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? 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. Perhaps Democrats who demanded that Al Franken depart the Senate before any formal investigatory process was undertaken haven’t so much soured on the possibility of bringing sexual predators to justice as they have come to realize that insisting on resignations before there has been an investigation is not a good strategy. Paired with the Republican insistence that no matter what the evidence shows, Roy Moore is a sterling humanitarian, one can start to see that this evolution toward demanding formal processes is not backsliding but a reaction to two sides of the same coin—reflexive blame on one side and reflexive denial on the other. The asymmetry issue isn’t merely that liberals sometimes punish their worst miscreants while Republicans often reward them; the issue is that both behaviors react to a press report as though it’s a conclusive finding. Of course reporters strive to achieve that. But there are times when the media fails at that task, which means the asymmetry in the demand for resignations can be mirrored by asymmetry in the quality of reporting.
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. The press has never pretended to be experts at that latter function.
Read the entire piece here.