Opinion: When is ‘sexual assault’ not sexual assault?


Let’s look at two pictures side by side and see if we can tell how they’re different. In one panel, we see a famous TV political analyst who apparently had the charming habit of pressing his erect, if clothed, penis against the bodies of young women who worked with and for him. That was Mark Halperin.

In the second panel, we have former President George H.W. Bush, in a wheelchair, age 89, posing for a photo with a number of others, including his wife Barbara, and an actress called Heather Lind. Lind says she felt moved to share her trauma after seeing the benefit concert for Hurricane Harvey relief in which five former presidents participated. It seems that people are unaware of President Bush’s criminal record:

“When I got the chance to meet George H.W. Bush four years ago to promote a historical television show I was working on, he sexually assaulted me while I was posing for a similar photo.

“He didn’t shake my hand. He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side. He told me a dirty joke.

“And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again. Barbara rolled her eyes as if to say ‘not again.’”

Fortunately, Lind immediately related the outrage to her “fellow cast-mates and producers”: “(They) helped me that day and continue to support me. I am grateful for the bravery of other women who have spoken up and written about their experiences.”

Ah, yes, the brave women who stand up to sweet, 90-something guys with a form of Parkinson’s. The brave women who put those completely honorable, polite and respectful guys who were war heroes and served their country in their place.

Sorry, Ms. Lind, you’re not brave. You’re a twit. At the very worst, Bush did something tasteless. He’s very old. People’s judgment declines, especially if they’re unwell. But you’ve made a fool of yourself for equating a pat on the tush from someone who couldn’t possibly do you any harm to “sexual assault.” You figured you’d jump on today’s bandwagon and grab your moment in the spotlight.

What must the women Halperin targeted think when they compare their situations with Lind’s? A woman who had worked with Halperin in 2004, when he was political director of ABC News, described a meeting in his office:

“The first meeting I ever had with him was in his office, and he just came up from behind — I was sitting in a chair from across his desk — and he came up behind me and (while he was clothed) he pressed his body on mine, his penis, on my shoulder. I can’t even remember how I got out of there — (but) I got out of there and was freaked out by that whole experience. Given I was so young and new I wasn’t sure if that was the sort of thing that was expected of you if you wanted something from a male figure in news.”

Halperin, while quibbling over details, does not really deny the allegations.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me. I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize.”

Sorry, Mr. Halperin. You don’t “pursue relationships” by grabbing women and pressing yourself on them. As much of a turn-on as it may be for you, it’s a violation for them. You “now understand”? No. You always understood.

What Halperin is accused of, if true, is squalid. The story about Bush, though, demonstrates how common sense flies out the window once the pack is in full cry.

Writes for Creators Syndicate.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Mass killers should be denied notoriety they crave

An orgy of mutual disgust now greets every mass shooting in America. Liberals despise conservatives who, they predict, will offer only insipid “thoughts and prayers” in the face of what they conceive to be preventable massacres. Conservatives scorn liberals who, they believe, will propose “feel-good” gun measures that would...
Opinion: Infrastructure spending won’t transform America

“MASON CITY. To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new.” — Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men” (1946) WASHINGTON — Appropriately, Warren began the best book about American populism, his novel based on Huey Long’s Louisiana career, with a...
OPINION: History-making or not engaging? Readers on Obama portraits
OPINION: History-making or not engaging? Readers on Obama portraits

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER Paintings rarely stir up much controvery or heated discussion these days, so it was pretty interesting to hear the animated chatter that greeted Tuesday’s unveiling of the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama that will hang in theSmithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery...
PERSPECTIVE: An Olympic reminder of parenting’s challenges

I don’t know about you, but I love the Olympics. Watching athletes perform after lifelong commitment is inspiring. Each of these amazing competitors has a story filled with years of preparation, hard work and unyielding perseverance. Most often, family support is paramount. I was watching an interview with Chloe Kim, the American gold medalist...
Gail Collins: Who’s President Trump’s worst minion?
Gail Collins: Who’s President Trump’s worst minion?

Does every terrible employee in America work for the Trump White House? O.K., probably not. Donald Trump didn’t hire the guy who told Hawaiians they were about to be hit by a ballistic missile. Or the airline representative who was accused of pressing a passenger to flush her hamster down the toilet. But for overall ineptitude and ability to...
More Stories