In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Mika Brzezinski wants to know if it’s cool to attack accusers we don’t like.

A screenshot from "Morning Joe" with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, with chyron "Franken hits GOP for supporting Trump and Moore despite sexual misconduct allegations against them"
“When you say ‘women,’ do you mean, like, all women? Not the ones who are accusing my dude, right? Asking for a friend.”

Bite my ass, Mika.

Yesterday, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced his pending resignation after a seventh woman has come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and dozens of Senate Democrats have called on him to step down. His announcement was that classic mix of “I don’t remember it that way” and “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” and “but Donald Trump and Roy Moore, though” that, delivered properly, almost sounds contrite if you don’t listen to it too closely.

This morning, on Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski stood up for Franken by identifying his first accuser, Leeann Tweeden, as a Playboy model and a Republican, and asking if maybe “I believe women” doesn’t have to apply to all women. Y’know, like women who are accusing a man you like.

We’ve never really talked about the woman who first came out against Al Franken, whose picture that you say, Susan, is just the death knell. I would think a dress owned by Monica Lewinski would bring down a president, but it didn’t, so I’m surprised that you think a comedian’s picture of a performer — Playboy model who goes on Hannity, who voted Trump — You know, I see some politics there, but I haven’t brought that up every step of the way because of course in this #MeToo environment, you must always just believe the women. And I think that there’s a lot of reasons why we need to look at the women seriously and believe them, and in many cases — like, for example, I spoke to accusers in Mark Halperin, which he admits a lot of what he’s accused of doing. I spoke to them, I believe them. I’m just wondering if all women need to be believed. And I’m concerned that we are being the judge, the jury, and the cops here, and so did Senate Democrats, getting ahead of their skis, and trust me, Kirsten Gillibrand, I want you to run for president, but you gotta keep it real.


In my opinion — just my opinion — I feel like we’ve got a machine gun now, and we’re just going around the room with every man that perhaps we don’t like politically. I don’t know.

(“I’m worried for women,” she said. “I’m concerned about women who are legitimately sexually harassed in the workplace across America, and where this is taking us.” Aw, thanks, Mik. You’re a gem.)

Bite. My. Ass.

This shit — this precise shit — is why women don’t come forward. Leigh Corfman, Roy Moore’s first accuser, said that she didn’t come forward in the past 40 years because “there is no one here that doesn’t know that [she’s] not an angel.” That a woman has posed nude for magazines makes her no less credible as a victim of sexual assault. In fact, women in that kind of industry are frequently the target of abuse because the abuser knows the woman’s accusations could just be hand-waved — Who’s going to believe you, honey?

But you have to suspect that the “voted for Trump” part was just as offensive to Brzezinski as the “Playboy model” part, because she sees “some politics there,” which is code for “Tweeden opposes Franken politically and thus her only possible motivation can be to smear a good man.”

“I believe women” doesn’t mean automatically rolling out the guillotine for every man who’s accused of sexual assault. But it does mean taking women seriously and listening to their allegations instead of just immediately looking for a reason to discredit them. A reason like their history as a nude model, for instance. Or the fact that their politics disagree with yours. It’s easy to say, “It’s a conspiracy, and she’s just trying to take down a good man, and she’s probably getting paid for it, too” — so easy that Roy Moore’s apologists are saying it in Alabama right this second. But nude models can be assaulted. Republicans can be assaulted. And even if — even if, and I’ve seen no evidence that this is the case — Leeann Tweeden really was being paid by Roger Stone the whole time, that doesn’t negate the possibility that Al Franken really did force his tongue down her throat as she protested. “I believe women” means that we have to take her accusations seriously.

“I’m just wondering if all women need to be believed.” Yes, Mika. Even the ones you don’t like.

