Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, pointed out an important blind spot in the #MeToo movement yesterday when she shared that the media refused to acknowledge her own episode of sexual harassment because of politics.
Speaking at the POLITICO Women Rules conference, Conway was asked whether she had ever been sexually harassed to which she affirmed that she did and then she called out the double-standard in how the media treats liberal versus conservative women who come forward with their stories. She noted:
“Yes I did, but mine was very public and nobody cared about it.”
The specific media snub she referred to was in October 2016 just after the Access Hollywood scandal broke while speaking to Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Brian Williams:
“There were a couple of members of Congress on the list that Chris was holding up or referencing that I said ‘Oh I recognize a couple of those names. Maybe when I was younger and prettier, they had tried to shove their tongue down my throat or rub or do worse.’
“Yes, I had a metoo moment, but nobody cared about that and nobody cared that I was saying it because of whose campaign I was managing…
“If we’re going to have an honest conversation everyone — you can’t pick and choose depending on somebody’s politics.”
This is not the first time that Conway was been mistreated by the media because of her gender compounded by her politics. It began with the media’s convenient oversight of the first female to run and win a presidential campaign. Then there were the jokes about her looks, clothes and job. Conway even pointed to this viral Anderson Cooper eyeroll as potentially sexist but “definitely Trump-ist.”
The point is that sexual harassment is not about party politics, it’s about right and wrong. This is an important time when women (and men) feel empowered to come forward with their stories and even allegations. If we are going to be outraged about sexual harassment claims by left-leaning women in Hollywood against the Harvey Weinstein, we must be just as outraged when conservative women come forward as well.
As Conway discussed, most women in America who are victims of sexual assault, harassment or innuendo aren’t focused on the politics but their situation. And it shouldn’t matter whether they voted for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jill Stein or if they didn’t vote at all.
This is watershed moment and it could be an impetus for change among influential men. It should no longer be tolerable for those in power to use their positions and resources to take advantage of those who are under them or more junior to them
Earlier this week, Sheryl Sandberg provided advice for how workplaces can change to better address sexual harassment and warned against a chilling effect between men and women in the workplace that harms young women’s career prospects.
Congress is also considering ways to educate and better deal with misconduct among its members such as holding them personally responsible for settlements rather than making taxpayers pick up the tab.
I’m hopeful that even as more stories emerge, we can move toward sparking lasting change in society. That only happens when we take off the lenses of partisan politics and have compassion for all people.