Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Accused "Mansplainer" is Attacked for Defending Alleged Victims


I wrote a piece this week about the counter-intuitiveness of liberal women defending accused sexual-harasser Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Since then I’ve been accused of “mansplaining.” Of being “condescending.” And of being “wrong.” All because I’ve chosen on the surface to accept and believe the accusations made against Franken by Leann Tweeden and Lindsay Menz. That they’re telling the truth until an investigation might prove otherwise. Shame on me, right?

I’m stunned by this backlash, especially from so many liberal women, for simply defending alleged victims. It’s a curious phenomenon I never expected. Throughout this tsunami of sexual abuse scandals I’ve vehemently and unconditionally supported any women who’s come forward, giving her the benefit of the doubt and believing her story, especially against a backdrop of prominent abusers who’ve been dropping like flies. Let’s be honest: it’s not such a stretch to assume they’re telling the truth given what we now know.

Sexual harassment and abuse is a subject that hits home for me. My late wife, actor/filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, was a victim. My girlfriend was a victim. I have three daughters. I cringe at the thought that they’d ever be victims. Much of my writing and social media postings have highlighted the tipping point we’re now experiencing and the desperate need to make women feel even safer in coming forward.

But what I never expected was the onslaught of ‘slut-shaming’ and convoluted conspiracy rhetoric coming from liberal women against other women claiming to be victims. I wasn’t prepared for the exact same excusing, justifying and denying coming from those on the left who’ve been the loudest voices condemning those on the right for the exact same enabling. All because the accused harasser is progressive icon Franken. Someone they love, admire, respect and agree with politically.

Sadly, women like Tweeden and Menz are now being mercilessly assaulted yet again. There’s an unconscionable character assassination campaign taking place to discredit and delegitimize them simply because of what they do for a living, how ‘sexual’ they may be, what they wear or which party they support. Are these attacks supposed to make other women feel safe in coming forward? This type of attack is exactly why women have found it so difficult to come forward in the past.

Below is a sampling of the astounding comments from the internet judge and jury regarding the accusations against Franken and Menz. Keep in mind these statements are made by liberal women:

“This was a comedy bit gone wrong. He never touched her. I don’t think this rises to the level of sexual harassment. Seems much ado about nothing...let’s focus on the real predators out there.”

“The whole thing was performative, on a comedy tour, where she played the part of the sex object.”

She grabbed the ass of the bass player.

“They were on a comedy tour where it appears much of the humor centered on humping each other.... he wasn’t CAUGHT on camera. He was performing for the camera. Context is important here.”

“He didn’t touch her and was goofing for the camera.”

It was a “stupid one-off joke by a comedian who is purposefully goofing off.”

“If we were to get rid of all men for being clueless and annoying, there would be none left. In this particular case, I am not so sure that Franken deserves anything worse than to be called an idiot.” 

“The photos from the tour establish the context in which lewd jokes were the norm, and she participated.”

“She was the focus of sexual jokes throughout the show and chose to be.”

“Her connections and subsequent book deal make me doubt her motives. It’s not a stretch to think Republicans would use this moment...”

“She wants attention, I have no question about that.”

The pic of Menz and Franken is “a hack job....I enlarged it and saw that it was Photoshopped to put their heads closer together.” 

“The farce continues. makes a mockery of real abuse victims.

“What’s happening now is starting to seem like a witch hunt.” 

“I’m just not convinced it’s assault.”

“This woman was not sexually harassed. No way no how no matter what she says she lacks credibility. Period.”

Well, here’s some more mansplaining for ya ladies: the only opinions that matter are those of the women who claim they were sexually harassed or assaulted. You’ve chosen not to believe them. I have. That’s the difference between us.

I would suggest that perhaps you’re guilty of “womansplaining.” That’s when condescending women who have no idea what they’re talking about, because they weren’t there, arrogantly tell an alleged abuse victim that she’s either lying, is a paid shill or is too stupid to know a good “joke” when she sees one.

And I want to make one final, albeit graphic point which obviously and unfortunately appears still needed to be made... and made to too many women:

A woman could be in a sex club in the middle of a wild orgy, having raunchy, kinky sex with five men. A sixth man walks over and wants to join. She says no. He gets angry and assaults her. The culpability lies with him, not her. It doesn’t matter what she’s doing, where she’s doing it, who she’s screwing, how many she’s screwing, if she’s a slut, a nymphomaniac or a prostitute. Optics, perception and circumstance don’t matter, nor do they justify the assault and/or make her a less credible victim. She’s the only who decides who touches her and when. Her body, her decision. Always. Period.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Notasbadism": Why Are Liberal Women Defending Al Franken?

