US sexual harassment scandal spreads

Sight of Democrats and left-leaning media embroiled in scandal delights Republicans

Americans woke on Wednesday morning to the news that NBC anchor Matt Lauer had been fired by his network over allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a fellow employee.

The host of America’s top-rating breakfast TV show, who is paid an estimated $20 million a year, is the latest high-profile figure to fall from grace as the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues.

The news that the well-known author and broadcaster Garrison Keillor had been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over an accusation of inappropriate behaviour quickly followed.

Six weeks after the allegations against Weinstein emerged, a growing list of powerful men from the world of entertainment, media and politics have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, propelled by the powerful #MeToo movement that has emboldened women to speak out.

Much of the attention has focused on Roy Moore, the controversial Republican candidate contesting next month's special election in Alabama, after dozens of women accused the former judge of sexual advances when they were teenagers. But in recent weeks the focus has switched to Democrats.

Revelations that Minnesota senator and former TV star Al Franken acted inappropriately to a radio talkshow host in 2006, was followed swiftly by allegations against John Conyers, a long-standing African-American congressman from Michigan. It was revealed that Conyers made an undisclosed settlement with a staff member over sexual harassment allegations, with further claims surfacing on Wednesday. While Conyers resigned from his position on the House judiciary committee on Sunday, he is now facing calls by some to resign from Congress.

The sight of Democratic politicians and left-leaning media figures being embroiled in scandal has delighted Republicans.

President Donald Trump could barely contain his delight in an early morning tweet posted shortly after he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos on Wednesday morning. "Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for 'inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace,'" " he tweeted. "But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack's past!" he said, referring to the NBC chairman.

Lauer's dismissal comes a week after New York Times journalist Glenn Thrush was suspended by his newspaper following accusations of sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Trump narrative

The potential scandal involving another high-profile media figure from the centre-left fits perfectly into Trump’s “fake news” narrative, providing fresh fuel for him to discredit mainstream news outlets.

No mention has been made of his own controversial relationship with women, including the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he is recorded boasting about sexually assaulting women as well as the dozens of allegations made by women against him during the presidential election.

But while Republicans bask in the glory of Democratic scandals, the latest revelations have given some Democrats food for thought about their own response to sex scandals in the past. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a longtime Clinton supporter, said earlier this month that Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s.

"Things have changed," she said. Other Democrats are questioning whether they gave sufficient support to the women involved in Democratic sex scandals like Lewinsky. What does seem clear is that both the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal is likely to change the way political parties in the United States parties respond to allegations of sexual harassment in the future.