Sunday, February 10, 2019

Democrats Opened Up Can of Sexual Assault Worms in #MeToo Era

You gotta love it!

At the Los Angeles Times, "Presidential hopefuls struggle to control damage from sexual misconduct cases in first race of #MeToo era":

As he lays ground to run for president, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock looks back with regret at his failure to recognize the gravity of a top aide’s sexual harassment of a colleague.

After he was fired, the advisor went to work for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and was soon accused of harassing two more women. Bullock now says he’s “deeply sorry” he never told de Blasio about his aide’s misbehavior.

“I was wrong and na├»ve to think I did enough,” Bullock, a Democrat, wrote Feb. 2 in a blog post.

Kamala Harris has similar regrets. So does Bernie Sanders. And so does Joe Biden.

The 2020 presidential race is the first to occur since the #MeToo movement changed the nation’s cultural and political climate. Democratic contenders are already struggling to control the damage from their own shortcomings in policing sexual harassment in the workplace.

“You can say you support #MeToo, and you can say you support women, but you have to be able to demonstrate that in your own organization and in your own behavior,” said Kelly Dittmar, a political scientist at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.

“I don’t think we’re going to see all of a sudden a wholesale overturning of the allowances that we’ve given to folks for this type of behavior, or not acting significantly to stop this behavior in the past. But I do think the bar is higher.”

Cold political math is at least part of what’s drawing heightened attention to sexual misconduct: Women consistently turn out to vote in greater numbers than men. Women have also strongly preferred Democrats in recent elections, driving the party’s takeover of the House in the November midterm.

In the White House race, Democrats face pressure to nominate a candidate who can draw a strong contrast with President Trump. A Democrat who is perceived as not dealing with sexual harassment seriously could have a hard time attacking the president over allegations by multiple women that Trump sexually assaulted them.

The accusations, which Trump denies, have not caused die-hard supporters to desert him, but the president remains highly unpopular among women in general.

For Harris, the U.S. senator from California, the issue has become fraught since the Sacramento Bee revealed in December that the state paid $400,000 to settle a lawsuit over alleged sexual harassment by Larry Wallace, one of her closest aides for 14 years.

When Harris was state attorney general, she named Wallace as chief of the Division of Law Enforcement. He was in charge of her personal security detail, and he was a crucial figure in her political life: He led Harris’ successful drive to win endorsements from dozens of police groups that had once roundly opposed her.

In September 2016, Wallace and at least four others on her staff at the attorney general’s office were notified of the initial complaint filed by Danielle Hartley, Wallace’s executive assistant.

Three months later, Hartley sued the state, alleging Wallace had “harassed and demeaned” her in his Sacramento office. He kept a printer on the floor beneath his desk, she claimed, and ordered her every day to get on her knees to put paper in it or replace the ink, at times with him and male co-workers watching. Harris’ successor, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, approved the settlement in May 2017.

Harris said she was not told about the case until the Bee asked about it two months ago. The inquiry led Wallace to resign as a senior advisor on her Senate staff in Sacramento.

“It was a very painful experience to know that something can happen in one’s office — of almost 5,000 people, granted, but I didn’t know about it,” Harris told CNN. “That being said, I take full responsibility for anything that has happened in my office.”

Critics have attacked the credibility of Harris, one of the Senate’s most pointed interrogators of Brett M. Kavanaugh when he faced sexual assault accusations at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. A Bee editorial called her denial of any knowledge of the Wallace settlement “far-fetched.” And if she’s to be believed, it said, she “isn’t a terribly good manager.”

Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State, said Harris was facing the conundrum of many politicians: How do they justify actions they took — or didn’t take — prior to the #MeToo movement shifting public attitudes?

“It’s very hard for those folks to go back and undo what they did at a time when it wasn’t viewed as terrible as it is now,” he said.
Keep reading.

Bernie's in hot water too, lol.

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