Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’

#MeToo: A cultural workaround to a legal failure

May 22, 2018

Then there was Eric Schneiderman.

After using his office as a bully pulpit to ride the #MeToo wave, the now-former New York state attorney general is yet another boldface male name to succumb to charges of extreme misogyny. Four of his exes say he subjected them to physical abuse, including choking and slapping their faces. Schneiderman claims the violence was BDSM-related fun for all concerned, just “role-playing and other consensual sexual activity.”

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and text

Eric Schneiderman, shown speaking at a February news conference concerning sexual harassment-related civil lawsuits, was forced to resign earlier this month as New York’s attorney general after he was accused of physically abusing at least four women while in office. | REUTERS

By Ted Rall

Students of political crisis management will see something less than an uncategorical denial of guilt in Schneiderman’s “serious allegations, which I strongly contest.” “Strongly contest” resides far on the denial-o-meter from “it absolutely did not happen” and closer to nolo contendere — which, considering that he resigned rather than stuck around to fight, it effectively is.

Schneiderman’s implosion followed the standard script of #MeToo: accusation leads to career loss. Only career loss. This is a radical departure from how American society deals with what are, after all, crimes: going to the police, filing charges, prosecuting in court. The legal system is getting cut out of the loop.

In New York, slapping someone’s face with the intent to cause physical injury is assault in the third degree, a felony punishable by up to a year in jail. Failing a documented sustained injury, prosecutors often downgrade the charge to a misdemeanor, either attempted assault or harassment. Schneiderman is having an unpleasant week. But he probably won’t be arrested.

More than a dozen men and teenage boys accused actor Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment (a tort), statutory rape and attempted rape. Prosecutors in Los Angeles and the United Kingdom are weighing whether to file rape charges, but so far the only actual sanctions have been professional, like Netflix’s cancelation of Spacey’s hit series “House of Cards.” Even so, rehabilitation may be imminent. Legendary director Bernardo Bertolucci already says he wants to work with the disgraced actor.

The only #MeToo casualties in serious legal jeopardy are the recently convicted mickey-slipping sexual-assaulting comedian Bill Cosby and predatory producer Harvey Weinstein, though Weinstein’s problems aren’t all directly attributable to the sordid behavior that destroyed his Hollywood empire. Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. is also investigating whether Weinstein misused company money to pay hush money to his accusers.

For the most part, #MeToo targets who stand accused in the court of public opinion for criminal acts will never face them in a court of law. Comedian Louis C.K. and PBS talker Charlie Rose are alleged to have committed indecent exposure (a misdemeanor that can get you 15 days in prison plus a $250 fine in New York, where Rose lived). Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly lured a 14-year-old girl into his car for sex, which would expose him to felony charges and 10 years in prison (but the statute of limitations has expired). If Today show star Matt Lauer used the secret Bond villain-like button under his desk to prevent a woman from leaving his office while he was hitting on her, that’s unlawful detention in the second degree, a misdemeanor that carries a one-year prison term. These men lost their jobs. But there’s no indication they’re in danger of prosecution.

#MeToo seems both too much and too little. Too much, because the loss of hard-won career success is no small thing. On Feb. 10, President Donald Trump asked aloud: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” Setting aside the hilarious incongruity of a person who kills with drones fretting over due process, Trump is correct in one respect: the #MeToo movement has claimed a lot of scalps in a very short time.

The president probably wasn’t thinking of Al Franken, but in his case the ratio of sanction — being forced out of the Senate — to seriousness of alleged offense — butt-groping — felt excessive to Democrats. As a liberal and self-professed feminist, however, the added charge of hypocrisy came into play.

If you were raped or sexually assaulted, however, #MeToo sanctions may feel like too little.

What even many thoughtful men fail to understand is that #MeToo is not, nor does it seek to be, a legal process. It is a cultural reaction to a legal system that fails women accusers. It is a workaround. It is a drive to change what constitutes acceptable behavior on a date, at the office, in the bedroom. It has nothing to do with due process — because due process hasn’t worked for women victims.

Victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment who want to hold attackers criminally accountable face structural challenges: embarrassment, fear that their attacker will hurt them again, a culture of slut-shaming that questions whether a woman “asked” for “it,” police personnel who discourage them from going forward and even threaten them with jail for lying, and the trauma of having to relive a terrible experience most people would rather put behind them. In part because of those obstacles about two-thirds of sexual assaults go unreported to police. 97 percent of rapists get away scot-free, a higher percentage than for other crimes.

