‘MediaBuzz’ host Howard Kurtz weighs in on recent swath of sexual harassment allegations coming to the forefront in both the political arena and in the media.
CBS News and PBS suspended Charlie Rose yesterday after a highly detailed report in the Washington Post carried allegations from several women of sexual harassment and groping.
And that wasn’t even the only such accusation in the media or political world. The New York Times also suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush.
Rose, the co-host of “CBS This Morning” and a “60 Minutes” correspondent, as well as the owner and creator of his nightly PBS program, gave the Post a statement:
“It is essential that these women know I hear them and that I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed. I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
The Post reports that eight women—three of them on the record—say Rose “made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.”
One woman said Rose brought her to his Long Island estate to discuss a possible job and “subsequently attempted to put his hands down her pants. She said she pushed his hands away and wept throughout the encounter.”
A former producer, Reah Bravo, said Rose once climbed on top of her on a plane flight.
A former assistant, Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, said Rose would berate her in public, call her as late as midnight and as early as 6 a.m. and press for details of her sex life.
Yvette Vega, Rose’s longtime top producer, told the Post she didn’t act on the women’s complaints: “I should have stood up for them. I failed. It is crushing. I deeply regret not helping them.”
And now to politics. Al Franken looked like he was probably going to ride out the storm over that cringe-inducing groping photo—but a second accuser surfaced yesterday.
Leigh Corfman had already told her story about what she says happened with Roy Moore when she was 14. But yesterday she told it on national television.
As the fallout over such allegations continues, the debate, infused by partisanship, has turned to the credibility of the accusers (as well as the news organizations reporting the stories). And on that score, video and photographs are often crucial.
Franken has apologized for what happened with Leeann Tweeden, the radio host who says he aggressively tongue-kissed her during a 2006 rehearsal for a USO show.
But what made her account indelible is that photo of a grinning Franken with his hands over her breasts while Tweeden was asleep on a plane.
Some Democrats hoped that Franken could slide based on a single incident. But CNN yesterday quoted a woman named Linsday Menz as saying that Franken grabbed her buttocks in 2010 while posing for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair.
The date is key because Franken was a senator at the time.
“As my husband took the picture,” Menz told CNN, “he put his hand full-fledged on my rear. It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek.”
The onetime “Saturday Night Live” star said he didn’t remember the photo-taking session but that “I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”
We have the photo because, well, Menz posted it to Facebook at the time.
Corfman, one of nine Moore accusers, sat down yesterday with Savannah Guthrie on “Today.” She was calm, measured and did not seem like someone with a political ax to grind.
In describing how the Alabama Senate candidate brought her to his home nearly four decades ago, partially undressed her and touched her, Corfman did not say she was assaulted; she said Moore, then 32, “proceeded to seduce me.” She also said he drove her home when she objected. Afterward, “I felt guilty. I felt like I was the one to blame…It was decades until I was able to let that go.”
Why didn’t she go public earlier? Corfman told the NBC audience that she was a single mother with two young kids, and that years later, her children urged her not to speak out about the incident. The self-described Republican said “this fell in my lap” when Washington Post reporters approached her, and that it has hurt her financially because he “had to take leave from my job.”
You can watch the video and decide for yourself; that’s the great thing about television.
Also yesterday, the New York Times suspended Thrush after Vox published a story by Laura McGann. She says that when both were colleagues at Politico, Thrush unexpectedly put his hand on her thigh and started kissing her in a bar before she walked out. She said Thrush sent her an apologetic email.
McGann reported that two other women accused Thrush of unwanted kissing or touching, and another said there was a drunken, consensual encounter that made her feel shaken.
Thrush, who is also an MSNBC contributor, challenged McGann’s account, saying their encounter was brief, consensual and ended by him. But, he said in a statement: “I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately. Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.” He said he was “deeply sorry” for the most recent incident, in June.
“Over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily,” Thrush said. “During that period, I have done things that I am ashamed of, actions that have brought great hurt to my family and friends.” He said he has not taken a drink since June and plans to begin outpatient treatment for alcoholism.
Times Senior Vice President Eileen Murphy said the paper supports that decision. She said the Vox allegations are “very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of the New York Times.”