By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – So, Matt Lauer and, perhaps, Garrison Keillor are the latest to be washed away by an historic tidal shift.
The now former host of NBC’s “Today” and the former host of public broadcasting’s “Prairie Home Companion” likely won’t be the last to go.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
Not much is known, as I write this, about Lauer’s and Keillor’s alleged offenses. What we do know is that they apparently were serious enough for the organizations that employed them and exploited their talents to start seeing the two men as significant liabilities rather than viewing them as major assets.
That this has happened is a sign of just how much and how quickly things have changed.
Rumors have circulated about both men for years – as they have for many other major media figures – but five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago there was no way any mainstream news organization would have reported on their supposed transgressions. It wasn’t considered news. It was considered personal.
All evidence suggests that women just got tired of being mauled and hectored, and they decided they weren’t going to tolerate being abused and demeaned any longer.
This is as it should be.
The cliché now is to attribute the explosion of reporting on sexual harassment and sexual assault by famous, powerful men as the response to President Donald Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” recording, as well as the accusations of more than a dozen women that he either harassed or molested them.
Trump boasted about his predatory behavior while on mic and, instead of being punished, he went to the White House.
Or so the conventional wisdom runs.
Perhaps the president’s bad behavior had something to do with this outpouring, but the reality is that this storm has been a long time coming.
Almost every woman I’ve talked with in recent weeks has a story or two or several dozen to tell about some man or men in whom she had no interest badgering her for sex, pawing her or worse. To a woman, they all say they’re glad this subject is out in the open, because it was only a matter of time before resentment turned to rage.
And, make no mistake about it, the linked issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault are out in the open now.
The dam has burst.
Those who think that the flood tide will be contained in New York or Washington or Hollywood are deluding themselves.
Doubtless, the next wave will hit Statehouses around the country.
Twenty years ago, during the height of the President Bill Clinton impeachment fight, the newspaper where I worked assigned me to localize the story. Once word got out about what I was working on, the Statehouse became a lonely place for me to visit.
Lawmakers who spotted me walking through the building turned and ran in the opposite direction. One even sprinted out of the building when he saw me coming in.
That should have served as a wakeup call for the bad actors.
A few, I’ve heard, did some soul-searching and mended their ways.
Others did not.
They’re bound to be nervous right now, wondering whether and when their assaults on both women and decency will come back to haunt them.
This, too, is as it should be.
If there is one thread that links Harvey Weinstein to Donald Trump to Charlie Rose to Roy Moore to John Conyers and, perhaps, Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor, it is that all these men seemed to count on their power and their prominence to render them immune to consequences. They seemed to believe that they were too big and famous to be hurt, and that the women they abused were too small and insignificant to matter.
In the world they move in, too many lawmakers exhibit the same sort of hubris.
They, like the Trumps, the Weinsteins, the Roses, the Moores, the Conyers, the Lauers and the Keillors think they control the tide, right up to the moment it rolls up to their doors and carries them away.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.