I’ve been a regular CBS news viewer for many years. When the news broke last week about Charlie Rose and sexual harassment, I was stunned and deeply disappointed. Today, we hear that Matt Lauer has been fired by NBC after accusations of sexual misconduct in the workplace. While I was never a big fan of Matt Lauer, I know he had many regular viewers just like Charlie Rose. I’m sure there are many more people who are now dealing with feelings of disappointment and bewilderment. The female co-anchors on the NBC and CBS morning news shows are really feeling the emotional turmoil.
We can likely credit the Weinstein effect for giving women the courage to come forward with accounts of past inappropriate conduct of powerful people and/or popular celebrities. I’m happy that these instances of harassment are getting the attention they deserve. We probably all know of victims, and/or you’ve been a victim yourself of sexual harassment. It can be a touchy subject, in part because victims struggle with feelings of guilt and/or internal questions on whether their appearance or actions helped contribute to conduct that crossed the line. Angela Lansbury, age 92, was featured in the news recently for saying that women must ‘sometimes take blame’ for sexual harassment. I think she’s wrong, but it brings to light just how nuanced this issue can sometimes be.
Case in point: Al Franken has been accused of groping and/or landing his hands on several lady’s buttocks during picture taking moments. Unlike so many others who continue to deny, Al Franken has expressed sincere regret and he has issued apologies for his conduct. I happen to be a fan of, and appreciate all that Al Franken has done for the country. But should his positive contributions excuse bad conduct? Do we conclude that his actions are marginal? Or that they don’t rise to the same level of harassment as others who have been accused?
As a man, I’m lucky to not be a victim. While I know there are some men who are victims, the vast majority are women. And I can only attempt to imagine how it must feel during this period of American history when one prominent man, after another, is brought into the spotlight of sexual misconduct which likely triggers terrible memories for past victims. I can only imagine. What I do know or feel is a sense of loss. I really admired and respected Charlie Rose. His contributions to news reporting have been honored with numerous rewards. Should his sexual misconduct totally erase his positive contributions? If he seeks forgiveness and makes amends with those whom he harassed, should he be restored? Forgiven? To what level do we insist that men remain completely blameless with regard to making inappropriate remarks to women? If a man puts his hand on a woman’s rear end during a picture-taking moment, should he be immediately fired?
I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. But I’d love to hear your thoughts.