Saturday, November 18, 2017


In The New York Times right now, there's a story about President Trump's decision to weigh in on the Al Franken sexual harassment/assault story, even through Trump has faced allegations of his own sexual misconduct from sixteen women. So why isn't Trump facing a reckoning now? After Harvey Weinstein and all the others, why aren't we focusing on Trump's behavior?

I think the layout of the Times story explains it:

This is what we talk about when we talk about Trump's sexual behavior: the bus. We talk about Trump discussing sexual assault in that Access Hollywood video. We focus on his words.

We watched that clip over and over. It dominated the news cycle for days. It's lodged in our memories. But there's nothing equally memorable from Trump's accusers. There was never a day when the news cycle was dominated by the story of someone accusing Trump of harassment or assault.

With Roy Moore, we focused first on horrifying stories from accusers. An accuser's story directed our attention to Al Franken. We learned about the behavior of Weinstein, James Toback, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and others from news reports of appalling behavior. The men's version of events was never the first story, or the most compelling one.

But does it matter? Isn't Trump confessing to horrible behavior? Not if you want to believe in him. If you do, you just tell yourself it was "locker room talk" and shrug it off as empty boasting. Even if you believe it, it doesn't have the impact of victims' accounts.

There are other reasons we haven't been able to focus on Trump's sexual behavior -- his ability to hijack the news cycle with other forms of aberrant behavior, his position of power, the fact that Republicans protect their own. But the main reason is that we've never had a day when the news was dominated by one or more riveting, persuasive accounts of Trump's predatory activity.

We can hope that the press will revisit the old stories and give us a day like that, but the press likes news that's new, so a moment like that probably won't come unless a new and believable accuser emerges with a terrible story. Or maybe we'll pay attention if a harassment lawsuit against Trump finally goes to trial. But until one of those things happens, Trump is going to skate on this.

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