Some women who don’t go to the police think the cops won’t do anything to help. They’re not necessarily wrong.

Any DA will tell you that sexual assaults are tough to prosecute. There is almost never a witness, so things come down to “he said/she said,” with two people giving differing versions of the same event. No one wants to see innocent men convicted of rape or sexual assault on the word of one person, the accuser.

The problem is, the legal system makes filing charges so daunting that the court system never gets a chance to adjudicate many cases. The accused are entitled due process and the presumption of innocence. But accusers deserve access to the courts.

Many #MeToo cases involve sexual harassment, where the only legal redress available is filing a civil lawsuit. There too the hurdles are close to insurmountable for all but the most determined and/or deep-pocketed of plaintiffs, beginning with the simple problem that few lawyers take such cases on a contingency and ending with the inherent challenge of proving that the acts happened in the first place. On the other hand, there’s zero barrier to entry on Twitter.

This is not to say there aren’t false accusations, or at least accusations that don’t rise to the level of reliability necessary for a conviction. The Columbia University “mattress” case and the University of Virginia/Rolling Stone fiasco come to mind here. Though some #MeToo activists urge us to “believe all women,” granting automatic credibility to any demographic or social category defies common sense.

What is necessary is for the authorities not to automatically believe every accusation, but to take accusers seriously and treat them with respect. Until that happens, those seeking justice for sex crimes will continue to make do with the clumsy, imperfect and startlingly extrajudicial process of cultural and professional shunning embodied by #MeToo.

Ted Rall is an editorial cartoonist and writer.


Five more executives fired as Nike confronts workplace harassment

May 10, 2018

Nike has dismissed additional executives as it moves to address a workplace culture marred by sexual harassment and bullying, embarrassing a brand that has self-defined around equality and empowerment.

© Johannes Eisele, AFP |People pass the flagship store of sporting-goods giant Nike in Shanghai on March 16, 2017.

The latest departures, confirmed Wednesday by a Nike spokeswoman, consist of five executives, including one woman, and raise the total departures to around a dozen. This includes former president Trevor Edwards, who had been seen as a CEO in waiting.

Since Edwards’ departure was announced in March, US media reports have chronicled myriad cases in which women were subjected to sexual harassment and often passed up for promotions in a boorish frat-like culture.

The revelations have come amid a broader rethink in US society over gender relations following the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the ensuing #MeToo movement that has toppled numerous figures across business, politics and entertainment.

Remaining Nike brass have said little publicly about the staffing overhaul beyond chief executive Mark Parker’s remarks in March emphasizing the need to address “some behavioral issues” that clashed with Nike’s culture.

“I’m committed to ensure that we have an environment where every Nike employee can have a positive experience and reach their full potential,” Parker said on a March 22 earnings conference call.

“Shocking” revelations

The upheaval comes as Nike has experienced sales stagnation in North America, offset in the most recent quarter by a strong performance in China and other overseas markets.

CFRA Research analyst Victor Ahluwalia said it was too soon to know if the problems would further dent North Americans sales, but he predicted the company’s travails could trouble consumers.

Nike’s famous “Just Do It” slogan emphasizes empowerment, as do sponsorships of iconic athletes such as Michael Jordan and Serena Williams.

“The company was viewed as progressive and kind of millennial friendly, so for something like this to happen with a brand that comes with that kind of a message was shocking,” said Ahluwalia.

But Ahluwalia praised the company for “being proactive”, in contrast to other companies that responded to workplace scandals only after problems publicly surfaced, usually in media reports.

“Clearly work needs to be done and I think it will take time,” Ahluwalia said. “Being proactive does position the company much better for the future.”

“It is just cruelty”

Since Edwards’ departure was announced in March, others to leave have included top executives in digital marketing, diversity and inclusion and Nike basketball.

The housecleaning was spurred by a survey of frustrated female workers in Nike’s Oregon headquarters who polled their peers, finding widespread sexual harassment and discrimination and presenting the data to CEO Parker, according to a New York Times expose.

The Times article also cited women who reported problems ranging from being cursed at by an abusive male boss to excluded from key meetings, and passed up for promotions.

