This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
Surely that honor goes to the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th Century, where the witch hunt was a literal witch hunt focused on capturing witches.
There weren’t any actual witches to speak of, but rather a frenzy of false accusations designed to discredit and destroy enemies, leaving a trail of death in its wake.
Yet this presidential tweet from May is worth revisiting as Michael Flynn on Friday pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. If the Russia investigation is, indeed, a witch hunt, it’s one where there are real witches to be hunted.
Can the same be said for the sexual harassment witch hunt?
The same is true with regard to the flood of sexual harassment and assault accusations being leveled against celebrities and elected officials.
Certainly, many of these men are guilty of the offenses for which they are accused, and many of them have candidly admitted as much. But as the accusations snowball and people continue to lose their jobs and their reputations with each new charge, it becomes harder and harder to tell real witches from phony ones.
Jaime Phillips shows how easy it is to peddle falsity
That leads to the phenomenon of Jaime Phillips, the woman who peddled false accusations against embattled Republican Senate candidate Ron Moore of Alabama. She was counting on witch hunt hysteria to help her discredit the more credible allegations made against her candidate. She didn’t succeed.
But she is a harbinger of a brewing backlash against the #MeToo movement. Right now, its in danger of devolving into a universally anti-male witch hunt where the lines between true justice and raw malice become increasingly blurred.
What began in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein has bled over into news broadcasting and politics. Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House, is now under fire for harassment allegations that were settled with taxpayer money. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on him to resign, three days after labeling him an “icon”.
Sen. Al Franken continues to be under fire
Another top-ranking Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley of New York and the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has called for the resignation of Al Franken, who has been accused of misconduct by half a dozen women.
Neither Conyers nor Franken are yet stepped down, although the Senate has opened an ethics investigation against Franken, would could either exonerate him or lead to his departure.
It’s significant to note, however, that the Franken investigation is the only apparent example of due process on display.
Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and even Garrison Keillor have all lost their careers and their reputations based on allegations that have not seen the inside of a courtroom.
They may well be the result of internal investigations by their employers, but the lack of transparency in that process ought to be troubling to everyone. There is no reason to believe the accusers are not telling the truth, but as Jaime Phillips demonstrates, that’s a double-edged sword that can be used to destroy enemies without evidence.