Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya, and the author of the book “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Fallen New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is one of a growing list of prominent Democratic men who have stepped aside after pressure from their own party; he is also part of a growing list of men who stand accused of serious misconduct toward women, some of it potentially criminal.
Mere hours after the New Yorker published an astonishing, deeply disturbing article detailing allegations of physical and psychological abuse by Schneiderman, Democratic politicians called for Schneiderman’s resignation, and he gave it. Republicans exulted on Twitter: Kellyanne Conway, for example, tweeting “Gotcha.”
It’s hard to miss the glaring partisan gap here: While mistreatment of women seems to transcend political boundaries, the Democratic and Republican parties’ response to allegations of abuse and harassment are starkly different. Democrats increasingly police their own. Republicans, in large part, shrug.
As soon as the New Yorker piece dropped, both enemies and allies of Schneiderman demanded he be accountable to Democratic ideals and immediately step down. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, running in a surprisingly challenging primary against Cynthia Nixon, has long had tensions with the AG, and so it was unsurprising that he called for his resignation. But he wasn’t the only one.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has worked with Schneiderman and enjoyed a close relationship with him, also immediately said he should not continue to serve, and that there should be “a full and immediate investigation.” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which had honored Schneiderman’s work fighting for reproductive freedom, tweeted that she was “pained and appalled at the credible allegations against him.”
Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, tweeted “Time’s up on people whose public and private actions do not match,” and that “it’s right that [Schneiderman] resign.”
We saw the same dynamic when former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken was accused of sexual harassment. While there are still criticisms that he was pushed out too fast without a proper investigation, the reality is that it was his fellow Democrats who demanded he go. He resigned in January.
When the accusations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced, Republicans demanded Democrats return the donations he had given them, and they did. If you’re a Democratic politician, donor or public figure, mistreating women comes with serious consequences.
That’s not so true if you’re a Republican. The GOP has become so disturbingly power-hungry it is willing to put party before anything else – before country, before the Constitution, and certainly before women.
There is the obvious example of the President himself, who bragged on tape about grabbing women’s genitals – which is not mere “groping,” but a crime of sexual assault – and who has been accused of assault or harassment by more than a dozen women. He denies the allegations.
Donald Trump also gratuitously insults women, often in darkly sexist terms: He has called those who dare challenge him pigs and dogs, and has obsessed over the blood allegedly coming off one female TV host’s post-facelift face and coming out of another’s “wherever.” He still enjoyed the Republican nomination for the presidency, and now sits in the Oval Office.
But he’s hardly the only one. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens will go to trial next week on a felony invasion of privacy charge after allegations he imprisoned and sexually abused a woman with whom he was having an affair, then took photos that he used for blackmail, which he denies. He also sought, and failed, to have her testimony barred from court. Not only is Greitens still in his position, but Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri has refused to call for his resignation, and Trump has ignored the whole story.
To their credit, some Republicans are encouraging Greitens to quit. But the people with the most influence – the Republican senator in his state and the President – are staying mum.
And then there’s Steve Wynn, a prominent Republican donor and casino magnate who stepped down as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, and as GOP finance chairman, after accusations of sexual harassment and assault (he denies it). After the GOP harangued Democrats about the Weinstein donations, and even used that gotcha in their own fundraising materials, the Republican National Committee refused to return Wynn’s money. So far, it has paid no political price.
And who could forget Alabama’s Roy Moore, who still hasn’t conceded the Senate election he lost months ago after he was accused of having relationships with underage girls and trolling local malls to pick up teenagers? He denied the allegation, and enjoyed the support of the Alabama Republican Party.
Former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio not only oversaw jails where inmates were so badly mistreated they sometimes died, but also ignored hundreds of sex crimes cases, leaving child abusers and rapists free, and simply disregarding victims of sexual assault – including children (he denies all of this). He was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants, and last August Trump pardoned him. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence appeared at an event with Arpaio and sang the man’s praises.
Bill O’Reilly did lose his Fox job over sexual harassment allegations (which he denied), but he’s quietly returned to the air. Rob Porter, a Trump White House staffer who was accused of physically abusing his two wives, denied it and eventually resigned anyway, but not before top administration officials came to his defense – and it turned out they had known about the abuse allegations long before they became public, and protected Porter anyway.
The former chief strategist for Trump, Steve Bannon, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness in a 1996 case involving his then-wife. He pleaded not guilty and the charges were eventually dismissed; Trump hired him and then –according to Politico reporter Eliana Johnson (quoting a person who was present when the future president learned of the alleged abuse) – nicknamed him “Bam-Bam.” Ha ha.
It all sends a clear message: Republicans are simply willing to accept abuse of women if it’s politically convenient. While misogyny is clearly a bipartisan problem – and Schneiderman is at the beginnings of paying a price over allegations of same – only one party seems to actually do anything about it.