The staff dismissals follow an initial investigation into workplace conduct launched in March, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The latest group of outgoing executives includes Helen Kim, a vice president for North America, whose departure suggested to some experts that Nike’s focus was no longer strictly about addressing sexism but had broadened to countering the problem of bullying.

“The larger problem is the workplace bullying, or as we call it, abusive conduct in the workplace, because that ignores gender boundaries and it ignores race,” said Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute. “It is just cruelty.”

“Apparently Nike’s workplace culture is a very competitive, aggressive one that may sometimes deteriorate into bullying behaviors and sexual harassment and discrimination,” said David Yamada, a professor at Suffolk University Law School.

“Perhaps the departures signal a core shift in management philosophy and practice for the better, but it’s obviously premature to make that determination.”

Some analysts worry the problems will prevent Nike from reaching a target of $50 billion in annual revenues, compared with $34.4 billion in 2017.

“Any time you see a large group of senior people leave very quickly for any reason, you better hope they have a very strong bench that can step in quickly,” said Sam Poser, analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.


Woman details nightmare date with ‘repulsive’ Schneiderman

May 9, 2018

She says their blind date started off like a dream, with him bearing flowers as he picked her up in a luxury car to take her to dinner at Bette Midler’s trendy New Leaf restaurant in Fort Tryon Park.

But soon, something struck her about her date, then-state Sen. Eric Schneiderman.

After sitting down to dinner, “we started with champagne. Then I would say probably two bottles of wine. And then I really distinctly remember him after dinner ordering hard liquor, Scotch or whiskey, and just thinking, ‘Wow, this is a lot of drinking, and I have to get in a car with him,’ ” said the woman, who asked to be identified only as Jennifer C.

Japan’s Taro Aso: “There is no such thing as a sexual harassment charge.” But his deputy repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments to a TV reporter

May 8, 2018

Japan’s Finance Minister  Taro Aso says “There is no such thing as a sexual harassment charge.”

Image result for Finance Minister Taro Aso, photos

Finance Minister Taro Aso may not be smiling for too much longer….

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Finance Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday repeated a comment that appeared to downplay an incident of alleged sexual harassment by his ministry’s top bureaucrat after already sparking protest demonstrations in a number of Japanese cities the day before.

“There is no such thing as a sexual harassment charge,” the 77-year-old former prime minister said at a regular press conference, the same remark he made on Friday during a trip to Manila.

The comment, which appeared to make light of the claims that then-Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda had repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments to a TV reporter, has drawn sharp reactions from women’s rights activists, with some calling it misogynistic and permissive of sexual harassment.

Asked by reporters about such public criticisms, Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, said he had “merely stated a fact” while adding he has no intention of tolerating sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment perpetrators can be charged with sexual assault, rape or libel in Japan.

Seiko Noda, a minister in charge of female empowerment, said Tuesday she plans to compile legal measures to tackle sexual harassment during the ongoing Diet session.

Noda, 57, who also serves as internal affairs minister, indicated Monday she would consider introducing penalties for sexual harassment.

She also said Aso belongs to a generation that has not learned about sexual harassment and has “a totally different perception” from that of her generation.

Following Aso’s initial comments, protestors, including many women’s rights groups, took to the streets on Monday. Some lined the sidewalk in front of the Finance Ministry building in central Tokyo, while others held demonstrations in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Sapporo.

Fukuda stepped down in late April after a weekly magazine reported that he asked the reporter “Can I give you a hug?” and “Can I touch your breasts?” and released an audio clip.

The former top bureaucrat has denied the allegations although the ministry has acknowledged he sexually harassed the female reporter and reduced his retirement benefits.

Aso himself has faced growing calls from opposition lawmakers to resign for having chosen Fukuda for the position.

The close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has often made controversial comments.

In August, Aso came under fire for comments that seemed to defend Adolf Hitler’s motive behind the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany.

“Hitler, who killed millions of people, is no good even if his motive was right,” he said. Aso later said he meant to give an example of a bad politician but retracted the remark.


#MeToo hits Pakistan as allegations mount against leading singer Ali Zafar — Meesha Shafi posted a lengthy message on Twitter, accusing Zafar of physically harassing her

April 20, 2018


© AFP/File | Pakistani actor and singer Ali Zafar has denied the accusations against him

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pressure mounted Friday against Pakistani singer Ali Zafar after he was hit with a sexual harassment allegation by a leading actress in the first high profile “#metoo” accusation in the staunchly patriarchal country.