Brzezinski’s problem isn’t that people are going around the room taking down “every man that perhaps we don’t like politically.” Her problem is that they’ve taken down a man that she does like politically, and she’s happy to throw a woman under the bus — a woman who comes with plausible accusations and photographic evidence — if it means defending her guy. That is gross and wrong and insulting to all of the women currently being dragged through the mud for speaking out against powerful, abusive men. She owes those women an apology. And it damned well better be better than Franken’s.

5 thoughts on Mika Brzezinski wants to know if it’s cool to attack accusers we don’t like.

  1. Sexual assault is sexual assault. Does not matter if your both republicans, both democrats or of different parties. Wether your a playboy bunny or a wino and bag lady its still sexual assault. You could be a multimillionaire and a diplomat of world renown or a stock car driver on weekends its still sexual assault. If you perceive it as sexual assault then it is until proven otherwise

  2. It’s so nice to come here from raw story or alternet, and find someone who actually has a nuanced, rational take on Al Franken. All the people that are like “It’s a political hit job!!”, especially women who say that, are so grating.

    1. I’m glad to be able to provide that perspective, although I can’t pretend I didn’t get here the hard way. When the allegations first came out, I had the “No, not Al Franken!” reaction that a lot of people had, and I found myself trying to come up with reasons that maybe the women misinterpreted something, and it wasn’t that bad, was it, compared to other stuff? — anything that could exonerate him while squeezing into the “I believe women” model. And then I accepted that I had to stop doing that, because if I wouldn’t let that stuff fly with anyone else, I couldn’t let it fly with Franken.

  3. I am going to go against the flow here, but I don’t care. I am not saying I definitively do not believe Leeann Tweeden, but I have my doubts. Here is why:
    1) Her posturing while telling her story was flippant, matter of fact. She did not appear to have difficulty laying out her story. I cannot talk face to face with ANYONE about my experiences.
    2) USO performances hopefully will change their focus, now that women are in combat, but, historically they have been a “let down your hair” event for MEN. They almost always have beautiful women, (Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson), in revealing clothing, and risqué jokes and performances. It appears that Leeann Tweeden signed an agreement indicating exactly that when she signed on, as did everyone.
    3) She said there was no kiss involved in the sketch she was practicing with Franken. I have seen photographs of the actual skit where they are deep kissing.
    4) She claimed she was troubled for years over this, yet there are photos of her in 2009 at an awards ceremony smiling and hugging him.

    I do not care if this is in step with everyone else. I do believe the others. Their stories are consistent and follow a theme, that hers does not.

    It was right for him to step down. I do like him and feel, as far as women’s rights, it is a loss. Oh, well. time to clean up.

    1. 1. Judging an accuser’s credibility based on “how I think she should have acted” or “how I would have acted” is incredibly damaging to all victims of sexual assault. Everyone experiences trauma differently and responds to it differently. “She doesn’t act like a victim” is one of the most commonly used approaches to discrediting women (including, for instance, some of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers). That goes beyond “going against the flow” — it’s actively harmful.

      2. USO shows have not historically been free-for-all bacchanals for our men in uniform. I’m pretty sure Judy Garland was never asked to flash some skin when she performed for the troops in WWII, and I haven’t heard Katy Perry or Scarlett Johansson complain about getting groped on tour. On top of that, it wasn’t the troops that Tweeden is accusing — it was one of her fellow performers, who didn’t exactly need to “let his hair down” during a difficult deployment. Saying that she should have expected to be sexually assaulted because she signed up for it is victim blaming.

      3. She didn’t say there wasn’t a kiss in the sketch — she said that it was a faked kiss, exaggerated for laughs, that didn’t need rehearsing, and that he badgered her, and that when she finally gave in he grabbed her and stuck his tongue down her throat.

      4. Again, the way you think she should have acted is not germane to whether she really was assaulted.

      I think what’s much more telling is that after she went into that much detail about his behavior that day and throughout the rest of the tour, Franken wasn’t able to come up with a more emphatic response than “I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does.” It would appear that the theme among his other accusers is an attitude of “it’s my right as an entertainer,” which means Tweeden’s accusations fit right in.

Comments are currently closed.