Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn was bold to enter the fray regarding the epidemic of sexual harassment allegations hitting politicians and high-profile people in entertainment and media.
It seems that daily another well-known man is accused of harassment or worse and quickly put into the ranks of the fired or soon-to-be-fired.
Clyburn initially said he was not ready to go along with accusations being truthful regarding his longtime Democratic colleague Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.
On Nov. 21, the assistant Democratic leader told The New York Times he was unsure whether the claims against Conyers “have any real substance.”
“You can’t jump to conclusions with these type of things,” Clyburn said. “For all I know, all of this could be made up.”
Clyburn a day later qualified the comments by saying the allegations against the congressman are serious and should be fully investigated.
But then a video posted on Twitter had Clyburn being questioned by reporters about Conyers and others facing harassment allegations and implying there should be a different standard for actions being taken against an elected official and a hired personality.
The congressman was criticized on social media and ultimately joined in the call for resignation of Conyers, which came on Tuesday. Two days later, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said he too is resigning amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
As much as some will argue Clyburn was merely defending Conyers as a political ally and friend, the congressman makes valid points about determining truth and the role of voters in deciding political futures.
Entertainers and journalists work at the pleasure of private companies, which will make their decisions based on the bottom line. If a TV network believes it is in its best interest to oust someone over allegations – proven or not – it will do so. Further disputes regarding such firings in the private sector can be settled in court if necessary.
Voters elected Conyers and Franken, both of whom cut short the process of investigation of allegations against them by resigning. Should a lawmaker face criminal charges in such matters or be found culpable via a congressional inquiry, resignation is in order. But short of those, should elected officials be pressured to quit even when allegations are in dispute and date to years before they were elected?
The situation in Washington may become further complicated if Judge Roy Moore wins the special election for a Senate seat in Alabama on Tuesday. Voters will be deciding whether he is fit for office amid a string of allegations of sexual misconduct from decades ago.
If he wins, is it the role of the Senate to investigate Moore and potentially oust him despite what voters decided?
The danger in the "me too" movement is that good will get swept away with bad. While it is clear that many accusations of sexual misconduct involving politicians, journalists, entertainers and others are accurate, allegations are quickly being accepted as facts. That is dangerous.
The present environment is conducive to producing false accusations. Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham calls it the "me too flu," saying it is no more realistic to think all women coming forward with accusations are truthful than it is to think that all accused men are culprits. The history of humankind tells us there always are people looking to take advantage of a situation.
George Washington said: “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.”
In many cases today, women are suffering pain in bringing forth the truth. Our hope is that consequences fall on the men to whom they are due, and only to those who are guilty.