In the wake of all the sexual harassment and abuse scandals of the past couple of months it’s become popular opinion that we’ve finally reached a ‘tipping point.’ That we’re experiencing a transcendent moment in our culture when women can finally feel safe coming forward with their allegations of assault. But I’m not so sure.

A strange but not entirely surprising phenomenon is occurring involving the accusations against the Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken. I am astounded at the level of blind partisanship coming from some on the left—in particular, women—in defense of Franken. They’re engaging in “slut-shaming” his initial accuser, radio personality Leanne Tweedon, while also discrediting his latest alleged victim, Lindsay Menz, a 33-year-old Texan who claims she was groped by Franken in 2010. 

The hypocrisy is stunning. These same people who condemn Republicans for choosing party over morality are minimizing, or worse, denying, Franken’s alleged behavior because he’s their progressive hero and need him in the Senate. This suggests that sexual harassment is ok, and the accusers are liars (part of a vast right-wing conspiracy), when it’s ‘our guy.’ 

Even more astounding is when this shameless partisan shilling comes despite an admission of some guilt and shame, coupled with an apology, from the accused, as in Franken’s case. 

Here’s a sampling of tweets I’ve received: 

“God dammit, another one? And didn't his last accuser get found out about groping people herself?”

“The farce continues. makes a mockery of real abuse victims.

A woman on Facebook even went so far as to say “what’s happening now is starting to seem like a witch hunt.” 

Another said "he's been railroaded."

And yet another claims the pic of Menz with Franken is “a hack job....I enlarged it and saw that it was Photoshopped to put their heads closer together.” 

Others cling to the perception that Franken “only did this once.” (this was prior to the latest allegation).

And the question that is most infuriating is, “Do you really think what Franken did is as bad as what Donald Trump and Roy Moore did? 

Who “Tweedon groped,” or what she wears, what she does for a living or how overtly sexual she is has nothing, I repeat, nothing, to do with whether or not Franken harassed or assaulted her. Let’s take this to an extreme: prostitutes and porn stars screw for a living. By this convoluted logic, do they therefore have less of a right than a librarian to claim they were raped? Should we discredit them because of the work they do? Doesn’t that perpetuate the “they were asking for it” mentality while also empowering men to abuse them more because no one will believe these “sluts?”

How the hell does anyone know whether Menz is any less a “real” victim? Is she not credible simply because their beloved Al Franken is the accused violator? Can they not fathom how a progressive icon and champion of women’s issues like Franken could perhaps be a sexual predator? Are they spinning off their moral center because none of it this fits their elitist liberal narrative? 

Is it only a “witch hunt” the minute someone on ‘our team’ is accused?

And does it really matter whether an abuser committed ‘just one’ crime? Does it make the harassment any less vile and traumatic and worthy of consequence? And, haven’t we learned by now that this type of deviant behavior is never just limited to ‘one’ incident? 

Lastly—and please, fellow liberals, I know you’re smart and can comprehend this—not all sexual harassment and abuse is the same. Telling sex jokes in front of women is one form. Being sexually suggestive is another. Then there’s various degrees of unwanted physical contact, and of course rape. 

It’s utterly irrelevant whether what Franken’s accused of is “as bad as” as what other alleged abusers including Donald Trump, Roy Moore and Harvey Weinstein have done. When did sexual abuse become a contest? When did it become ok to excuse or justify abhorrent behavior because someone else did something worse? Do we let muggers go because they’re “not as bad as bank robbers?” The nanosecond this thinking enters the conversation the conversation gets muddied. 

Bill Maher’s coined a phrase called “Whataboutism.” It’s when the surrogates of an accused politician defend their guy with something like, “well what about what Bill Clinton did?” Apparently they’ve never heard the old adage two wrongs don’t make a right. We’re also now witnessing “Notasbadism.” This is when abusive behavior is mitigated by irrelevant comparisons to other, more severe offenses: ‘Well, it’s not like Franken molested a child, right?!...’ 