The allegations were trending across social media in Pakistan after popular actress Meesha Shafi posted a lengthy message on Twitter, accusing Zafar of physically harassing her on “more than one occasion”.

“This happened to me despite the fact I am an empowered, accomplished woman who is known for speaking her mind!” read the statement.

Zafar denied the accusations, threatening legal action against the actress.

“I intend to take this through the courts of law, and to address this professionally and seriously rather than to lodge any accusations here,” he wrote on Twitter.

Following the accusation, other high-profile voices were quick to lend their support.

“No woman goes public with allegations like this just for fun. Obviously you spend no time listening to women when they talk about how widespread harassment is in our society,” tweeted Pakistani novelist and columnist Bina Shah.

Zafar has dominated the music charts in Pakistan for nearly two decades and has also starred in a number of films including Bollywood satire “Tere bin Laden” which translates as “Your Bin Laden”.

The #MeToo and #Timesup campaigns have gone global since allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were published last October, sparking an avalanche of accusations against other powerful men.

However, the movement has been slow to catch on in Pakistan, where women have fought for their rights for years in a patriarchal society where so-called “honour” killings and attacks on women remain commonplace.

In a report released earlier this week by watchdog Human Rights Commission Pakistan, the group said violence against women remained troubling, with 5,660 related crimes reported in the country’s four provinces in the first 10 months of 2017.

In August, firebrand opposition leader Imran Khan was also hit with allegations of sexual misconduct by a female lawmaker who accused the famed cricketer of sending obscene text messages and promoting a culture of sexism within his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

He later denied the allegations.

U.S. Marine Corps General In Charge of Marine and Family Programs Removed after Calling Reports of Alleged Sexual Harassment ‘Fake News’

April 18, 2018

Image result for Kurt Stein, photos

The Marine Corps has removed the general officer in charge of Marine and Family Programs – Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein – for making inappropriate public comments about an ongoing sexual harassment investigation.

Stein described articles about the investigation as “fake news” and joked about a Navy chaplain recently removed from duty for sexual misconduct, a defense official familiar with the investigation said.

Stein, who also oversees the Sexual AssaultPrevention and Assault Office, was removed after an investigation into remarks he made at a town hall meeting at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., several weeks ago.

Stein’s reference to “fake news” was first reported by USA Today, but ABC News has learned new details about what else Stein said that day.

It was during an April 6 town hall that he described press reports about a sexual harassment investigation at his command as “fake news,” the defense official familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

According to a statement from one witness at the town hall, Stein’s remarks on sexual harassment allegations referred to two civilian employees whose complaints against other employees in the command, dating back more than a year, are under investigation, the defense official said.

The official said Stein also joked about a Navy chaplain who had recently been fired from his post in New Orleans for sexual misconduct, saying that “aviators should live vicariously through the chaplain’s ‘actions’ and that “chaplains are getting more ‘action’ than aviators.”

In a statement, the Marine Corps said it received an anonymous call to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service hotline on April 9 about Stein’s comments at the town hall.

According to the official, the NCIS investigation found that at least 70 of the nearly 120 Marines and civilian personnel who attended the town hall complained about his comments and interpreted the comments as being hostile to the workforce.

Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, directed a command investigation that was completed April 13. After reviewing the investigation, the Marine Corps announced Monday that Neller had lost confidence in Stein’s ability to lead this particular organization.

Stein remains on administrative leave pending reassignment within the Marine Corps in the coming weeks. His replacement has not yet been identified.

This incident comes as two other Marine Corps general officers have been removed from their positions for command climate issues this year.

Stein assumed the duties of Director Marine and Family Programs in November 2016. A Naval Aviator by trade, he has flown more than 100 combat missions and accumulated more than 4,500 flight hours in numerous platforms.

ABC News

Fidelity Rethinks Star Stock-Picker System

February 26, 2018

Mutual-fund giant weighs shift to a team-based investing approach and changes to compensation system following complaints

If Fidelity adopts changes to its stock-picking system and compensation, it could mark the end of an era at the company. Shown, a Fidelity Investments branch in New York City on Jan. 4.
If Fidelity adopts changes to its stock-picking system and compensation, it could mark the end of an era at the company. Shown, a Fidelity Investments branch in New York City on Jan. 4. PHOTO: MICHAEL BUCHER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Fidelity Investments, the mutual-fund giant synonymous with the star stock picker, is now considering abandoning the investment process that made its managers famous, according to people familiar with the situation.

