There was a period in U.S. history that’s generally called The Era of Good Feelings. It was a time of relative stability and peace in the early 19th century, following years of disorder and economic crisis — not to mention the burning of the White House and the Capitol by British troops, in 1814.
And that’s going to be my flimsy excuse for calling the present day The Era of Bad Feelings — what with all the groping and fondling and squeezing and other forms of unwanted lascivious behavior, inflicted by powerful men in Washington and Hollywood upon powerless aides or secretaries or performers — that’s been coming to light lately. Among the notables accused:
U.S. Senator Al Franken, accused of groping by several women, who resigned last week, albeit reluctantly; Bill Cosby; Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was fired by his own company for decades of abuses, then sought “heavy therapy and counseling”; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the dean of the House, who “retired” after allegations that he paid $27,000 to a former staffer who resisted his sexual advances; the actor Kevin Spacey, who “is taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment” after an accusation that he groped an underage actor in the 1980s; the comedian Louis C.K., who said, “These stories are true,” after accusations of crude behavior toward several women; “Today” show host Matt Lauer, who was fired by NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace”; journalist Charlie Rose, who was fired by both CBS and PBS; Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, who several women say pursued them romantically when they were underage; TV director Brett Ratner; actor Jeremy Piven; Pixar founder John Lasseter, known for “touchy-feely tendencies”; actor Jeffrey Tambor, who won’t be returning to his TV show, “Transparent”; actor Dustin Hoffman (“I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am."); MSNBC journalist Mark Halperin; director James Toback (with more than 200 women complaining); celebrity chef John Besh (who has stepped down from his restaurant group); Nickelodeon’s Chris Savino, who has been fired; actor Ben Affleck, who tweeted an apology for grabbing a woman’s breast on MTV; the comedian Andy Dick, who was fired from a film; Bob Weinstein, the brother of Harvey, who denies sexual harassment; Amazon Studios chief Roy Price; NPR Senior President of News Michael Oreskes, who resigned (over complaints dating back to his pre-NPR days); actor George Takei (the events “simply did not occur.”); actor Richard Dreyfuss (“The rules are changing invisibly underneath our feet. I am playing catch up.”); and entertainment mogul Russell Simmons, who stepped down “to commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.”
A lot of these cases were career-enders, and at first I thought, is the professional death penalty really appropriate punishment for what may have been a single incident, decades ago? But there don’t seem to be single incidents; more accusations kept emerging until long-term patterns of abuse emerged.
For these guys it wasn’t “a mistake,” or even a series of mistakes. It was a lifestyle. And maybe that lifestyle is coming to an end.
It feels like real change is afoot.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.