In the month since The New Yorker and The New York Times published allegations of serial sexual predatory behavior by producer Harvey Weinstein — some 100 women have now accused him of misconduct ranging from harassment to rape — people who said they had been sexually victimized have felt emboldened to voice allegations against men who had been seen as untouchable. Hollywood wracked by chaos in aftermath of sex scandals.
Actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet the hashtag #MeToo. This has now become a movement. The Movement of #MeToo:
The power of #MeToo, though, is that it takes something that women had long kept quiet about and transforms it into a movement. Unlike many kinds of social-media activism, it isn’t a call to action or the beginning of a campaign, culminating in a series of protests and speeches and events. It’s simply an attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society. To get women, and men, to raise their hands.
California Rep. Jackie Speier has brought the #MeToo movement to Congress. #MeTooCongress campaign shines a light on sexual harassment on Capitol Hill; Women of Congress share #MeToo stories.
State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, has brought the #MeToo movement to the Arizona Legislature. At least five women have now publicly accused Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, of making sexually charged comments, touching them inappropriately or making unwanted sexual advances. Several women accuse Arizona state Rep. Don Shooter of sexual harassment.
The latest scandal to drop is reported in the Washington Post today. Four women have gone on the record to accuse former Judge Roy Moore, the GOP candidate for senate in Alabama, of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32:
Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.
It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.
Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.” Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.
Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.
Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the three women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.
Wendy Miller says she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the Gadsden Mall when Moore first approached her, and 16 when he asked her on dates, which her mother forbade. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on the first of several dates that did not progress beyond kissing. Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19.
Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.
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Neither Corfman nor any of the other women sought out The Post. While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls. Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women say they don’t know one another.
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In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations.
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore, now 70, said.
The campaign said in a subsequent statement that if the allegations were true they would have surfaced during his previous campaigns, adding “this garbage is the very definition of fake news.”
Well, no. What we are witnessing since the Harvey Weinstein story first broke is something new and different from what followed in the wake of the Bill Cosby sex scandal, or the Access Hollywood video of Billy Bush and Donald Trump, when 11 women came forward to accuse the GOP presidential candidate of sexual misconduct. We are witnessing a cultural shifting moment.
After The Post published the Roy Moore story Thursday afternoon, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and a handful of other GOP senators said Moore must step aside “if Corfman’s account is true.”
How are you going to prove if the allegations are true, Mitch? You either believe these women, or you do not. That’s your choice.
Other GOP leaders followed McConnell’s squishy lead. GOP Leaders: Roy Moore ‘Must Step Aside’ If Allegations Of Underage Sexual Encounter True:
“If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable, but we believe in a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and so I think it’s important for the facts to come out,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters. “It’s not just an allegation, it’s a story. There has to be something more to it so I’m interested in seeing what substantiation there is for the story.”
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Most other Republican senators took the same “if true” stance as McConnell as the news trickled out.
“If that’s true, then he wouldn’t belong in the Senate,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told reporters shortly after the news broke.
“If the allegations are true, yes, I think he should step aside,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told reporters shortly after the news broke. “It’s very troubling. If the story’s true, I would hope that he would do the right thing and step aside.”
One exception: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
According to Alabama law, Moore cannot be removed from the ballot — but if the state Republican Party pulls its endorsement, votes for him won’t count and it can run a write-in candidate. There was buzz around Capitol Hill in the immediate aftermath of the explosive report that’s the path Republicans might pursue.
UPDATE: Talking Points Memo clarifies, The GOP Looks Stuck With Roy Moore:
State law appears to leave no alternative to Roy Moore’s name appearing on the ballot. Luther Strange, the incumbent appointed senator who lost to Moore, can’t appear on the ballot because of the state’s “sore loser” law. However, he could appear as a write-in. This release from the Alabama Secretary of State states explicitly that write-in votes are valid even if the person receiving the vote would be disqualified from appearing on the ballot under the ‘sore loser’ law.