The changes under consideration at privately held Fidelity are the result of an outside consultant’s review since late last year of behavior within the stock-picking unit, and follow reports by The Wall Street Journal of claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct there.

If enacted, the changes would mark a major overhaul of Fidelity’s lucrative stock-picking business, which executives have been loath to disrupt. They could mark the end of an era that created stars such as Peter Lynch and William Danoff, who helped the firm’s assets under management swell to $2.4 trillion and make the Johnson family that founded Fidelity billionaires.

In recent weeks, Fidelity’s senior management, including Chief Executive Abigail Johnson, has held internal discussions about changes aimed at rehabilitating the culture of its high-profile stock unit in Boston, according to people familiar with the meetings. The changes under consideration include scrapping Fidelity’s longtime approach of using junior analysts to support a lead fund manager.

Ms. Johnson, the granddaughter of Fidelity’s founder, also has led meetings on ways to improve the treatment of women in the asset-management business.

Abigail Johnson, chairman and CEO at Fidelity Investments, spoke during a presentation at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in Washington on Oct. 24.
Abigail Johnson, chairman and CEO at Fidelity Investments, spoke during a presentation at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in Washington on Oct. 24. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

A Fidelity spokesman, Vincent Loporchio, said the firm has formed “advisory teams” comprising senior executives and staff members from its asset-management business. “The fact that the advisory teams were established and are meeting is not an indication that any decisions have been or will be made,” he said.

Stock picking has been under unprecedented pressure in recent years as investors have poured money into low-cost index-tracking funds. The star-manager system helped fuel careers of top fund managers at the family-run firm, but it also created a system in which portfolio managers wielded outsize power over analysts, more than a dozen current and former employees said.

Fidelity is now considering a team-based approach used by mutual-fund firms such as rival Wellington Management that gives analysts and senior managers more-comparable footing in choosing securities, the people familiar with the talks said. Fidelity may also do away with a controversial compensation system.

The possible changes are part of a reckoning under way inside the equity division, which for years dealt quietly with accusations of sexual harassment and other misconduct.

In October, the Journal reported that Fidelity fired one of its most prominent fund managers, Gavin Baker, for allegedly sexually harassing a junior female employee, according to the woman’s lawyer and people familiar with the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Baker said he “strenuously” denied any “supposed” allegations of sexual harassment. Fidelity also has forced out several other portfolio managers following complaints of sexual harassment and other abusive behavior.

Fidelity’s Mr. Loporchio said, “We have a strong culture, built on integrity, respect and always doing what is in the best interest of our associates and clients, and the actions of a few, which we do not condone, are by no means representative of who we are as a firm.”


The former and current Fidelity employees said two main issues have contributed to incidents of bad behavior inside the money-management unit. One is the existing compensation system, in which managers vote on analysts’ performance, which in turn affects those individuals’ pay. That system at times has played out like a popularity contest, where junior analysts have felt pressure to curry favor with managers and have feared a backlash for disagreeing with their investment ideas, the current and former employees said. The power imbalance also helped pave the way for workplace misconduct, they said.

In 2005, Jonathan Zang, an analyst in the stock unit, said in an email to Ms. Johnson and other Fidelity executives that the compensation system had an adverse effect on relationships between fund managers and analysts and ultimately hurt fund performance.

Fidelity has said it later terminated the analyst for poor performance, according to court filings in a civil lawsuit Mr. Zang brought against the company​that the parties settled. Mr. Zang said in the suit he was fired in retaliation for voicing concerns about certain fund disclosures.

Current and former employees also cited the unit’s male-dominated leadership under Brian Hogan, who led equity and high-income investing and was part of a group of executives known internally as “the old boy’s club.”

Although there were some female leaders in the unit, the tight-knit executive group at the top of the unit made it hard for employees of both genders to complain about alleged misconduct, and some complaints weren’t addressed, the current and former employees said.

In January, Fidelity said Mr. Hogan would leave that position for a post managing innovation at the personal-investing unit.

“As a leader, Brian’s door is always open and he has always encouraged and welcomed feedback—no questions asked. To suggest otherwise is simply false,” the Fidelity spokesman said on Mr. Hogan’s behalf.

