Punishing Sexual Misconduct: Corporations versus Public

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Punishing by Firing
(Flickr/m01229) Hi, You're Fired
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Punishing Matt Lauer Wednesday for his alleged sexual misconduct, NBC swiftly fired him.

NBC joined a growing list of corporations displaying no tolerance for sexual misbehavior. From Amazon to the Weinstein Brothers, companies are opting to discard anyone accused of improper behavior.

Sadly, sexual misbehavior among politicians appears to get slower punishment. Partly, this is due to who is doing the punishing.

For politicians, it is ultimately the public that is meting out punishment.  On the other hand, among media, the corporation is punishing the offender.

Punishing Sexual Misconduct: Corporations Not Waiting Around

NBC received the complaint Monday about Matt Lauer. By Wednesday, Lauer was a former NBC employee.

Within a few days of allegations about Mark Halperin’s sexual misbehavior, NBC severed ties with Halperin. HBO and Penguin also canceled a project and book deal.

Another big media star, Charlie Rose, also lost his career because of improper sexual behavior. Both CBS and PBS parted ways with Rose a day after stories about his behavior came out.

Movie legend Kevin Spacey lost his lucrative role in Netflix series House of Cards within less than a week after allegations of sexual advances towards a teen. Further, House of Cards staff had also alleged Spacey of unwanted touching.

In retrospect, perhaps the Weinstein example may have set the trend. The allegations about Weinstein came out on October 5, and by October 8 the Weinstein company fired him.

On the other hand, some of these media stars may wish they are politicians. That’s because the US public seems less keen on punishing politicians for sexual misbehavior.

Punishing Politicians’ Sexual Misconduct: The Public

To be fair, politicians who sexually misbehave come from both parties.  In the last few decades, we have seen stories about both Democratic and Republican candidates.

Some politicians have resigned their positions due to stories about their sexual misbehavior. Republican Senator Bob Packwood and Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner are but two examples.

Many more politicians have been able to get away. Prominent Republicans and Democrats have managed to avoid the public punishing them for their sexual mistakes.

For instance, Bill Clinton only suffered a blip in his popularity due to the Monica Lewinsky affair.  And Donald Trump was unaffected by the allegations of sexual assault and the on-tape bragging about groping.

Today, we have allegations about Senatorial candidate Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, and Congressman John Conyers. In the wake of Weinstein, will the public be fervent in punishing them?

Punishing Offenders: Varying Factors

In my opinion, the different attitudes towards punishing sexual misconduct may be due to three factors.

The first factor is fear. Corporations are afraid of threats to their bottom-line.  Advertisers and talent are less likely to want to be around misbehaving media stars.

A second factor is priorities. If money is the priority for corporations, it appears that for the public so far partisanship has taken the front seat. That’s why Roy Moore is leading in the polls as of early this week.

Only time, the third factor, will tell if the mood of the public has changed.  Will Alabama voters turn out on December 12 to say “No Moore”?


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