Maybe Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III will resign from a job he clearly hates and from which Trump wants to fire him, and return to Alabama to run as a write-in candidate for the seat he vacated.
This rush by GOP leaders to declare that Roy Moore’s sexual advances to minors is “disqualifying” for public office has more to do with the fact that the GOP establishment does not want this radical Theocratic bomb-thrower in the Senate than it does with any genuine concern they have for his alleged sexual advances to minors when he was in his 30s. They are being disingenuous.
If sexual misconduct were truly “disqualifying” for public office, then these same GOP leaders, to be morally consistent, would have to demand that Donald Trump “immediately step aside” for far more egregious allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Washington Post recently reported on the status of the defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump. All of the women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment are lying, the White House says:
All the women who have accused President Trump of sexual harassment are lying, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday when asked for the official White House position on the issue.
The question was posed during a White House briefing at a time when numerous men in high-profile positions have been undercut of late by allegations of sexual misconduct, including journalist Mark Halperin, who faced accusations this week from former colleagues.
“Obviously, sexual harassment has been in the news,” Jacqueline Alemany of CBS News asked Sanders. “At least 16 women accused the president of sexually harassing them throughout the course of the campaign. Last week, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president called these accusations ‘fake news.’ Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?”
“Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president’s spoken on it,” Sanders said, before quickly pivoting to another reporter to ask a question.
Lawyers for one of the women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault subpoenaed his campaign for all documents relating to her, all communications with or about her and “all documents concerning any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.” Trump campaign subpoenaed over sexual assault allegations:
This comes in the case of Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007. The accusations were made in October of last year at a news conference.
Zervos claims Trump kissed her twice on the lips during a lunch meeting in his New York City office and on a separate occasion in Beverly Hills, she alleges he kissed her aggressively and touched her breast.
In a statement at the time, Trump denied these claims.
Asked about the subpoena at a White House news conference on Monday, Trump said, “All I can say is it’s totally fake news, just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics.”
The subpoena, issued in March, is just coming to light now and is part of a defamation lawsuit filed by Zervos in January in the New York State Supreme Court against Trump following his denials.
Buzzfeed News first reported the existence of the subpoena.
The subpoena was served to the campaign, but Zervos’ lawyers and the campaign agreed to suspend the response date until after a motion to dismiss the lawsuit is decided, Mariann Wang, one of her attorneys, told CNN. She said campaign officials gave assurances that the documents be preserved which they did.
Information about the subpoena was entered into the court record as part of a filing in which Zervos’ attorneys argued against dismissal of the suit.
Attorneys for Trump said the suit “… has no legal merit,” and argued the lawsuit should be dismissed. In a motion, his lawyers said because this is a state lawsuit it cannot proceed against a sitting president.
“Ms. Zervos does not and cannot state a cause of action for defamation under California law, which applies here because Ms. Zervos is domiciled and was purportedly injured there. The allegedly defamatory statements were made during a national political campaign that involved heated political debate in political forums. Statements made in that context are properly viewed by courts a part of the expected fiery rhetoric, hyperbole and opinion that is squarely protected by the First Amendment,” his lawyers argued in a court motion.
His lawyers also said if the case isn’t dropped at least it should be stayed until he leaves office.
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While Trump’s attorneys have said Zervos’ allegations are politically motivated, her lawyers disagreed.
“Contrary to Defendants’ spin, this case is not about robust political debate. Ms. Zervos was not a political opponent, nor was she a political commentator routinely engaged in criticizing candidates,” Zervos’ attorneys countered in a court filing last month. “She came forward to report the details of Defendants’ unwanted sexual battery only after he repeatedly lied publicly about his behavior. Defendant then used his international bully pulpit to violate her for a second time.”
Exactly. This is what women who accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct regularly face. There is no upside for them to go public with their allegations. They are generally victimized a second time. This is what makes the #MeToo movement a cultural shifting moment.
Anna North at Vox.com explains How one woman’s defamation suit could shine a light on Trump’s sexual assault allegations (if the case goes forward).