We’re several months into the #MeToo movement, in which women refusing to shut up about their lives have seized the public consciousness, and some people are starting to panic.
Where does it end? What about due process? What happens to those men, their lives “destroyed by a mere allegation,” to quote the President of the United States, who tweeted his concern for Rob Porter after he resigned from the White House amidst allegations of domestic violence?
Reality check: Far from destroying lives, allegations often don’t even stand in the way of a promotion.
If Porter’s two ex-wives had never gone public, Chief of Staff John Kelly, who knew and didn’t care about the charges, would’ve continued to work alongside the man he defended as having “true integrity and honor.”
Trump himself has ascended to the highest office in the land, despite being caught on videotape bragging about sexual assault and 22 women accusing him of various forms of misconduct.
And in Albany, where Independent Democratic Conference Leader Sen. Jeff Klein is accused of forcibly kissing a former staffer, the Senate is so panicked about marring his reputation that it updated its sexual harassment policy and added a gratuitous warning to complainants: “reporting a false complaint is a serious act.”
The four-page policy is a flimsy liability shield that stands in stark contrast to the Assembly’s 13-page instruction manual, which manages to outline a balanced process without preemptively intimidating victims from reporting.
It wasn’t that way in 2001, when the chief counsel to former Speaker Sheldon Silver, Michael Boxley, allegedly raped Elizabeth Crothers, a 24-year-old legislative aide. Unsure about what to do, Crothers told me that she met with the speaker, who encouraged her to put aside the incident for “the sake of the institution.” He promised an investigation into Boxley that somehow involved calling Crothers’ parents and her previous employers.
In the end, Boxley kept his job — until two years later, when police hauled him out of the Assembly in handcuffs after another aide accused him of raping her. Like Porter, he wasn’t fired, but allowed to resign before eventually pleading to a lesser charge and losing his law license for a year.
He’s now a lobbyist at Brown and Weinraub, where the website extols his 15 years of experience next to a dignified headshot.
Crothers, meanwhile, though able to discuss the whole experience with serene detachment, still shudders at the memory of running into Silver or Boxley whenever she gets out of an elevator.
She tells me how she loved her job in the Assembly but “wasn’t able to pursue the career that I envisioned,” even as she’s ultimately carved out a successful path of her own. She remembers Assemblyman Joe Morelle saying, “I absolutely don’t believe a word of it,” when her story hit the press, “and he’s now the majority leader,” she laughs. Incidentally, Silver — who told Crothers point blank, “my primary concern is the institution” — is about to go on trial again for public corruption, not for callously denying women their human and legal rights.
Silver may be gone, but Jim Yates, who served as his counsel overseeing sexual harassment complaints, is poised to be among those evaluating the charges against Klein from his position on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Speaker Carl Heastie appointed Yates to JCOPE despite Yates’ role in using taxpayer money to secure the same secret settlements that the Gov. Cuomo now proposes to ban.
For his part, Cuomo didn’t have a problem hiring former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a man with a known history of bad behavior, as regional president of the state’s Empire State Development Corporation. Hoyt had been censured by the Assembly for abusing his power by having an affair with a legislative intern.
Then — surprise, surprise — Hoyt wound up resigning from the Cuomo administration late last year, just days before another woman filed a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment.
Still, his career hasn’t been destroyed: One week ago, The News reported that Hoyt is starting his own lobbying firm.
When anyone alleges sexual harassment or abuse, it makes sense to worry about evidence, fairness and due process for both parties. But the #MeToo backlash — the notion that men’s lives are being left in wreckage, left and right — is bunk.
And even when a man does lose a job, it’s not the same emotional or economic destruction as having a career derailed because of sexual harassment or violence.
Historically, few men’s lives have actually been destroyed. Even a man like Boxley, who in his plea agreement acknowledged having sex with a woman without her consent, is today lobbying the same Legislature he left in short-lived disgrace.
That’s the far bigger problem, not an overzealous or indiscriminate #MeToo movement.
Grenell is a Democratic consultant.