Woody Allen has warned of a possible witch hunt in the making after the blockbuster October 5 New York Times story that exposed Harvey Weinstein as a serial sexual abuser. But witches weren’t real, and sexual harassers seem to be everywhere. Today MSNBC cut ties with pundit Mark Halperin ”until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.” Halperin denied some aspects of a CNN report that he had sexually harassed five women, but conceded bad behavior. That follows news that Leon Wieseltier, the leonine longtime literary editor of the New Republic, had also apparently abused his position to sexually harass women, and admitted “offenses against some of my colleagues in my past.” Laurene Powell Jobs, who was to fund a new magazine Wieseltier was to edit that sounded like an isotope of the New Republic, pulled the plug on that project.
Wieseltier, Halperin, Weinstein, Roy Price (the former head of Amazon Studios), Lockhart Steele (canned as editorial director of Vox Media) and Chris Savino (axed as showrunner for Nickelodeon’s The Loud House) have all been outed as sexual harassers, and suffered consequences, in just three weeks. Where does this end? It seems likely that many other powerful men who have behaved horribly are going to be exposed in coming weeks: a list of “S****y Media Men” is making the rounds, many journalists have seen it, and it is bound to pop up online. The potential for a problem there is obvious: What if not everyone on the list is guilty? It would be a shame if anyone’s career were to be ruined because of unfounded accusations.
But what about all the founded ones? Rapists need to be put in jail, but for lesser offenses, such as the kind of behavior CNN reported about Halperin, should the men involved lose their careers? I don’t know the answer. That is a harsh punishment, but the kinds of things Halperin allegedly did are disgusting. Certainly if you heard that a man in your company had acted in this manner, you’d fire him immediately. But should people like Halperin and Wieseltier never work again? What is the proper punishment for these acts? Is there a way to make restitution to the women harmed? Can such men be trusted in any respectable workplace again?