Sexual harassment ethics test: Is there a solution?

in Editorial/Opinion by

Obviously, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and the crimes of powerful men have been in the press recently. From Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore and now Al Franken, a national conversation is in the works about these things. It’s long overdue and incredibly necessary. I’m going to be focusing on the latter two.

What Roy Moore has done is beyond disgusting and flat-out evil. Calling 14-year-olds out of math class to proposition them on dates, hitting on similarly-aged girls at the mall (their place of employment) while in his thirties is horrific. I don’t have enough adjectives for this. Roy Moore doesn’t have enough bleach to wipe this stain from his soul. It’s sickening that he wraps himself in Holy Scripture to try and justify his actions.

Sen. Al Franken inappropriately touched a woman on her rear end at an event at the Minnesota State Fair. Before that, he forced himself on a woman at USO tour, kissing her against her will. He touched her breasts while she was sleeping, caught on camera. While sickening, these clearly don’t sink to Moore’s level. Female senators, led by Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, have taken money that was earmarked for his campaign and donated to women’s health organizations and other charities.

There are clear differences between Moore and Franken, no one disputes that. Millions of dollars have been paid out to hundreds of victims of discrimination and sexual misconduct/assault by elected officials. This money, of course, is taxpayer money. The fundamental question is this: should there be any difference in punishment between Franken and Moore?

I have to say I honestly don’t know. I am conflicted. On the one hand, this is completely unacceptable. On the other hand, there is a huge gap between the two. Franken has demanded an ethics investigation into himself and his actions, an unusually open and appropriate response from an elected official.

I believe an Ethics Committee should be summoned in any and all instances of these allegations. The Committee should be given more teeth and grow more of a backbone when it comes to their own colleagues. The way I see it, there are four outcomes: honest accident, education to prevent these instances, censure, or expulsion. If Moore is elected, he should immediately be expelled from the Senate. With Franken, I am more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. He should receive education about these issues. One of biggest things in Franken’s favor is the way his female staffers speak of him. Like I said, I’m conflicted. While a serious lapse in judgment, Franken’s actions do not rise to the standard of expulsion.