Several instances of alleged misconduct identified by the Journal haven’t been previously reported.

Harry Lange, manager of Fidelity’s well-known Magellan Fund from 2005 to 2011, was known for making inappropriate comments to colleagues, several former employees said. At one point, an executive warned him about keeping pornography in the office, a person familiar with the matter said.

During a work trip to Japan with co-workers late in his tenure, a routine airport check revealed sex toys in Mr. Lange’s suitcase, according to several people familiar with the incident. In response, Fidelity executives launched an internal investigation into his behavior at the firm, these people said.

Mr. Lange was forced to leave the fund later that year, in part because of its poor performance, the Journal reported at the time. Mr. Lange went on to become part-owner of Hedonism II, a clothing-optional resort in Jamaica, according to a 2013 press release. Mr. Lange didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In 2014, Ms. Johnson and other senior executives learned that police in Boston had contacted Fidelity about an analyst who had been arrested a block from the firm’s headquarters near the city’s South Station, where he met an undercover officer disguised as a prostitute, according to a police report and people familiar with the incident.

Police said the analyst, Miles Betro, 36 years old, had been having sexually graphic conversations online, including one with an officer posing as two 14-year-old girls. Police asked Fidelity for access to his computer, since “most of the communicating was being done while he was at work,” according to the police report.

Mr. Loporchio, the Fidelity spokesman, said no company computers had been used.

Mr. Betro was terminated after the incident, according to a person familiar with the matter. A lawyer for Mr. Betro said he wasn’t fired and couldn’t recall the terms of the separation agreement.

Court documents indicate that two counts against Mr. Betro were dismissed and he was given two years of probation for a third count—”sexual conduct for a fee”—before it also was dismissed.

The incident led Fidelity executives to hold a mandatory training session at the firm that ran through a laundry list of activities Fidelity deemed improper, including the inappropriate touching of outside analysts, gambling using work email and using company smartphones to hire prostitutes, people familiar with the training session said.

In 2015, Fidelity fired Fershid Aspi, a director in the Boston unit, after he aggressively pursued an unwanted relationship with a junior analyst in another company office, people familiar with the incident said. The analyst showed Fidelity’s human-resources department an inappropriate email from Mr. Aspi, according to the people familiar with the incident.

A lawyer for Mr. Aspi said the Journal’s “characterization of events is not accurate” and didn’t return calls asking her to elaborate.

“Virtually any company of any size, including The Wall Street Journal, is going to have employees who make poor personal decisions from time to time,” Fidelity’s spokesman said. “Fidelity has a great work environment, where tens of thousands of people have built long, successful careers.”

Write to Sarah Krouse at and Kirsten Grind at

Scandal-hit Australian deputy PM resigns

February 23, 2018


© William West / AFP | Australia’s deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney on July 5, 2016.


Latest update : 2018-02-23

Australia’s scandal-hit deputy leader Barnaby Joyce announced Friday he was quitting and moving to the backbench amid claims of sexual harassment and controversy over an affair with a now-pregnant former aide.

Joyce, whose National Party rules alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s Liberals, has been front-page news in Australia for two weeks since it emerged he had left his wife of 24 years for his younger former media adviser, who is now expecting their baby boy.

The 50-year-old had insisted he would ride out the storm but his position became untenable on Friday when a sexual harassment complaint against him, which he denies, was lodged with the party.

“I will say on Monday morning at the party room (meeting), I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia,” Joyce said at a press conference in Armidale, his country New South Wales electorate.

“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki (his lover), for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat (his wife).

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”

Joyce was due to be the acting prime minister this week with Turnbull meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington, but opted to take leave.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also out of the country, the role has been assumed by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said ahead of Joyce’s decision that any harassment claim must be taken seriously.

“Any allegation of sexual harassment is a very serious allegation,” he told reporters.

“I understand that a formal complaint has been made, and that that complaint is being investigated. I mean, at this point, that is really all that I have to say about it.”

Joyce called the allegation “spurious and defamatory” and said he wanted it investigated by the authorities.

“I have asked that that be referred to the police,” he said, while admitting it had been “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“It’s quite evident that you can’t go to the despatch box with issues like that surrounding you.”

Riveted Australia

His decision to quit came with colleagues reportedly growing increasingly frustrated with his handling of the love-child scandal.

