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Expert: President Trump Calling His Accusers “Liars” Confirms Women’s Fears of Not Being Believed

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Amid the torrent of sexual abuse allegations lodged by women against powerful men, President Trump rushed to the defense of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who stands accused of multiple instances of sexual assault against minors. Meanwhile, CBS News, PBS and Bloomberg all said Tuesday that they’re firing veteran journalist Charlie Rose over multiple accusations of sexual harassment. On Capitol Hill, Congressmember Jackie Speier says she knows of at least two lawmakers who’ve engaged in sexual harassment, and has introduced a bill to end a mandatory “cooling-off period” before accusers can file claims. We speak with Jennifer Drobac, a professor and expert in sexual harassment law at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to the ongoing torrent of sexual abuse allegations by women against powerful men. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump rushed to the defense of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, pointing to Moore’s denials of multiple accusations of sexual assault and harassment against teenagers. Trump also said voters should reject his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones. I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody that’s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.

REPORTER: Mr. President, is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: While speaking with reporters, Trump was asked if he had a message for women.

REPORTER: Mr. President, what is your message to women? This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Women are very special. I think it’s a very special time, because a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society, and I think it is very, very good for women. And I’m very happy a lot of these things are coming out. And I’m very happy—

REPORTER: Do you believe the accusers?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m very happy it’s being exposed.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: At least nine women have stepped forward to say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Roy Moore as children, and The New Yorker reports Moore was banned from a local mall and a YMCA in Alabama because he repeatedly badgered teenage girls. Moore’s lawyer denies the ban existed. Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least 16 women. A leaked Access Hollywood video from 2005 recorded Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. .... Grab ’em by the…”

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, CBS News, PBS and Bloomberg all said, Tuesday, they are firing TV icon Charlie Rose and canceling distribution of his programs. Three more women who worked atCBS have also stepped forward to accuse Rose of sexual harassment, bringing the total number of his accusers to at least nine. Rose is accused of groping women, making lewd phone calls, walking around naked or in untethered bathrobe. The latest charges come from three female employees at CBS, one of whom says Rose whispered a sexual innuendo while touching her inappropriately at a work event. On Tuesday, CBS This Morning co-hosts Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell addressed sexual misconduct allegations against Charlie Rose.

NORAH O’DONNELL: This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and, more generally, the safety of women. Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive. And I’ve been doing a lot of listening, and I’m going to continue to do that. This I know is true: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.

GAYLE KING: Now, I’m really struggling, because how do you—what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that? I’m really grappling with that. That said, Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn’t get a pass from anyone in this room. We are all deeply affected.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.

In news from Capitol Hill, California Congressmember Jackie Speier says her Democratic colleague, John Conyers of Michigan, was not one of two sitting members of Congress who she knows to have engaged in sexual harassment. Congressman Conyers reportedly paid out $27,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim in 2015 with a former staffer who alleged she was fired because she rejected his sexual advances. Speier said, Tuesday, she knows of at least two other lawmakers who’ve engaged in sexual harassment—one Democrat and Republican. Earlier this month, Speier accused an unnamed colleague of exposing their genitals, and said victims had their private parts grabbed on the House floor.

Speier has introduced the ME TOO Congress bill to reform sexual harassment policies on Capitol Hill. Among other reforms, the bill would end a mandatory “cooling-off period” before accusers can file sexual harassment claims. When they go to a little-known office, first they are told they have to get therapy for 30 days, and then they have to start a mediation process, where the lawyer represents the member of Congress. The overall process takes about 180 days.

Well, for more, we’re joined in Indianapolis by Jennifer Drobac, a professor and expert in sexual harassment law at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, the author of Sexual Harassment Law: History, Cases, and Theory, most recently, Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers: Adolescent Development, Discrimination, and Consent Law.

Professor Drobac, thanks so much for joining us. Let’s begin with Roy Moore. President Trump’s comments yesterday rocked the country. He had refrained from saying whether he would support Roy Moore, but clearly an implicit endorsement yesterday when he said Judge Moore had denied the charges against him that were brought now by at least nine women, one of them as young as 14. Can you talk about both what Roy Moore is accused of, what sexual harassment law means in this case, and President Trump’s implicit endorsement, saying the Democrat cannot get in to that Senate seat in Alabama, should not win?

JENNIFER DROBAC: OK, so let’s start with Roy Moore. The problem with Roy Moore is, these allegations don’t fall under typical anti-discrimination law. These women—young girls, really—were not his employees. He was not their teacher. And so, sexual harassment law doesn’t technically cover it. It’s really more personal injury law. But that law doesn’t capture the systemic nature of discrimination against women. So, what he did at the time was illegal, possibly criminal, but it really didn’t fit under what we understand today as sexual harassment law.

The president’s comments yesterday are appalling, shocking, and yet, sadly, not very surprising, given his history. So, we can be disappointed and shocked, but I think this only goes to the idea that we all need to step up and take responsibility where our leaders are not.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jennifer Drobac, I wanted to ask you your reaction to this deluge of sexual harassment complaints that have surfaced now in the last few weeks, given the fact that many companies and corporations over the last few years have really stepped up what they call sexual harassment training to their employees, and yet we’re still continuing to see more and more of these cases come to light now.

JENNIFER DROBAC: Right. Well, the problem is, is that you can say that we take these things very seriously, but if companies don’t really do anything, other than a superficial training, that key executives may not participate in and that other executives are rolling their eyes over, this really doesn’t address the problem. Key executives need to demonstrate, with their action, that they won’t tolerate this behavior and that they are committed to creating a safe workplace that promotes productivity and values the dignity of all workers.

