In the majority of cases in which sexual harassment or assault is claimed, proof is lacking, not the least because such incidents occur behind figurative locked doors. In an alleged incident which took place behind a literal locked door
In 2001, the woman said, Mr. Lauer, who is married, asked her to his office to discuss a story during a workday. When she sat down, she said, he locked the door, which he could do by pressing a button while sitting at his desk. (People who worked at NBC said the button was a regular security measure installed for high-profile employees.)
The woman said Mr. Lauer asked her to unbutton her blouse, which she did. She said the anchor then stepped out from behind his desk, pulled down her pants, bent her over a chair and had intercourse with her. At some point, she said, she passed out with her pants pulled halfway down. She woke up on the floor of his office, and Mr. Lauer had his assistant take her to a nurse.
Before the modern age of alleged enlightenment, before calls for "zero tolerance," we would have called this "rape." Now, as you may have noticed, it becomes mere "sexual assault," with its conflicting interpretations and imprecise definition.
Compare that to the incident in which Maineville, Ohio resident Stephanie
Kemplin said while she was stationed in the Middle East during the Iraq War, she met Franken -- at the time, a comedian and writer -- as he was visiting American troops with the USO. A longtime fan of "Saturday Night Live," Kemplin got in line to take a photo with Franken.
"When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast," Kemplin said in an interview. "I've never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side."
Kemplin repeatedly used the word "embarrassed" to describe her immediate reaction at the time.
That was, arguably, the worst act committed by Al Franken, one in which the victim was "embarrassed." Lauer's victim, assuming the allegation is accurate, was raped.
Now read these words from United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat from New York State. Ms. Gillibrand has been a leader in the chamber against the abuse of women and
“I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping you are having the wrong conversation,” Ms. Gillibrand said Wednesday at a Capitol Hill news conference when asked about calling on Mr. Franken to resign. “You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable.
To be fair to the New York senator, she did not trot out the bromide "zero tolerance,"deployed by Representative Jackie Speier (D-Cal), who unlike Gillibrand is assumed to harbor no national ambitions. The term "zero tolerance" sets an extremely, very nearly unobtainable, standard, which Speier virtually acknowledged. Still, on her Facebook page, Kirsten Gillibrand wrote
As the mother of two young boys, we owe it to our sons and daughters to not equivocate, but to offer clarity. We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping. And what message do we send to our sons and daughters when we accept gradations of crossing the line? None of it is ok and none of it should be tolerated.
Facts matter. Details matter. Truth matters. There is a difference between unwanted touching and the imposition of penetration upon another human being. Assuming the accounts are accurate, then-comedian Al Franken took an advantage of an admirer when he "groped my right breast (and) kept his hand all the way over on my breast." Approximately two years earlier, the wealthy, powerful star of the "Today" show
locked the door, which he could do by pressing a button while sitting at his desk... The woman said Mr. Lauer asked her to unbutton her blouse, which she did. She said the anchor then stepped out from behind his desk, pulled down her pants, bent her over a chair and had intercourse with her.
Kirsten Gillibrand may tell her two young boys that any unwanted contact of a sexual nature- or perhaps any unwanted contact- is reprehensible. However, if she neglects to tell them that summoning a woman over whom you have power, locking the door behind you and then raping her is reprehensible, it is only because she is confident they would never commit such an act.
The guess here is that if the United States Senate were to purge itself of all male members who ever have groped or patted the rear end- the latter also inappropriate- of a woman, there would be a very small contingent of men remaining in the chamber. That is not completely a hypothetical- Gillibrand argued "none of it should be tolerated." If any of these men were to remain in office, it would ipso facto be tolerated.
You would be distressed to learn that your neighbor had inexcusably punched his friend. You would be far more distressed to learn that he had shot his friend in the face with a Smith and Wesson .45.
Not Kirsten Gillibrand, who minimizes the seriousness of sexual assault by lumping it in with, well, practically everything. She does not want to have to deal in "differences" and "gradations." And could there possibly be any difference between a George Herbert Walker Bush and a Roman Polanski?