The things we have to talk about these days …
When comedian Louie C.K. is accused by five women of masturbating in front of them, the consequences are steep and immediate: The premiere of his new movie is canceled and in fact it may never be released, his scheduled appearance on the Stephen Colbert show is canceled, and HBO bans him from appearing on an upcoming comedy special.
Likewise, when Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey is accused of attempting to molest a then-14-year-old actor decades ago, with other allegations following later, Spacey is dropped from his starring role on the hit TV series “House of Cards,” a completed movie in which Spacey stars is pulled from distribution and it’s announced that a second nearly completed movie is being reshot with a new actor replacing Spacey.
When Roy Price, the powerful head of Amazon Studios, is accused of sexual harassment by employees, he is fired from his job. When decades-old allegations against Mark Halperin of NBC News surface, the network voids his contract, and book deals and projects with Penguin Press, HBO and Showtime are canceled.
Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, the list goes on and on ….
And when Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama and a hero of Christian evangelicals, is accused of dating and molesting girls as young as 14, in two cases plying them with alcohol, what is the reaction of a lot of Alabama Republicans? Many have rushed to Moore’s defense, claimed that it doesn’t matter because the alternative might mean electing a Democrat. Some have tried to excuse it with bizarre comparisons to biblical figures.
“Take Joseph and Mary,” says Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.” (It is my understanding of that story that Joseph and Mary did NOT have sexual relations, that in fact the absence of sex between them is a rather crucial detail of that story. But maybe they teach it differently in Alabama.)
In Washington, a lot of Republicans from President Trump on down have condemned the allegations and have demanded that Moore withdraw from the Senate race, if the charges against him are true. “In the case of Judge Moore, if it’s true, he should step aside in the Senate race,” says Sean Hannity. “Everyone would agree — everybody — that a 32-year-old man pursuing a 14-year-old is beyond disgusting.”
On one hand, that’s an important point, although Hannity has failed to extend that benefit of the doubt to figures such as Harvey Weinstein and Hillary Clinton, among others. Much more importantly, you cannot read the well-documented Washington Post story about Moore’s behavior and plausibly argue that these things did not happen. These are not anonymous sources; the now-grown women have told their stories by name, and have nothing to gain by lying. They did not volunteer their stories to seek publicity for themselves; their stories were ferreted out by Post reporters. And most convincing of all, their accounts are bolstered by statements from dozens of named witnesses who were told of Moore’s antics at the time and place in which they occurred, by the victims themselves.
It leaves you with a rather stark choice: You either believe that all of those people living their lives in small-town Alabama have gotten together — for reasons unknown and by means unknown — to conspire to tell the same lie, or you conclude that Moore is lying.
In short, the allegations against Moore are unproved only in the sense that they have not been criminally adjudicated in a court of law. They are no more “unproved” than are the cases against Harvey Weinstein, Spacey, Halperin, Bill O’Reilly and even Bill Cosby, whose first trial ended in a hung jury, or of any of the other men mentioned above.
In each of those cases, multiple first-person accusations of sexual misconduct coming from victims brave enough to be quoted by name — charges that have then been backed by multiple supporting accounts — have produced profound consequences for the careers of the men involved. In many cases, it took far too long for those cases to become public, for rumor to be turned into fact, but once that happened the reaction in the media and entertainment fields has been swift.
However, when the accused is a Christian ultra-conservative running for a Senate seat, when secular political power might be at stake? At that point, the voices long braying about “Hollywood values,” about the need to sternly enforce moral codes of behavior lest our country fall into the cesspits of sin, suddenly begin to sing a song not found in any hymnal.