To be sure, we’re still experiencing a tipping point. There’s a palpable shift in the balance of power. More and more women are coming forward, and more and more men are being held accountable for their despicable behavior. But we run a grave risk of undermining this incredible #MeToo movement when we once again fall into a pattern of discrediting and attacking the accusers. It’ll just keep them feeling unsafe in going public. 

Tweedon and Menz are part of the solution, not the problem. Their honesty, integrity and character cannot be questioned or impugned. If it is, then we’re right back to where we were before the floodgates opened. We must welcome, accept and protect these victims regardless of party affiliation. 

So I suggest to my fellow liberals that they ask themselves the following:

“If it was my daughter who was the victim of insensitive jokes, inappropriate sexual suggestions, or a physical sexual assault (be it an unwanted kiss, grab or worse)...would I (a) care if the abuser was liberal or a conservative, (b) care whether or not anyone else was assaulted in a “worse” way; (c) be more forgiving if it was “the only time” the accuser did this, or (d) want anyone to question her credibility because of something she said, did or wore in the past, or what she does for a living?”

I think we know the answer.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"I Don't Recall!" "I Don't Recall!" "I Don't Recall!"



Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top lawman, came to the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday armed with an arsenal of indignation, defensiveness, evasiveness and lies. And lots of memory loss. 

Sessions’ performance was an ironic travesty of justice. The highlight came when Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) asked Sessions if he realized that he’s said “I don’t recall” at least 20 times.

“I have no idea,” the former Alabama senator replied with a straight face.

We’ve never before witnessed a Unites States Attorney General come to Capitol Hill and demonstrate such arrogant, blatant disregard and disdain for the rule of law and utter contempt for those responsible for protecting it. It was equal parts farce and villainy. 

I can already imagine the Kate McKinnon Saturday Night Live skit...

Rep. Jeffries: Sir, you have come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and now the House Judiciary Committee...and in these hearings you have answered critical questions of national security with “I don’t recall” approximately 5000 times. Isn’t this extremely deceitful and dishonest? 

Sessions: Dang straight, Wakeen! I’m a smarmy lil rascal, ain’t I?!

Rep. Jeffries: But we’re talking about Russian interference in America’s election. The undermining of our democracy. The co-opting of the US president, who may be blackmailed because of pee-pee tapes.

Sessions: Mmmm...I sure would love to see them tapes! I’m nuttier than a squirrel turd!

Rep. Jeffries: Sir, do you know how serious this is?

Sessions: I don’t recall, Kareem! Psst...Im slicker than snot on a doorknob, huh!?

Rep. Jeffries: Have you committed treason? 

Sessions: I don’t recall! I sure do like sayinthat! By the way, can y’all turn the heat up? It’s colder than a witchs titty in here!

Rep. Jeffries: With all due respect, sir, you seem to to be enjoying this charade.

Sessions: I am! I am! Y’all could say I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park! 

Rep Jeffries: In closing, are there any other meetings you had with Russians that you wish to state for the record today? 

Sessions: I don’t recall! See? You ain’t gonna pin me down! I’m a sniveling lil scalawag! If I’s British ya’d call me a greasy lil cheeky monkey! Now c’mon, Shaquille, please show me them pee-pee tapes!.....

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Don't Believe Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell: They're NOT With Trump

If Tuesday’s election results are an indication, Republicans are in a state of dire panic. The GOP was dealt a crushing blow across urban and suburban landscapes in an ominous foreshadowing of much worse things to come. Its leadership is now faced with the terrifying reality that they can’t win with Donald Trump and they can’t with without him. 

But this diarrhea-inducing fear hasn’t stopped the party from pretending that it’s unified in support of the president. 

“We’re with Trump,” House Speaker Paul Ryan unconvincingly said this week when asked by Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade if the party still supported the unpopular, scandal-plagued president. 

And last month in a painfully awkward Rose Garden press conference Senate Leader Mitch McConnell stood beside Trump and feigned allegiance in his opening statement.

“We have the same agenda.”

Sorry Mitch, but you don’t. 

Trump only gives a shit about himself and his business. McConnell and Ryan want to further the Republican agenda. They want tax reform. They want it so badly that for the last two years they’ve sold their souls and slept with the devil. They’ve tolerated Trump’s ignorant, erratic, irrational antics; his unprecedented assault on truth and reality; and enabled his divisive, destructive, unconstitutional, sexist, racist treasonous behavior because of their Viagra-worthy hard-on for lower corporate taxes and an estate tax repeal.

