Over the last several weeks, dozens of women have accused many powerful men in Hollywood and the entertainment industry of sexual assault and harassment. Some of these men have been actors and film executives, while others have been reporters, media personalities and politicians, both current and former.
The impact of women and men speaking out about their experiences has been profound. However, this ripple effect has largely excluded one group from public and professional accountability: politicians and political hopefuls.
In a now-infamous viral video, then-candidate Donald Trump was caught on a hot mic making lewd comments about women and describing acts of sexual assault. He apologized during his campaign, calling it “locker-room talk,” and polls in the immediate aftermath saw Trump’s likelihood of winning the White House practically evaporate.
Obviously, Trump is now the president of the United States. He himself was accused of sexual assault by a long list of women, but it did not prevent him from defeating Hillary Clinton last year.
Another prominent would-be politician was just accused of serious sexual misconduct. U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was the subject of a Washington Post article late last week in which he was accused of having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl.
In light of the allegations, some of Moore’s presumptive Senate colleagues renounced their support for his candidacy:
Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 10, 2017
I am pulling my endorsement and support for Roy Moore for U.S. Senate.
— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) November 10, 2017
For the Hollywood elite, these kinds of allegations have often resulted in the resignation or firing of many of the accused men, including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin and Roy Price. And former president George H.W. Bush also came under fire for allegedly groping women in recent years, something which his spokesman attributed to his lower positioning for pictures due to his wheelchair-bound status.
Last year, Republican senators took similar action in demanding that Trump drop out of the election after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced. Yet, just like last year, the news seems to be having little impact on the outcome of the race.
The argument surrounding the use of “if true” in many senators’ statements on the accusations against Moore has also been criticized. Unlike most of the Hollywood elites accused of sexual misconduct, both Trump and Moore have been given the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion.
In fact, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler went so far as to invoke a comparison of Moore’s alleged actions to Mary and Joseph. He said that “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
Alabama Republicans further defended Moore, providing the defense that his actions occurred 40 years ago and are thus irrelevant to his current standing. Conversely, stories have emerged that Moore dating high school-aged girls was an open secret in his home state and inner circle.
But the difference in treatment of the accusations is striking. Spacey tried to use the “this happened over 30 years ago” defense, but it didn’t prevent his image and career from losing ground. Moore, on the other hand, remains on the ticket as the GOP nominee for Alabama’s special election next month.
It remains entirely possible in the coming days that more evidence could emerge against Moore, prompting a decision to remove himself from Senate consideration.
But if Trump is an example of the negligible effect these accusations have so far had against political candidates, then the Senate should still expect Moore to be the Republican nominee — and, perhaps, its newest member.