From Donald Trump To Harvey Weinstein — The Toxic Men of 2017
The year 2017 was remarkable for so many reasons: Donald Trump was sworn in as president, a massive tax bill was passed and signed, and powerful men accused of sexual misconduct were unseated. The last of these three significant events, often referred to as the #MeToo movement, was a watershed moment for survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. From Donald Trump to Harvey Weinstein, dozens of toxic men were called out for their alleged behavior in 2017.
At a breakneck speed, men who occupy some of the country's most influential positions have been called to the carpet by accusers who say they've been dehumanized, taken advantage of, and silenced — sometimes for decades. And for what feels like the first time in a very long time, a lot of these men (though not all, it's worth mentioning) have faced repercussions for their alleged actions.
In many ways, it appears as though a societal shift is occurring, and that consumers and constituents are less inclined to brush off allegations of sexual misconduct against the people they used to support. While it would be heartening to see the legal system act as swiftly and decisively as the court of public opinion, there remains a battlecry against the tendency for institutions to sweep accusations of bad behavior under the rug.
But while this has thus far been a movement that relies on solidarity and consequences, it's important to remember that these steps forward would not be necessary if these men behaved respectfully and responsibly in the first place. So, as you move forward into the new year, and as #MeToo continues to confront sexual misconduct head-on, let's not forget some of 2017's most toxic men.
But while Trump's accusers have stood by their allegations, Trump has continued forward confidently, seemingly unfazed. In the time since his accusers came forward, a New York Times report claimed that Trump has suggested that the infamous Access Hollywood tape, released during the final month of his campaign for presidency, might be fabricated. (On the tape, Trumps is heard bragging to correspondent Billy Bush about being able to grope women without their permission because he's a "star.")
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the issue during a briefing. "The president hasn't changed his position," she said at a press conference. "If anything the president questions, it’s the media's reporting on that accuracy."
Additionally, Trump also openly campaigned for former Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual assault and harassment, by at least eight women. Some of the women were underage when they said he assaulted them. (Moore denied all of the allegations, describing them as "dirty politics" and "ritual defamation.") But even as the allegations mushroomed, Trump backed him for weeks, right up through his loss, despite many Republican leaders calling for Moore to step down amid the scandal.
The allegations levied against Kevin Spacey, which surfaced in October, served as a sobering reminder that women are not the only victims of sexual misconduct. Earlier this year, actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of sexual assault. Spacey responded by saying that he didn't remember the alleged encounter and ultimately apologized anyway. However, in the same statement, he also came out as gay, which many heavily criticized as a way to draw attention away from the accusations.
Netflix responded by halting the filming of House of Cards, Spacey's hit show on the streaming service.
Former senatorial candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexual harassment and assault by as many as eight women during his campaign. Moore denied all of the allegations, referring to them as "dirty politics" and "ritual defamation." He has also denied knowing any of the accusers.
Many Republican leaders called on the former judge to step down as the allegations continued to surface throughout November, the last full month before the election. Moore ignored these suggestions, and carried on until the bitter end. He lost to Democratic opponent Doug Jones, the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in a quarter of a century.
Since his loss on Dec. 12, Moore has patently refused to concede to his opponent. He has argued that the election was fraudulent, but on Thursday, Dec. 29, a judge certified the election, brushing aside Moore's claims.
George H. W. Bush
Two actresses, Heather Lind and Jordana Grolnick, accused the former president of allegedly groping them during a group photo. They also alleged that Bush then made an inappropriate joke about the encounter. A spokesperson for Bush said that what the women experienced was a harmless, routine interaction.
"To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke," the spokesperson told CNN. "And on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate."
At least seven women have now come forward with similar accusations involving photo-ops. Bush's spokespeople have repeated similar responses to the allegations, or else have declined to comment.
Just hours after Ben Affleck publicly condemned Weinstein for being the subject of sexual harassment allegations, actress Hilarie Burton accused him of groping her during a 2003 interview on MTV's Total Request Live. Affleck responded to the allegations, telling the AP that he was "looking at my own behavior and addressing that and making sure I’m part of the solution."
As a way to move forward, Affleck also promised to donate any residual earnings from Weinstein films he has worked on to nonprofits that combat sexual assault.
According to the AP, Keillor was fired from Minnesota Public Radio on Nov. 29, after what the station described as "allegations of his inappropriate behavior." He had hosted the long-running and nationally syndicated radio program "A Prairie Home Companion" from 1974 until he retired in the summer of 2016.