But make no mistake. Nobody hates Trump more than these two self-serving snakes, both of whom have been the target of his ridicule and bullying. Don’t for a second be fooled by their public comments. They’ve concluded that, regardless of GOP control over Washington, they will get nothing done, absolutely nothing, as long as the Manbaby-in-Chief occupies the Oval Office. They are fucked, period. And they know it. 

They know that every day, instead of spewing disingenuous talking points about tax reform, healthcare and infrastructure they’ll instead continue to face a barrage of questions about Trump and his leadership:

“Do you support what the president Tweeted this morning?”

“Are Trump’s comments today presidential?”

“Are you upset that the presidential threw you under the bus today?

“Do you believe Donald Trump is emotionally fit for the job?”

It never ends. 

But it will. One day. And that day is getting ever closer. To be sure, McConnell and Ryan still fear the base. The 33% who still seem to support Trump no matter what he does, says or how much he breaks the promises he’s made to them. They believe they need this unfathomably loyal (or ignorant/naive) group. But the base is not a monolith. It’s already beginning to splinter, as a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this week indicated. 

McConnell and Ryan are self-preservationists, like virtually all politicians. They will not rock the Trump boat. With regard to impeachment or the 25th Amendment, they will not lead. But the nanosecond they sniff a safe opening, a nascent bandwagon, they will hop on full-throttle. It’ll happen when they begin to feel that the moment has arrived when it’s truly him or them. And then it’s Trump who’s fucked. The “I alone” president will be facing an existential tsunami the likes of which even Richard Nixon didn’t experience at the peak of Watergate. For him, Washington will become a cold, isolated minefield. Even his family will be torn apart by scandal and public scorn.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller will eventually conclude his investigation and hand McConnell and Ryan evidence that Trump and his team colluded with Russia and then obstructed justice to cover it up. That’s when they’ll make Trump the ‘deal’ of his life:

“Mr. President, this evidence is damning beyond comprehension or doubt. We are forced to immediately draft articles of impeachment. We will seek to remove you from office as quickly as possible. And, Mueller has advised that he intends to bring an indictment against you as soon as you leave office. Indictments for certain family members are already being drafted. You can avoid this public humiliation, and prosecution, by resigning immediately. For the sake of the nation and the American people, we strongly urge you to do so and begin to rebuild your life away from Washington.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Voters' Message to Trump: Fuck You!


They came out in droves. Fired up and resisting. Democrats. Independents. Moderate Republicans. Women. People of color. Gay, straight, old, young. They braved cold air, rain and long lines in some places, and the message they sent to Donald Trump is a bigly FUCK YOU! Fuck you and your ignorance. Fuck you and your intolerance. Fuck you and your sexism and your pussy-grabbing. Fuck you and your racism. And fuck you for spooning with Vladimir Putin in your bed of treason. 

It wasn’t just a landslide in Virginia, New Jersey and Washington. We witnessed a resounding repudiation of everything Trump and Trumpism stands for. Myriad candidates achieved historic victories across America’s economic, racial, social and sexual tapestry: LGBTQ (Jenny Durkan, Zachary DeWolf, Andrea Jenkins, Tyler Titus and Danica Roem), blacks (Jenkins, Brendon Barber, Wilmot Collins, Jonathan McCollar, Melvin Carter, Booker Gaynor, Vi Lyles, Yvonne Spicer, Sheila Oliver, Mary Parham Copelan, Justin Fairfax), Hispanics (Hala Ayala, Cathy Murillo, Janet Diaz and Elizabeth Guzman), women (Laura Curran, Joyce Craig and Asian-American Kathy Tran) and Ravinder Bhalla, a Sikh. 

And, voters in Maine defied their right-wing loon of a governor, Paul LePage, by making that state the 19th to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. 

Given the grim omen of last night’s humiliating drubbing, Republicans are waking up today terrified of what’s to come in the 2018 midterm election and in 2020. Frightened and frustrated that they can’t campaign with Trump because he’s political kryptonite, and can’t run on Trumpism without Trump. They’re facing their gloomy reality that they can’t win with him and they can’t win without him. 

It took moderate Republicans and independents just 10 months to join Democrats in rebuking Trump and his chaos presidency. A presidency that’s stained the office and divided the nation; normalized indecency, incivility and intolerance; mocked science, facts and truth; pissed on the Constitution; disrespected the rule of law; legitimized neo-Nazis and white-supremacists; alienated our allies; emboldened our enemies; and threatened our national security. It’s hard to imagine how the GOP can survive next year’s election, let alone three more years of Donald Trump. 

