WATERTOWN — In his Wednesday column for the Times Union in Albany, Chris Churchill nicely articulated what many of us were thinking.
How could U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik express so much outrage over the sexual scandals in which Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo finds himself but utter not a word about the claims made against Matt Gaetz, her GOP colleague in the U.S. House of Representatives? Does she acknowledge the need for due process and presumption of innocence only when the accused belongs to her political party?
As reported March 31 by the New York Times, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into whether the Florida Republican had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and violated federal human trafficking laws by paying for her to travel with him across state lines. In addition, CBS News reported Thursday that federal investigators also are looking into whether Gaetz exchanged political favors for paid female escorts during a trip he made more than two years ago to the Bahamas.
While perhaps not illegal, Gaetz is said to have shown nude photos of his sexual partners to colleagues on the House floor. Given Stefanik’s supposed revulsion to such untoward behavior, it’s reasonable to expect her to display the same righteous indignation against Gaetz that she heaped on Cuomo.
“On Twitter and elsewhere, Stefanik makes regular note of the governor’s many foibles and scandals, including recent accusations of sexual harassment,” Churchill wrote. “She calls Cuomo ‘the creepy corrupt criminal of New York’ and ‘the worst governor in America.’ Of course, there’s little risk when Stefanik, a Republican, targets New York’s Democratic governor, of course. Many of her north country constituents, or at least the majority willing to vote for her, agree with Stefanik’s assessment. She’s putting nothing on the line. Gaetz is a different story. The Florida congressman is on her team. For Stefanik, criticizing Gaetz might take a little, you know, courage.”
While condemning Gaetz for allegedly demeaning women would be in character for Stefanik, she hasn’t issued any public comments on the matter. Churchill reported in his column that his outreach to her office for a statement Monday was left unanswered.
“Stefanik can stay quiet if she wants, of course, and she can grant her colleague the presumption of innocence until a jury finds otherwise,” Churchill wrote. “But when she continually expresses outrage at alleged improprieties by Democrats but doesn’t say anything about allegations against Gaetz or Trump or U.S. Rep. Tom Reed or many other Republicans, it’s easy to doubt whether Stefanik’s outrage is genuine. It isn’t, which means Stefanik’s mock outrage deserves to be mocked. It’s political. It’s about bald partisanship and scoring cheap points. It’s also about money.”
Churchill echoed the reporting done by various publications, including the Watertown Daily Times, that Stefanik is selling various items calling for Cuomo to be removed from office. She’s peddling T-shirts, mugs and “Wanted” posters on her campaign website.
About the nicest thing that can be said about the way Stefanik profits from Cuomo’s scandals is that it’s tacky. But it’s more accurate to describe her hawking merchandise based on accusations of sexual assault and harassment as reprehensible.
Has Stefanik reached out to women who’ve accused Cuomo of these atrocities to see if they’ll buy some of her clever wares? Would she consider setting up a table at a conference pertaining to sexual abuse with her campaign goodies? She should approach victims directly to see how they feel about her soliciting campaign money off their anguish.
Churchill is correct that this is rank hypocrisy. Seeing that she wants to use their pain to stuff her war chest with cash, Stefanik has shown that she has little concern for women who have suffered as a result of male dominance of them in society.
Stefanik has become a shameless political opportunist. She’s pretty much narrowed her principles to the cheap basics: Keep her polls numbers high at all times, and win elections at any cost. Don’t let integrity stand in the way of hanging onto power.
But Stefanik and her fellow Republicans aren’t the only ones who have failed to “remove the plank” from their own eye before dislodging “the speck” from their brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5). Democrats are just as guilty of this.
In April 2016, I wrote a column expressing my astonishment that Democrats continued to ignore the fact that former President Bill Clinton has for many years been a sexual predator. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced Clinton at a campaign rally for his wife, Hillary, at the parking lot of J.B. Wise in Watertown that month.
It struck me as bizarre that Gillibrand could, on the one hand, advocate policies to deal more effectively with sexual assault in the military yet associate with Bill Clinton as a political ally. He confronted serious — and credible — allegations that he sexually harassed women such as Paula Jones and sexually assaulted women such as Kathleen Willey. There is compelling evidence that he raped Juanita Broaddrick.
Bill Clinton is a remorseless degenerate and should be universally treated as such. Yet many Democrats still become giddy when he’s in their presence.
In late 2017, Gillibrand said Clinton should have resigned from the presidency over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. This allegedly sent “shockwaves” through the Democratic Party, according to an article published Nov. 17, 2017, by Politico.
“Kirsten Gillibrand is having a moment, whether she meant to or not. Going where no other prominent Democrat had before on Thursday evening by declaring that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the New York senator and potential 2020 presidential contender yet again found herself the face of a national conversation with the potential to dominate headlines and divide her party,” Politico reported. “At a time Democrats are desperate to keep the focus on accusations against President Donald Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Gillibrand’s stand shocked even some of her close allies. They had no inkling that she was planning to make news — let alone news that would invite questions about her own ties to a political power family that has dominated her party’s consciousness for nearly three decades. The comment also put new, awkward distance between two women whose careers have been politically intertwined since Gillibrand — then a second-term House member — took over Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat upon her ascension to the State Department in 2009.”
How sincere Gillibrand was in her declaration is rather suspect.
As I pointed out in my column, she literally embraced the former president when he visited Watertown a year earlier. And in late 2017, Gillibrand was positioning herself to run for president. She had numerous opportunities to condemn Clinton’s behavior prior to that moment, but she didn’t.
It’s very convenient that Gillibrand chose the beginning of the -MeToo movement in 2017 (while also considering a White House run) to suddenly recognize that Clinton was in the wrong. I don’t want to sound skeptical about her timing, but …
My critics may denounce this as an example of “both-siderism,” and they’ll be correct if they did; this is exactly what I’m doing. But I make these charges because both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of ignoring the tyranny of sexual oppression suffered by women at the hands of powerful and ruthless men. And until they’re willing to challenge the perpetrators on their “side,” these appalling incidents will continue.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to email@example.com. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.