Day after day, new allegations of sexual assault chip away at America’s elite: from politicians on the Right (Roy Moore) and the Left (Al Franken, John Conyers) to journalists like CBS’s Charlie Rose and the New York Times‘ Glenn Thrush, and to Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein and even Sylvester Stallone. When Harrison Ford’s name started “trending” on Twitter, people thought he too had been accused.
Most Americans have reacted in disgust and horror, distancing themselves from the accused and accepting the words of accusers until proven false. A few pundits and leaders have stood out, however, for absolutely horrendous responses. Here are four gems, notable for just how bad they are.
1. “Joseph and Mary.”
In defending Republican Senate candiate Roy Moore — who has been accused of carrying out sexual advances against teenage girls when he was in his thirties — Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler compared Moore’s relationship to the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
“Take the Bible. Zechariah and Elizabeth for instance,” Ziegler said. “Zechariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
Using these examples, Ziegler argued that “there’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
A sexual advance from a man in his thirties on a 14-year-old girl is considered sexual assault under Alabama law (and was considered so back when Moore allegedly did this). While Joseph was quite a bit older than Mary, according to tradition, such relationships were not uncommon at that time period. They are both uncommon and often illegal today.
It would have been acceptable for Ziegler to emphasize Moore’s denial of the allegations, but dismissing them as no big deal because “Joseph did the same thing” is ridiculous. This kind of defense led Baptist leader Russell Moore to level a charge of idolatry against Christians like Ziegler who defend Roy Moore in such ways.
2. Al Franken resigning isn’t “best for American women.”
The Washington Post‘s Kate Harding showcased liberal hypocrisy by admitting the sexual assault allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), some of which he has acknowledged and apologized for, but calling on Franken to not resign — because it might set a precedent that could lead to other Democrats losing their seats.
“If you understand what it means to be a Democrat today — that is, why it makes sense to vote blue over red in this highly polarized political environment — you can understand why it might not make the most sense to demand Franken’s resignation, effective immediately,” Harding wrote.
The Washington Post writer admitted that Franken’s resignation would not necessarily deprive Senate Democrats of a seat, since Minnesota’s liberal governor, Mark Dayton, would appoint Franken’s replacement. In an astounding moment of remarkable candor, Harding admitted that she wasn’t concerned about Franken, but about other Democrats likely to fall later on.
As for Franken’s resignation, Harding wrote, “if I believed for one second that Franken is the only Democrat in the Senate who has done something like this, with or without photographic evidence, I would see that as the best and most appropriate option.”
Instead, Harding noted, “I’m betting that there will be more. And more after that. And they won’t all come from states with Democratic governors and a deep bench of progressive replacements.”
In other words, Harding is willing to let as many Democratic senators off the hook as possible, in order to preserve a “progressive” presence in Congress. “If the short-term ‘right thing’ leads to long-term political catastrophe for American women, I think we need to reconsider our definition of the right thing,” she wrote.
This horrific hypocrisy is not confined to the Left, but that does not make it any less remarkable.
3. “Not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs.”
On Tuesday, Emily Lindin, feminist founder of “The UnSlut Project,” which “promotes gender equality, sex positivity, and comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education for all ages,” posted an extremely sexually unequal statement.
“Here’s an unpopular opinion: I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations,” Lindin tweeted.
It is one thing to suggest that women who accuse men of sexually harassing or assaulting them should be believed — they should, and their allegations should be investigated and taken seriously. It is entirely something else to suggest that innocent men who are wrongly accused do not deserve the opportunity to defend themselves, or that it’s okay for them to lose their jobs due to a lie.
Conservative starlet Katie Pavlich rightly condemned the statement as “absolutely revolting.”
Another conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro, shot down another of Lindin’s offensive tweets. Lindin posted, “Sorry. If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.”
“It’s not a price you’ll pay at all, so that seems pretty convenient,” Shapiro quipped. While Lindin would pay a small price in having instigated injustice, she would not be the one left without a job and with a damaging reputation as a rapist.
While Lindin’s horrible comments rightly ignited a Twitter storm against her, it is important to note that she is different from Emily Linden. Indeed, Linden tweeted about receiving some misplaced outrage, and asked Twitter users to direct it toward Emily Lindin instead.
When someone with a similar surname to you sparks controversy on Twitter and you end up with a wrath of hate. @EmilyLindin 🙃
— Emily Linden (@EmilyLinden) November 21, 2017
4. Saying Trump is “with the Perv!”
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump made some very cautious remarks against Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones, Roy Moore’s Democratic foe. Trump insisted that “we don’t need” a Democrat in the Senate and that Moore had denied the allegations against him. While notable, these remarks were not a clear endorsement of Moore after the sexual assault allegations.
That’s not how the New York Post and the New York Daily News saw it, however. Both papers blasted Trump, paraphrasing his remarks as, “I’m With The Perv!”
— The Hill (@thehill) November 22, 2017
While Trump did oppose Jones, he did not explicitly state support or endorsement for Moore in his remarks after the sexual assault allegations. The comments were notable, but these headlines went way too far.
As the days go on, it is likely more sexual assault allegations will come out of the woodwork. Both Republicans and Democrats need to learn humility from the excesses of the other side. Whoever prioritizes political victory over justice for women who have been preyed upon will receive public censure, and likely do their cause more harm than good.
On the other hand, rushing to judgment when allegations are in doubt — or when the president’s support for an alleged sexual assaulter is far from certain — will also undercut credibility. Wisdom and humility are essential in sifting through what is known and what remains unknown about these cases, and about their political impact.