Joyce had opted to give several media interviews this week, at a time when he was expected to be on leave and out of the spotlight and two of the party’s backbenchers had publicly called on him to resign.

A furious Turnbull, who relies on the smaller National Party to govern, slapped a formal ban on sex between cabinet members and their staff in the wake of the Joyce affair.

He twice declined to offer support for his deputy when asked by reporters in Washington on Thursday.

Junior Nationals minister David Gillespie has indicated he would be a candidate for the vacancy, while reports said Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack had significant backing.

The new Nationals leader will automatically become deputy prime minister, under a coalition agreement between the two major parties of the centre-right.

The daily media headlines on the scandal have riveted the Australian public and sparked debate about workplace culture amid the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

But it has also highlighted the perilous state of the coalition government, which just a few months ago survived a crisis over lawmakers’ dual citizenship that threatened its wafer-thin parliamentary majority.


Dems: Bill Clinton too toxic to campaign in midterms

February 14, 2018

One of the party’s top surrogates has been effectively sidelined by the #metoo movement.

Bill Clinton is pictured. | AP Photo
And in this political environment, Bill Clinton campaigning anywhere would amount to him campaigning everywhere, forcing Democrats around the country to answer for what they think of colleagues appearing with him. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Democrats are looking to embrace the #MeToo moment and rally women to push back on President Donald Trump in the midterms—and they don’t want Bill Clinton anywhere near it.

In a year when the party is deploying all their other big guns and trying to appeal to precisely the kind of voters Clinton has consistently won over, an array of Democrats told POLITICO they’re keeping him on the bench. They don’t want to be seen anywhere near a man with a history of harassment allegations, as guilty as their party loyalty to him makes them feel about it.

“I think it’s pretty tough,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus and one of the leading voices in Congress demanding changes in Washington’s approach to sexual harassment. His presence “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was.”

After booting Sen. Al Franken precisely because they wanted to draw a clear contrast with Trump, Democrats across the party’s ideological and geographical spectrum acknowledged the political trouble that any appearance with Clinton would cause.

“I value the assets of what the Clintons can bring. He did a lot for Georgia when he was president,” added Georgia Democratic Chair DuBose Porter, treading delicately. “He carried Georgia. The personal side that is now being highlighted, we’ll have to measure.”

Privately, many Democratic politicians and strategists are harsher and firmer: Don’t come to their states, and don’t say anything about their campaigns. They are still worried about saying it out loud, but they don’t want him now, or maybe ever. They know Republicans would react by calling them — with good reason — hypocrites.

And in this political environment, Clinton campaigning anywhere would amount to him campaigning everywhere, forcing Democrats around the country to answer what they think of colleagues appearing with him, and whether they would do so themselves.

It’s a huge change from eight years ago, when Clinton made over 100 appearances for Democrats during the 2010 midterms as the most in-demand presence on the campaign trail. In his reelection campaign two years later, former President Barack Obama anointed Clinton his “explainer-in-chief.”

Clinton’s likely absence on the stump this year comes amid major demand for high-profile surrogates this year — from Obama, who’s expected make select appearances, to Joe Biden and the full crop of 2020 prospects, who are likely to be all over the place in the thick of election season. Even Hillary Clinton will do some targeted campaigning.

All this reluctance about him would be a surprise to Clinton himself, who, according to a person familiar with his plans, has already received a number of preliminary requests from campaigns for advice and events. He’s had a few conversations with candidates, but hasn’t initiated the calls, the person said. Clinton, the source said, is for now focused on his foundation work that included a tour last week of hurricane damage in the Virgin Islands and Dominica, and getting ready for the spring rollout of a mystery novel he wrote with James Patterson.

Anyway, Clinton wouldn’t even start to evaluate political stops until much closer to the election, the person said.

“President Clinton has been diligently working on his book. He’s also been focused on the work of his foundation,” the Clinton source said. “So beyond a few requests for support and advice from a few candidates, he hasn’t spent much time on the midterms.”

“People call me all the time [to ask] if I can talk to him, put [their] requests in,” said James Carville, the former Clinton strategist who remains close with him.

Carville said he believes the former president will do some campaigning, but given Clinton’s age — 71 — and other factors, “it can’t be like it used to.”

But “there are people who want him, I promise you,” Carville said.

Several Democratic campaigns have already polled Clinton’s popularity in their races, weighing whether to take the risk of inviting him out. Others say they’d love to see him chip in, so long as he sticks to New York, at closed-door fundraisers for them where no photographs of them together are taken.