As far as what we’re seeing here, I think it’s a confluence of events, starting with the behavior that’s been clearly engaged in for a long time by these men. And occasionally, it’s women, but mostly it’s overwhelmingly by men. And you see Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, on and on. Then you also have the president during the campaign. He admits, in a recorded conversation, that he’s a grabber. And that is at least illegal behavior, possibly criminal.

And then what happens? He then proceeds to confirm the two fears that women have. First, women came forward and said, “Yes, he did this to me.” So, what does he do then? He calls them all liars, thereby confirming the first fear, that women won’t be believed. Second, he then threatened to sue them all. That confirms the second fear women have, is that they’ll be retaliated against. So, when you have the president of the United States, now the most powerful man in the world, engaging in this kind of behavior, and then excusing it by a man running for the Senate, a man who was formerly of the Alabama Supreme Court—twice—then it sends a message that women aren’t believed, will be retaliated against, held in their place.

And then you have the #MeToo campaign, where we learn how pervasive this behavior is and how, really, no woman can avoid it, and that the consequences are real. And that confluence of events is now changing our consciousness. And while the circumstances themselves are very sad, the consciousness is a good one. And I think we all need to take this to the next level and look forward as to how we’re going to specifically address these issues in the workplace, in schools and out on the street.

AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Drobac, I wanted to turn now to Charlie Rose and this latest news. So, now we have—CBS News has fired Charlie Rose, the host of CBS This Morning, correspondent with 60 Minutes, PBS, Bloomberg canceling contracts, dumping his programs, as more women step forward accusing him of sexual harassment, bringing the total number of accusers between, The Washington Post citing eight, and now three women coming forward from CBS.

Rose is accused of groping women, making lewd phone calls, walking around naked, in an open bathrobe. One of the women, the CBS staffer, said Rose whispered sexual innuendo in her ear while touching her inappropriately at a work event. The Washington Post cites one former intern for Charlie Rose named Reah Bravo saying Rose repeatedly walked around naked in front of her, repeatedly groped her, including one time when he, quote, “grabbed me by my hair, holding a fist of it at the base of my scalp.” Another time, Bravo says they were traveling on a small private plane when he got out of his seat and lay on top of her, pressing his body onto hers. Other women accuse Rose of forcefully touching or trying to touch them without their consent. One woman describes being in the midst of a job hiring process with Rose, having already been told salary and job title, when he took her out to his Bellport, Long Island, estate. After sitting by the pool late at night, he returned naked in an open bathrobe, proceeded to force his hands down her pants.

According to the Post, a number of people at the Charlie Rose show knew about Rose’s alleged sexual harassment, including the longtime producer Yvette Vega. The Post spoke to over 20 people for the article. At least a dozen more women apparently have come forward to the Post since the article was published yesterday.

Well, yesterday, a TMZ photojournalist briefly spoke to Charlie Rose outside of his apartment in New York City.


CHARLIE ROSE: How are you?

TMZ PHOTOJOURNALIST: Do you want to say anything to those accusers, that’s accusing you?


TMZ PHOTOJOURNALIST: Do you want to say anything to those accusers, the people that’s accusing you of all these wrongdoings?

CHARLIE ROSE: It’s not wrongdoings.

AMY GOODMAN: He said, “It’s not wrongdoings,” although he did issue a statement, a print statement, where he did apologize. Now, Jennifer Drobac, if you can talk about sexual harassment law here in the workplace and also now talk about the liability of these networks? His offices, his studio at Bloomberg, CBS, apparently more people are now coming out, and PBS, as well. How far does the liability go?

JENNIFER DROBAC: The liability extends to the company. Unfortunately, under current Title VII law, you typically cannot sue the perpetrator. Under some state sexual harassment laws, you can. For example, in California, you can sue the alleged perpetrator.

But I think the most important thing to understand is that there are, I think, three types of perpetrators. The first are the clueless. And in this day and age, it’s hard to imagine there are still these people around, but there are some people who honestly don’t appreciate that their behavior—and it’s usually fairly mild behavior—and that is behavior that constitutes really sexual jokes, banter, offensive remarks that shouldn’t be said in the workplace. Those people are clueless. And if you tell them that their behavior is offensive, inappropriate, they typically feel remorse and want to make amends.

The second type are the careless. They really don’t care. They know their behavior is inappropriate. And as soon as they’re caught or reprimanded, they understand that they need to change their behavior if they want to keep their jobs. And so they will. They don’t change their minds, but they change their behaviors.

Finally, there are the, what I call, corrupt predators. And those are most of the people we’re talking about now. They either know that they are engaging in seriously, often violent or illegal and criminal behavior, and they simply don’t care, or they can’t help themselves. Their egos have now gotten so big that they think they can do anything. And again, this is describing some of the people we’re talking about here.

So, employers—if the person engaged in this behavior is a supervisor, employers are strictly liable, unless the complainants have taken action, per company rules, to let them know that this behavior is going on. In other words, the company is liable for what the supervisor is doing, in most cases. Alternatively, if it’s co=worker harassment or if the company is the—if the perpetrator is not in a position of authority and is a co-worker, companies are liable, if they knew or should have known. And really, in these circumstances, these men were operating, people knew they were operating. Companies are going to be liable.

So, while they may have policies and procedures, again, if key executives are letting rainmakers and powerful men engage in this behavior so they can keep them at the company, that’s going to be a problem for these companies. And it’s a problem for all of us, because it decreases productivity, it makes women unsafe, and it creates an environment that simply cannot continue.

AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Drobac, we want to thank you for being with us, professor and expert in sexual harassment law at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, author of Sexual Harassment Law: History, Cases, and Theory and, most recently, Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers: Adolescent Development, Discrimination, and Consent Law.

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