I am a journalist myself, and I am wholly in favor of a sober and serious probe into Cuomo’s alleged conduct. It’s not a terrible thing to allow an independent investigator to gather all the facts and arrive at a formal conclusion before calling for his immediate ouster. To allow a formal fact-finding process to play out is neither a disparagement of his accusers—whose accounts should be taken absolutely seriously—nor a get-out-of-jail-free card for the governor. It is merely an acknowledgment of something that should have been clear from the vitally important beginnings of the #MeToo era: There is a difference between having the media surface and report predation, and having something akin to a formal process investigate and determine what occurred and what should be done about it.
Sober and serious? How wonderful that Dahlia has suddenly found due process.
The press has never pretended to be experts at that latter function.
Pretended? No, they claimed it, and made damn sure that no word was written or uttered that might give their audience pause to doubt their moral clarity. They were right, and that was all you needed to know. But now they’re not and they never pretended otherwise. Even Molly Jong-Fast admits that her “imaginary boyfriend,” Andy Cuomo, whom she had a crush on when she let her emotions get the best of her, was now a “bad take.”
Over the past few years, we’ve seen heroes manufactured out of nothing more than being fired by Trump. Sally Yates? Preet Bharara? They became overnight darlings of the left for doing nothing more than getting canned, even though their entire careers were dedicated to doing everything the left hates. But to consider that, to think, was way too much effort. Better to indulge in infantile fantasies like Jong-Fast than suffer the hard work and possible headaches of thinking.
And that’s the batter Lithwick now faces.
In Monday’s New York Times, Michelle Goldberg suggests that the failure of high-profile Democrats to demand Cuomo’s resignation in the face of credible (and contemporaneously reported) claims about inappropriate comments, texts, and behavior suggests a diminution in the power of #MeToo. As she argues, not incorrectly, “if this scandal had broken a few years ago, high-profile Democrats would have felt no choice but to call for Cuomo’s resignation.” Goldberg also surmises that part of this failure stems from a public pivot away from gender to race concerns, and a lingering regret on the part of Democrats about ejecting Al Franken from the Senate.
Goldberg’s points are all true enough. But what if the lesson here is not that #MeToo has somehow failed, or lost steam, but rather that the #MeToo movement—which rightly encouraged people to speak out about abuse, prompting plenty of reckonings and buckets of important journalism—was never sufficient to do all the work of remedying sexual predation?
A curious spin, that mobs demanding the ouster of any guy accused was “never sufficient.” Never sufficient in that they didn’t destroy enough lives over unproven allegations? Sounds more than sufficient. Sounds overwhelmingly sufficient. So what if innocent men were destroyed based on nothing more than baseless accusations wrapped up in a #MeToo ribbon, or men who did nothing worse than asked for a date from a woman whose sexual interest was directed at Andy Cuomo? At least the bad dudes got destroyed along with the innocents. So what if they had to take one for the #MeToo team?
As I have tried to argue throughout the #MeToo era, journalism when it is not followed up by fact-finding and due process was never going to be the answer to the power and information imbalances that lead to sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood, in government, and in the judiciary.
It’s true, Lithwick argued, conveniently after the fact, that maybe #MeToo was too cavalier with Al Franken. Not others. Not Kav or Koz, but Franken and now Cuomo. To her credit, writers like Jong-Fast at least concede they were wrong, even if it doesn’t do much to help victims of her emotional self-indulgence along the way.
But pseudo-legal journalists like Lithwick pretend they were never dishonest and flagrant hypocrites along the way, going one way for those on their team and burning everyone else. If they murder enough words, maybe some people won’t notice that she’s full of shit. Lithwick didn’t really just discover due process. She knew about it all along. She just chose to pretend it didn’t matter when it served her cause, and figured her readers were too passionate and emotionally motivated to call her on it. Now that it’s Cuomo, she’s suddenly a due process advocate again. Isn’t that special.