Sexual harassment allegations roil the press

The current epidemic of alleged boorish behavior toward women by stars of journalism comes at a particularly damaging time for the country as well as for the news-gathering profession.

Television celebrity Charlie Rose is now caught in the same web that has already ensnared President Trump, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, New York Times reporters Glenn Thrush and NPR editorial director Michael Oreskes, among others.

The Caesar’s wife edict, that she and other functional equivalents must be above reproach or, as that other cliche puts it, “cleaner than a hound’s tooth,” is a legitimate standard to be applied to all those who have the responsibility of separating fact from fiction for the American public.

Those who are accused of engaging in such behavior can rightly be reprimanded and their credibility questioned at a time when their journalistic labors are fiercely attacked by the administration in power as “the enemy of the people.”

The old newsroom axiom in response to press criticism — “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel” — is undermined by what can be described as internal sabotage by newsmen themselves guilty of sexual abuse of coworkers.

In an era in which critics of the journalism profession engage in “fake news” of all varieties, the truth becomes a major and continuing casualty in the broad public conversation and discourse.

Stories cut from whole cloth by deliberate manufacturers of wholly or partly inaccurate or incorrect substance declare war on truth with intentional malice aforethought.

Especially malicious has been the concept advanced by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway of “alternative facts,” the notion that there can be more than one version of the pure truth to fit the political need of any circumstance.

The current emergence of allegations of sexual abuse of women in the newsroom is taking on massive proportions in a country whose politics is poisoned by disregard for human decency itself, with the example conspicuously set by the sitting president.

His own open track record of sexual mistreatment of women, documented in that atrocious video of his boastful remarks about his liberty to grab women by their genitals, cannot be erased. His callous disrespect for women belies all his insistences to the contrary.

Trump’s history of sexual misconduct puts him on an uncomfortable griddle concerning the case of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, who at age 32 allegedly pursued and abused a 14-year-old girl. At least eight other women say Moore pursued them when they were teenagers or young women.

The president has declined to comment, other than to say through White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that “if true,” he believes Moore should step aside, and that the voters of Alabama should decide in the Dec. 12 election.


Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at