“People are crass about it and will look to see where his numbers are,” admitted one Democratic member of Congress who is in a tough race and is anxious about going public embracing or trashing Clinton. “He’s still Bill Clinton, and he’s still a draw to certain segments of the party.”

“Depending on the audience, there will definitely be people … [who] will be uncomfortable,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.). But there will also “definitely be people who want to see him.”

A Gallup poll in December had Clinton’s national approval rating at 45 percent, down 5 points since the end of the 2016 campaign, and a 52 percent disapproval. Those were his lowest numbers recorded by Gallup since he left office in 2001.

A variety of congressional Democrats were visibly uncomfortable about discussing Clinton. When approached, some of them asked nervously whether he was actually considering campaigning in the midterms.

Democratic operatives ducked the question, while several close allies of Clinton declined interview requests on the topic.

In an interview earlier this year on the party’s strategy for the midterms, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez — who has not been in touch with Clinton the way he has with Obama and other top Democrats — took a diplomatic approach.

“Bill Clinton’s a former president of the United States, and in his administration, we took an economy that was in the tank and built an economic engine that had been unparalleled. Did he make significant mistakes? Of course he did,” Perez said. “People will make judgments race by race about who are the best surrogates to come down and advocate.”

Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Steps Down as RNC Finance Chairman

January 28, 2018

Republicans move quickly as Democrats attack opponents who received Wynn cash

WASHINGTON—Casino mogul Steve Wynn is stepping down from his post as Republican National Committee finance chairman following a Wall Street Journal report alleging a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct by him.

“Effective today I am resigning as finance chairman of the RNC,” Mr. Wynn said in a statement Saturday.



BBC News

Steve Wynn: US casino mogul quits as Republican finance chair

Mr Wynn, who is also a Republican official, attends an event at the White House
Steve Wynn is a major figure in the casino world. Getty Images

US casino mogul Steve Wynn has resigned as finance chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) amid sexual harassment allegations.

A Wall Street Journal report on Friday alleged that the 76-year-old billionaire harassed massage therapists and forced one staff member to have sex with him.

Mr Wynn has denied wrongdoing, calling the stories “preposterous”.

RNC chair Ronna McDaniel told US media she had accepted his resignation.

Mr Wynn has blamed his ex-wife, whom he is fighting in court, for the “slander”.

“The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit,” the billionaire said in a statement that his public relations team sent to the BBC on Friday.

What he is accused of

According to the Wall Street Journal, which said it had interviewed dozens of people who worked with Mr Wynn, he is accused of engaging in a pattern of abuse in which he often harassed massage therapists while alone in his private office.

The gambling industry giant paid $7.5m (£5.2m) to one manicurist who alleged she had been forced into sex by Mr Wynn, the paper claims citing court documents.

Female employees would fake appointments in order to avoid seeing him, or enlist others to pretend to be their assistants in order to avoid being alone with him.

Some would even hide in bathrooms or closets if they heard he was coming to their salon, the paper claimed.

Democrats attack Republican ‘silence’

Mr Wynn is also a Republican Party donor and fundraiser.

After harassment allegations were made against Hollywood executive producer Harvey Weinstein last year, Ms McDaniel and other leading Republicans called for the Democratic Party to return his donations.

Now some Democrats are asking if the same rules should apply regarding allegations against Mr Wynn.

The Democratic National Committee has attacked the RNC for remaining silent.

In an October statement, Ms McDaniel wrote: “If Democrats and the DNC truly stand up for women like they say they do, then returning this dirty money should be a no brainer.”

Presentational grey line
Steve Wynn and second wife, Andrea Hissom, at President Trump's inauguration, January 2017
Steve Wynn and second wife, Andrea Hissom, at President Trump’s inauguration. Getty Images

Who is Steve Wynn?

  • The son of an East Coast bingo parlour operator, he is now worth an estimated $3.5bn, according to Forbes magazine
  • He made his fortune in construction and operation of major Las Vegas casinos, including the Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island and the Bellagio, all of which he later sold to MGM Grand Inc
  • He has been locked in legal battles with his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, for more than seven years. The pair co-founded Wynn Resorts
  • He famously accidentally elbowed a hole in the middle of his Picasso painting when preparing to sell it for a record $139m (£74m) in 2016