It's a bit disconcerting to see some of the responses from the Cain supporters this morning, following the sexual harrassment/assault allegations of Sharon Bialek directed at Cain.
It's one thing to disbelieve Bialek. In a he said/she said situation, people are going to line up that way.
But what's happening in some quarters of the right is stomach-turning: some rightwing columnists and pundits are saying that her accusations are irrelevant. And why? Because sexual harassment doesn't exist. This is simply insulting to women, period, and shows a cruel ignorance of reality. Over at Slate, Dalia Lithwick has the bill of particulars:
Why not start with John Derbyshire, who put it this way in the National Review: “Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing? Is there anyone who doesn’t know it’s all a lawyers’ ramp, like ‘racial discrimination’? You pay a girl a compliment nowadays, she runs off and gets lawyered up.” In Derbyshire’s America, “girls” see litigating as a shortcut to riches. Evidently we can’t procure riches the old-fashioned way anymore.
Laura Ingraham, who—recall—also has no idea whatsoever what happened between Cain and his accusers, is equally certain that each of the women involved is just greedy: “We have seen this movie before and we know how it ends. It always ends up being an employee who can’t perform or who under-performs and is looking for a little green,” she said on her radio show. Exactly. Like my mom always said: If you can’t marry a rich man, your next best option is to sue one.
Or take the legal stylings of Kurt Schlichter, who asserts that “the only things you need to file a lawsuit are the filing fee and a printer. Facts are optional. … Where sexual-harassment law once protected women from being forced to be the playthings of crude lechers, it’s been transformed to enforcing a prim puritanism that drains the humor and humanity from the workplace.” The humorless line is the route Sen. Rand Paul chose to deploy as well: “There are people now who hesitate to tell a joke to a woman in the workplace, any kind of joke, because it could be interpreted incorrectly.” You catch that? Humorless puritanical women have weaponized sex-discrimination law as a part of their global war on humor.
Rep. Steve King doubled down on this theme, calling sexual harassment “a terrible concept,” and lamenting the tendency “to define an action by the perception of the perceived victim.” Not clear whether the civil justice system is better off for examining only the perceived perceptions of the drunken harassers, but I take it that King is generally more confident that men are more perceptive about all things than the women who work for them.
But leave it to former Sen. Fred Thompson to really elevate the debate. In a riotously funny column penned in Cain’s defense, he too blows the whistle on the whole “sexual-harassment scam.” Because it is, as he conceives of it, a talentless woman’s golden ticket to fame: “These alleged victims and their lawyers—no matter what they may say publicly—are champing at the bit to come forward for their day in the limelight and the inevitable book deal.” Just think of all the famous sex-discrimination memoirs you’ve read recently. Yeah, me too. Or as my colleague David Weigel notes, “My idea of frothy fun would be to make accusations of sexual harassment against a powerful person, become a notorious figure whose life and character came under microscopic examination, and then spend the rest of my life living in a legal system shaped by the man I accused.”
And Ms. Lithwick sums it up nicely:
This isn’t just an effort to discredit Cain’s accusers. It’s an effort to dissuade women with genuine complaints from coming forward to report them…. [and] what’s worrying to me is the indifference of so many Republican voters: New poll results show that 70 percent of Republicans say the sexual harassment scandal makes no difference in their vote. It’s no longer just a Republican war on women. It’s a war on the idea that any woman might ever tell the truth.