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Debrief/Debunk: #MeToo Still Matters in 2020

As our ever worsening “crisis of crises” continues to dominate headlines, the scandal surrounding Rep. Steven Horsford’s (D-North Las Vegas) extramarital relationship with Gabriela Linder has rapidly faded away. But before we forget about it and return to our regular coverage of the American “crisis of crises”, we need to review not only what happened (and apparently did not happen) there, but also the very real inequities and abuses that make #MeToo more relevant than ever.

First, some last words on the Steven Horsford affair
Photo by Andrew Davey

Just two weeks ago, Nevada Democrats freaked out over the revelation of Rep. Steven Horsford’s relationship with Gabriela Linder, which began when Linder was interning for then U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D) in 2010. Yet after Linder seemed to suggest that Horsford was providing her some kind of monetary compensation, no evidence has since emerged to corroborate her claim. And since then, the Horsford affair has almost entirely disappeared from the headlines.

As I noted last Thursday, Horsford likely no longer faces heightened political danger. So long as no further evidence emerges suggesting any illegal activities and/or violations of state and federal ethics standards, Horsford will probably remain on track to survive the scandal and win reelection.

Yet even if Horsford did not do what Linder seemed to suggest he did, we can’t ignore the underlying issues that initially alarmed Nevadans, especially women who’ve understandably grown sick and tired of the very same abuses that sparked the #MeToo movement that emerged to fight against these very abuses of power.

Next, we return to another Steve: Steve Wynn

In 2018, the usual power players up and down Las Vegas Boulevard gasped over the revelation of then Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn’s extensive pattern of sexual assault and harassment. Then last year, Nevada gaming regulators permanently revoked Wynn’s gaming license and imposed a record-breaking $20 million fine on Wynn

Yet last month, Steve Wynn magically resurfaced on national TV. More specifically, he did an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, where Bartiromo allowed Wynn to expound on tourists’ alleged “‘overwhelming impulse’ to return to normal in the wake of the coronavirus.” Why on earth would anyone want Steve Wynn to talk about any kind of “overwhelming impulse”, considering Wynn’s own past refusal to counter his “overwhelming impulse” to attack women at his workplace?

Sadly, the sudden reemergence of Steve Wynn as a sort of “gaming industry expert/pundit” in local and national media is just another example of the men whose crimes sparked the #MeToo movement suddenly reemerging to “rehabilitate their public image(s)” and strike back against efforts to hold them and other offenders responsible. 

Never mind what She Said. Let’s instead Catch and Kill Ronan Farrow’s reputation!

Also last month, The New York Times, one of the news outlets that won awards for Jodi Kantor’s and Megan Twohey’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s long record of sexual assault and harassment, published former BuzzFeed editor (and current Times media critic) Ben Smith’s screed against The New Yorker investigative reporter Ronan Farrow. Smith basically claimed that Farrow falsely claimed he had hard evidence against Weinstein and then Today Show anchor Matt Lauer (who has also faced credible accusations of sexual assault and harassment), and Smith accused Farrow of committing “resistance journalism”.

Of course, leave it to The New York Times to lead the charge on media banality. Even though the Times’ own Kantor and Twohey helped uncover the gruesome true story behind Weinstein’s glamorous facade, the Times’ Ben Smith nonetheless seems more interested in picking a fight with Ronan Farrow than investigating further the crimes that Farrow, Kantor, and Twohey revealed in October 2017.

And of course, this “Ronan Farrow backlash” gave Matt Lauer the perfect opportunity to reemerge from his private bunker and accuse Farrow of ruining his career. No, Matt Lauer ruined his own career with his predatory behavior. And yet, here’s Lauer getting pats on the back for “clapping back” while Smith nitpicks over Farrow’s sourcing of his story… And as always, the women at the center of this story get tossed aside.

Even as Horsford and Biden stories fade, we can’t pretend the problem at the root of the #MeToo movement no longer exists.
Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

As I write this, it really does seem like the Horsford affair is on its way to becoming long forgotten. And perhaps since no further details have emerged indicating serious abuse of power, it’s hard to get too worked up about it. Still, just because the “Horsford scandal” is looking less like a public betrayal and more like a private relationship problem doesn’t mean that “#MeToo is over” or that “women should stop complaining”.

After all, look at President Donald Trump: For all his “law and order tough talk”, some of the women who continue to speak out on their accusations of Trump raping, attacking, and/or harassing them also continue to fight uphill battles to make America remember their stories and help them hold their abusers accountable. Despite Summer Zervos’ insistence that she has documents that corroborate her claims, and despite E. Jean Carroll’s persistence in fighting to hold Trump accountable in court, women like Carroll are facing punishment and backlash while Trump orders violence against peaceful protesters to boost his fascistic “law and order” public image.

While the possible initial overreaction to the Horsford story and the recent rush to convict former Vice President Joe Biden of sexual assault in the court of public opinion (despite the lack of corroborating evidence) make it easier for us to rest assured that “#MeToo is overblown and past its prime”, it’s most undoubtedly not. So long as abuse and injustice persist, we must continue to demand better.

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