The Morning Jolt

Culture

Is the World of Journalism More Like Hollywood Than It Wants to Admit?

At a recent gathering of conservative bloggers, a few of us joked about creating a “sexual impropriety pool” — wagering on which public figure will next face accusations of improper or repulsive behavior. We concluded that too many of us had heard rumors through the grapevine to make it work; essentially every prediction would amount to insider trading.

Then again, none of us had Charlie Rose in the pool.

Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the “Charlie Rose” show from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011. They ranged in age from 21 to 37 at the time of the alleged encounters. Rose, 75, whose show airs on PBS and Bloomberg TV, also co-hosts “CBS This Morning” and is a contributing correspondent for “60 Minutes.”

There are striking commonalities in the accounts of the women, each of whom described their interactions with Rose in multiple interviews with The Post. For all of the women, reporters interviewed friends, colleagues or family members who said the women had confided in them about aspects of the incidents. Three of the eight spoke on the record.

Perhaps that story was broken by the Post and not the New York Times because the Times was dealing with its own issues yesterday:

The New York Times said on Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations from four female journalists that Mr. Thrush, who was hired by The Times in January to cover the Trump administration, had acted inappropriately toward them. Mr. Thrush was a star reporter at Politico before joining The Times.

The women cited in the Vox article described Mr. Thrush’s behavior as including unwanted kissing and touching. Three of the women were not identified by name. The fourth, Laura McGann, wrote the article, which was presented in the first person.

“The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” The Times said in a statement on Monday. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended.”

Not that long ago, the reports of awful behavior by Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and other tales of gross and juvenile antics in the halls of Fox News Channel led many to suspect that something was deeply wrong at that institution. But in light of the various allegations against NBC’s Mark Halperin, former Vox editorial director Lockhart Steele, NPR news chief Michael Oreskes, former New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, and former New Republic president and publisher Hamilton Fish . . . maybe the office culture of Fox News wasn’t as unusual as its critics contended.

While it’s not quite as competitive as Hollywood, journalism is like other fields perceived as glamourous: a lot of people competing for a limited number of jobs and slots. An editor or publisher’s ability to offer a job, and then give a particular journalist the top-tier assignments, prominence, and accolades creates enormous power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely; no doubt Harvey Weinstein’s power to create or destroy careers in Hollywood added to his certainty that he could harass any woman (and apparently berate any man) and get away with it.

It’s cynical but not so rare to assert that the highest tier of the realm of journalism is starting to resemble Hollywood. Halperin’s latest show, The Circus, ran on HBO, not a news network. Journalists play themselves in cameos in television shows and movies, and the White House Correspondent’s Dinner increasingly resembles Oscar Night for Washington. Some journalists have become full-scale “personality celebrities,” performing a drama of their own. The cover of Vanity Fair usually features a movie or music star; in January, Megyn Kelly stared out at viewers. Would anyone today launch a McLaughlin Group style-show of ruffled, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time middle-aged print reporters with more inside scoops than good looks?

Some might tell me I shouldn’t look down upon those guys who are hired to stand or sit in front of a camera while wearing makeup and say the right words on cue, with the appropriate emphasis and emotional tone in their delivery. In the end, is the biggest difference that pundits are their own screenwriters?

Franken and Conyers and Moore and Filner . . . 

As a second accuser comes forward with a description of Minnesota senator Al Franken behaving inappropriately — this time grabbing buttocks, while he was a senatorNew York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who called for Franken’s resignation after the first accusation from Leeann Tweeden, suddenly backtracks . . . 

If Democrats “set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms,” she wrote. And when the next Democratic member of Congress goes down, there might not be a Democratic governor to choose his replacement.

I’m partly persuaded by this line of reasoning, though conservatives mock it as the “one free grope” rule. It’s a strange political fiction that anyone can really separate partisanship from principle. In general, the character of the party that controls the government has a much greater impact on people’s lives than the character of individual representatives. Those who care about women’s rights shouldn’t be expected to prove it by being willing to hand power to people devoted to taking those rights away.

Meanwhile, breaking late last night . . . 

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

Hey, I’m sure Roy Moore will clean up the place when he gets there. Kyle Whitmire reads Moore’s autobiography, where he describes meeting his wife:

“Many years before, I had attended a dance recital at Gadsden State Junior College,” Moore wrote. “I remembered one of the special dances performed by a young woman whose first and last names began with the letter ‘K.’ It was something I had never forgotten. Could that young woman have been Kayla Kisor?”

Moore later determined that it was.

“Long afterward, I would learn that Kayla had, in fact, performed a special dance routine at Gadsden State years before,” he wrote.

 . . . In an interview Moore gave earlier this year, he gave a similar account, but for one detail.

“It was, oh gosh, eight years later, or something, I met her,” Moore said. “And when she told me her name, I remembered ‘K. K.,’ and I said, ‘Haven’t I met you before?’”

It’s a simple matter of subtraction. When Roy Moore first took notice of Kayla she would have been as young as 15.

Or perhaps 16. Moore would have been roughly 30 at the time.

Can you stand one more?

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said Monday that she is among the many women who have been sexually harassed while serving in Congress — telling MSNBC that former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner of California groped her while the two Democrats were in an elevator.

“Some years ago, I was in an elevator and then-Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me and I pushed him away,” said the Denver lawmaker in an on-air interview.

Some of us who covered Filner’s end as San Diego mayor are not surprised.

The local Democratic Party has known for a long time about sexual harassment allegations against Bob Filner, a former Democratic assemblywoman said in a Thursday interview.

“I blew the whistle on this two years ago to the Democratic Party leadership,” former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña said.

Saldaña said that in summer 2011 six prominent women in local politics, business and education told her that Filner had physically or verbally harassed them. Saldaña had been exploring what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for Congress and the conversations came in the context of the 2012 elections.

Saldaña said she contacted former party Chairman Jess Durfee with the allegations and Durfee was among a group of Democratic leaders who met with Filner to discuss them that summer. She said nothing happened.

“As disgraceful as Bob’s behavior has been, it’s been tolerated by our Democratic Party leadership,” she said.

ADDENDA: Sorry for all of the depressing and unsavory news today; I’ll try to be cheerier tomorrow. In the meantime, some wise thoughts from Dennis Prager: “You can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful, and you can’t be a good person if you aren’t grateful . . .  Ingratitude guarantees unhappiness . . .  Ingratitude is always accompanied by anger. Perceiving oneself as a victim may be the single biggest reason people hurt other people. People who think of themselves as victims tend to believe that because they’ve been hurt by others, they can hurt others.”

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