose sexually harassed them — with nudity, groping and lewd calls." Rose has a uniquely broad empire, but instantly lost control: PBS and Bloomberg suspended distribution of his shows, and CBS suspended him as morning co-anchor. His 6 p.m. airing on Bloomberg TV was replaced by "Daybreak Asia."
  • A Roy Moore accuser went on air with the "Today" show — but Moore keeps tacit backing from the White House, which says the voters of Alabama should decide his fate.
  • And last night, BuzzFeed posted: "Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not 'succumb to [his] sexual advances.'"

Why it matters: The speed and sweep of this are unmatched in social history.

What we're hearing: The tech world's dark secrets have been seeping out for months, and it's just under seven weeks since the N.Y. Times detonated its Harvey Weinstein exposé. So this may feel like a crest, but here's the amazing thing: Every sign is that for the East Coast, there's lots more to come.

  • News organizations are looking into specific congressmen, some with years-old reputations for leering, infidelity and more.
  • Reporters have been asking around about other well-known media figures. We hear one top name is the target of two media investigations.
  • And consider this: The wave has yet to hit the New York corporate suites. I'm told they're hardly immune.

P.S. The excuses ... "Franken and Trump, Hiding Behind Their 'Jokes,'" by N.Y. Times TV critic James Poniewozik: "[B]oth are examples of the collision of politics with the world of celebrity, where men have long felt entitled to indulge their ids, to play the grabby adolescent and then to laugh it off."

"The entertainment defense is attractive because of the leeway our society has given performers. A politician's gaffe is a comic's laugh."

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