Tuesday’s election results, combined with the president’s historically low approval and the RussiaGate cloud that ominously looms over him and his administration, may finally be the Trump tipping point for the party’s leadership. If I were a gambling man, my money would be on Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and perhaps even vice president Mike Pence hurriedly chatting these next few days about how they can kick into high-gear the process of removing this cancer from the White House.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The New York Attack: A Father's Dread

Yesterday afternoon my daughter Sophie walked out of school and came within 20 feet of a crazed terrorist as he exited his death truck and stood brandishing what appeared to be two guns. She quickly turned back, grabbed a few friends and yelled “go, go, go,” then hurried back into the building. Moments later the school was on lockdown. 

I received a cryptic text from her on a borrowed phone:

Hi dad, my phone died but there was an incident outside school. I’m in the school. I’m ok. Just know I’m ok. I love you.

It was every parents’ worst nightmare. It’s the not-knowing which grabs you by the throat the most and refuses to let go. 

I was able to reach her back and then speak to a teacher who said “there was an accident, and some weapons, the building is on lockdown, the kids are inside and safe, but dont come because they won’t let you near here.” The notion of sitting home watching it all unfold on CNN seemed preposterous. My daughter was in that building. And that’s where I was going to be.

I hopped on a Citibike and sped like a racer. As I turned off Greenwich Street and onto Chambers Street I immediately saw the legion of police cars, ambulances and media trucks surrounding her school. Lights, sirens. It looked like a war zone. The not-knowing. Thinking the worst. 

I felt that same overpowering nausea in the pit of my stomach that I felt 11 years ago today as I drove to my late wife Adrienne’s office just before I found her murdered. 

I sped down Chambers. Crying on a Citibike. My mind racing as well, back to that horrible day 11 years ago. And also to that other horrible day, when my neighborhood, when our city and nation, was attacked by terrorists. It all came crashing back down. And once again, fearing the worst. The not-knowing.

Parents had gathered in front of the school. The panic and fear on their faces was evident. We weren’t given any information. We just wanted to see our kids. Soon after we were moved up the block, away from the front entrance, and behind police tape. A burly detective briskly walked up the block to us, a bit agitated. He shouted that we needed to move even further back, and that he was concerned about “devices.” 

From afar I saw a parent enter the school. I told the detective I wanted to go inside as well. That if he let some parents in he has to let us all in. To my surprise he said ok, abruptly instructing a uniformed officer to usher us in as long as we could identify ourselves as parents.

Within 10 minutes I walked into the school’s gym. Sophie spotted me and ran into my arms. She was scared, crying and hugged me for dear life. I’ll forever remember the look on her anguished teenage face. I held her in my arms and cried again with her. I was so happy and relieved, then sad, and then angry. Angry that these poor kids had to experience this horror. That my kid would have the image burned into her head of the crash, the screams, and this monster pointing weapons in her direction. Angry that she once again had her innocence kicked in the gut. 

And then she started telling me what happened. And I became proud. Proud of how she reacted when faced with unimaginable horror. She stayed calm. She helped others. And despite me feeling like she ignores the shit out of me when I try to instill in her a few survival tactics, it was clear she had listened to me. She remembered what I told her, and she kept my voice with her. I wasn’t there with her physically in her time of need, but I definitely feel comfort in knowing I was at least in her head. 

And now I was huddled with her in a school gym, on Halloween, not knowing what the hell was happening or when we’d be allowed to leave. 

Since 2006, Halloween has never been the same. That day Adrienne and I threw a party for Sophie’ s nursery school classmates and their parents. It was a great party. But a cruel, deceiving calm before the storm. Then the storm came. Halloween now serves as a table-setter for the worst fucking day my family and Adrienne’s family has ever known. 

Eight people died yesterday. Just because they decided to take a bike ride. A ride in the wrong place at the wrong time. My heart aches for them and their families. I know their pain firsthand. I’m also thinking about how differently that moment could’ve been when Sophie was standing on that corner, seeing the above image through her terrified 13-year-old eyes. If there could possibly be a silver lining in this unfathomable tragedy, it’s that while 11 years ago today Adrienne died, yesterday my Sophie lived. That this November 1st I feel lucky and grateful.