Bob Filner, you're no Anthony Weiner.
Filner, the Democratic mayor of San Diego and former member of Congress, is being accused by a series of women (one of whom has filed a lawsuit) of sexually harassment. We're not talking about sending graphic (and really not at all sexy; just gross) texts to a willing participant, as Weiner so distastefully did. We're talking about someone accused of asking a staffer to turn around (in public) and putting his hand on her ass. We're talking about someone accused of actually putting women into headlocks and trying aggressively to kiss them.
This isn't just disgusting or, as Filner has obliquely suggested, a failure to show proper respect to women. Nor is it merely making "sexual advances," as much of the media has described it – a term that likens this behavior to a 15-year-old boy getting shot down after he tries to grab his date's hand. This is molestation verging on sexual assault. It's sexual harassment, and it's illegal.
True, the media has been obsessed (understandably so) with the tales of male politicians behaving badly on matters that somehow involve sex. But the pols are also getting something of a pass. Why is it that when a well-known man grabs a woman in a sexual manner, the behavior is sanitized in the press as a "sexual advance," as Filner's history has been described? When former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused of extremely aggressive sexual behavior towards women, it was described as "groping." Grabbing a woman's breast is not "groping"; it's sexual molestation.
And why must the morning news/chat show hosts and guests continue to giggle as they talk about Weiner, Filner, disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Congressman Mark Sanford. Weiner suffers from an almost clinical level of narcissism, but didn't attack anyone (and it's arguable that the behavior of his online sexting partner, Sydney Leathers, is just as bad, since she seems to enjoy playing the role of sultry candidate-killer and the notoriety it brings). Spitzer had been his state's chief law enforcement officer and broke the law. And Sanford fell in love with someone other than his wife, and handled it pretty badly.
They are not linked cases simply because they all, in some way, involve sex. It would be like linking the Aaron Hernandez case to that of Lance Armstrong. Former New England Patriot Hernandez has been accused of murder, and Armstrong of doping. Do we link them as athletes behaving badly just because the cases involve sports?
Throwing all the sex-related cases into one basket has the effect of diminishing the seriousness of some of the cases (like Filner's) while elevating the importance of others (like Sanford's). And the linking of the cases also sends the offensive message that men will be boys, that they somehow are just weak when it comes to the fairer sex, so what are we to do?
No, the behavior ranged from just painful and embarrassing to outright illegal. So to the team on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" (except for Mika Brzezinski, who thankfully has managed to report on this with the gravity and perspective it merits): stop giggling. Grow up. And see these individual cases for what they are.
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