Hillary Clinton is the latest politician embroiled in a #MeToo sexual-harassment scandal. The New York Times reported earlier this week that she shielded a top adviser from allegations of sexual misconduct against a subordinate.
During the 2008 campaign, a young woman accused Clinton’s faith adviser, Burns Strider, of harassment. Clinton’s campaign manager recommended that Strider be fired, but Clinton refused, instead docking his pay and requiring him to attend counseling. In 2016, Strider rallied to Hillary’s side again, this time to head up the pro-Clinton group Correct the Record, from which he was later fired for . . . sexually harassing a female subordinate.
When the Times story broke, Clinton offered a remarkably tepid statement via Twitter:
I called her today to tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 27, 2018
This kind of empty moralizing is not unique to Gillibrand, though her particular brand of hypocrisy is uniquely irritating. When the Harvey Weinstein story broke last fall — the story that catapulted us headlong into the #MeToo movement — public figures on the left largely stayed silent, evidently unsure how to deal with the fact that an ally and top donor had been implicated in something so distasteful.
When Minnesota senator Al Franken and Michigan congressman John Conyers were entangled in sexual-assault allegations of their own, top Democrats kept their lips sealed for weeks. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said she had “zero tolerance” for harassment but appeared on Meet the Press to defend Conyers, calling him “an icon,” praising him for his support of women’s rights, and intimating that his accusers might not be credible.
Democratic senators side-stepped the Franken accusations for two weeks. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders suggested that Franken might not need to retire because he was popular in his home state. Gillibrand herself repeatedly dodged press questions on the subject, saying it was Franken’s decision whether he ought to resign. It wasn’t until public outcry built that these vacillators abandoned him en masse, as the price of disregarding his behavior outweighed their fear of disowning a loyal brother in arms.
Of course, reluctance or refusal to hold allies accountable isn’t a purely Democratic ailment; there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around, on both sides of the aisle. Consider the way top Republicans brushed aside the Access Hollywood tape, and factions of the GOP embraced Roy Moore despite credible allegations that he assaulted minors.
But left-wing politicians have spent decades asking us to believe that they’re the real allies of American women, that the Right ignores sexual assault, that conservatives are waging a “War on Women.” Like Clinton, they promise that they can’t possibly be complicit because they’ve campaigned against female oppression for decades.
Until they’re ready to stop covering for the misdeeds of political allies — or simply their employees — these hypocrites have forfeited the right to point the finger of zero tolerance at enemies.
Where #MeToo Goes Off the Rails