Saunders: Did Trump election push assault accusations into the light?




Debra J. Saunders is a Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist. Email: Twitter: @DebraJSaunders

What does Donald Trump have that former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, TV newsman Mark Halperin and actor Kevin Spacey don’t? A job.

All four men have been the subject of multiple accusations that they sexually harassed subordinates. Many of the accounts go back decades. Some involve predatory assaults to which the accuser did not consent. Years later, many of the objects of their intentions still feel violated.

The volume and graphic nature of the charges have driven Weinstein, Halperin and Spacey from their precious perches.

Not Trump –, he won a promotion. After a swarm of ugly allegations about Trump kissing and groping unwilling women, American voters sent him to the White House.

Another difference: Weinstein, Halperin and Spacey apologized for their bad behavior, even as they denied some specific accusations. Trump denied everything.

In October 2016, The Washington Post reported on an outtake from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” interview with Billy Bush. Trump now famously said that when you’re a star, “you can do anything” to women — even grab their crotches.

Trump claimed he did not behave the way he talked to Bush and dismissed his chatter as meaningless “locker room talk.” When a number of women came forward to accuse Trump of kissing and/or pawing them, he countered the stories were “totally fake news” and “made-up stuff.”

One head did roll. NBC fired Bush, who was a “Today” show host in 2016. His offense? Eleven years earlier, he had chuckled at Trump’s crude remarks.

GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alice Stewart doesn’t think it’s accurate to lump the claims made against Trump in with the more egregious allegations made about Weinstein and Spacey. Stewart also noted that in one sense, there is a higher bar for TV — where advertisers don’t want to be tainted with creepy guys — than elected office.

Trump voters know he has faults, but they were looking for someone to drain the swamp and shake up the beltway. Voters were looking for a fighter, Stewart said. Besides, Trump never ran as a “family values” candidate.

There’s another element starkly missing after accusations have been directed toward others in the entertainment orbit — the conviction that the burden falls on the accuser, not the accused.

Politics appear warm and fuzzy in comparison. In politics, there always are loyal partisans ready to stand up for someone whom they believe should not be a target — especially if they suspect the story is politically motivated.

Clinton paves the way

Hoover Institution research fellow Bill Whalen believes President Bill Clinton, by fighting back when it had been reported that he had been involved with a White House intern, paved the way for Trump. Clinton’s first instinct was to deny, not apologize, and fight back. He survived.

Hillary Clinton’s defense of her husband hobbled her own presidential campaign in 2016.

“How can she attack Donald Trump for bad behavior when she in fact turned a blind eye to her husband’s own behavior?” Whalen asked.

Here’s an odd twist. Actress Amber Tamblyn has a theory on how Trump’s election led to Weinstein’s demise. She told Cosmopolitan, “Honestly, I trace everything back to the election of Donald Trump. I think that without him being elected, if it had been Hillary Clinton, this would’ve never happened to Harvey Weinstein.”

Tamblyn said she understands that though not all women see Trump as she does; she believes his victory was a signal that women don’t matter. “And so within that single vote, it sort of was like a switch was flipped on and every woman just went, I’m done. It’s as simple as that: I’m done.”

A Hollywood ending? In backing a candidate who does not back down, Trump voters gained a fighter — and from his victory, Hollywood tasted its vaunted values.