In response to the allegations, Keillor said that he accidentally patted a woman on her bare back and later emailed her with an apology after she "recoiled." Ultimately, he told AP, "I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969."
Today show host Matt Lauer was ousted just days after a sexual harassment complaint was brought forward to NBC. In response, Lauer apologized. However, he was heavily criticized because his apology statement focused on his employer and fans, not any alleged victims.
Details of his alleged misconduct were published in a report by Variety. Among the allegations were that Lauer gifted a co-worker with a sex toy, that he took his pants off in front of a co-worker and exposed his genitals to her, and that he sent inappropriate text messages to co-workers. Lauer cast doubt on some of the allegations made against him, saying that, "some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized."
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Fox News paid $32 million to settle a sexual harassment claim against conservative political commentator Bill O'Reilly. The accusations came from a former Fox contributor. O'Reilly denied accusations of sexual misconduct, wholesale, describing the settlement report as "a malicious smear." He maintains that he is innocent and that the story was a personal attack. He told The Washington Post that he agreed to the payout "to protect my children from the horror" of a public sexual harassment trial.
The Times reported that Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, had renewed O'Reilly's contract with the network, even while being aware of the misconduct allegations. Fox News fired O'Reilly back in April after the accusations were made public.
In 2015, Brock Turner, a former Stanford University student, was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He was convicted of three sexual assault charges in 2016, which carried a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. He was sentenced to only six months, but ultimately served just three.
Turner is now appealing his conviction, which critics say is inappropriate, because they argue that his white male privilege already protected him from receiving a lengthier sentence.
Since Nov. 16, seven women have accused Sen. Al Franken of various instances of sexual misconduct. In return, Franken announced his resignation from the Senate. He has disputed several details about the accusations, and said one allegation of forcible kissing was "categorically untrue." Otherwise, Franken apologized for his behavior. In his resignation speech, he insisted: "We have to listen to women and respect what they say."
Woody Allen's adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 7 years old. She has been repeating the accusations for decades; Allen has denied them each time they make headlines.
On Dec. 7, Farrow wrote an essay for The Los Angeles Times about her allegations, asking why the aforementioned Weinstein has faced repercussions in the face of sexual assault allegations, but Allen has been allowed to quietly carry on. Several major actresses defended themselves for continuing to work with Allen, saying they didn't know what actually happened between him and Farrow.
Before Oreskes was an editor at NPR, he worked at The New York Times. During his employment there, two women alleged he behaved inappropriately toward them. Both alleged that he kissed them in the middle of work-related conversations in the late 1990s. As a result, Oreskes resigned and apologized, describing his behavior as "wrong and inexcusable."
CBS News, PBS, and Bloomberg fired famed journalist Charlie Rose after a Washington Post report revealed eight women had accused him of varying degrees of sexual misconduct. Rose apologized for his alleged offenses, though he said he didn't agree with all of the details.
"I am greatly embarrassed," Rose said in a statement. "I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken."
In a November report published by The New York Times, five women accused comedian Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct. After the story broke, C.K. conceded that the stories, which spanned 15 years, were true.
"I have been remorseful of my actions. And I've tried to learn from them. And run from them," he said in a statement. "Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions."
The Hollywood producer was fired from his production studio this year after two massive reports from The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed decades of sexual misconduct allegations. (He has mostly denied the allegations, and has entirely rejected accusations of sexual assault.)
The reports from both publications painted a picture of a man who allegedly tried to use his influential position as a bargaining chip for sexual encounters. Women in the reports described being supposedly lured to Weinstein's hotel rooms for business meetings, only to be reportedly propositioned, often in exchange for influence in the movie-making industry. By the end of the year, more than 80 women had been identified as alleged victims of Weinstein's predatory behavior.
The seemingly endless list of allegations against some of society's most wealthy and influential men serves to prove that predatory behavior is certainly not new. Instead, it shows that social power dynamics, specifically those hinged on finances and legacy, have often served to protect perpetrators. Many of the alleged victims who have come forward in recent months said that they kept quite for so long — for weeks, months, even decades — because they feared facing repercussions, especially professionally. This is, perhaps, one of the most alarming revelations that the #MeToo movement has highlighted. And if there has been one lesson in 2017, it's that sexual assault and harassment cannot be properly combated until its victims feel comfortable sharing their stories.