It shouldn’t be all that surprising that in Donald Trump’s America, sexual harassment has become a partisan issue.
This week, left-leaning late-night comedians have come under fire for mostly ignoring the bombshell allegations against Democratic donor and Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein. The criticism is only partly fair.
The details of Weinstein’s disturbing history broke just barely before hosts like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel taped their shows last week. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah managed to sneak one throwaway joke into an unrelated segment, but that was it. Bill Maher, who went live on HBO Friday night, conspicuously left Weinstein out of his hour-long show. Saturday Night Live, meanwhile, reportedly abandoned its planned Weinstein material at the last minute. And John Oliver became the first host to tackle the story in earnest with a two-minute segment Sunday night.
So it was left to Trump’s favorite morning show to wonder aloud if there could be a political reason for the silence. Fox & Friends has been on a crusade against late-night TV this week, feeding the president’s rage over the weekend. After they aired a segment on late-night’s “hard turn left,” Trump started tweeting about how he wants “equal time.”
It started on Sunday’s edition of Fox & Friends Weekend where Abby Huntsman pointed out that SNL “didn’t even touch” the Harvey Weinstein story. “But they would have had it been someone on the conservative side,” her co-host, conservative actor Dean Cain added.
By Monday morning, the show was calling out SNL’s “hypocrisy” for going after Trump and guns while laying off Weinstein. Co-host Brian Kilmeade, who recently found himself in his own late-night feud with Kimmel, slammed the show’s executive producer Lorne Michaels who said he thought the Weinstein story was too “New York” for the show’s national audience.
“Really? Harvey Weinstein, the most powerful man in Hollywood is too New York? Are you kidding?” Kilmeade asked, before his guest suggested that perhaps network “higher-ups” killed the jokes out of fear. In reality, according to reporting by The New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff the jokes just fell flat during the show’s dress rehearsal. Surprisingly, the Fox hosts couldn’t even find anything nice to say about Jason Aldean’s touching Vegas tribute that opened the show and seemed tailor-made to please conservatives.
There is nothing inherently wrong with criticizing SNL for leaving its Weinstein jokes on the cutting room floor. Even if they weren’t the funniest bits of the night—in an episode that was generally lacking in humor—the conspicuous omission of such a major news story was not a good look for the show. Politics aside, it is a huge and important issue that can use even more attention than it’s getting.
But there is something particularly rich about hearing Fox News hosts criticize late-night comedians for ignoring sexual harassment.
The silence on Fox & Friends was far louder during the scandal surrounding their boss, Roger Ailes, even though a former co-host on the show, Gretchen Carlson, had been one of his alleged victims. Instead of covering that story while it was happening, they waited until Ailes passed away and then delivered him a tearful eulogy on-air, only saying that he left the network in a “sad way.”
The same goes for Bill O’Reilly, who was welcomed back onto Fox’s air by Sean Hannity after he was ousted following his own sexual misconduct allegations. It’s also hard to remember Fox & Friends saying anything about Eric Bolling, who was forced out of the network amidst an investigation into claims that he sent unsolicited photos of male genitalia to colleagues.
And then, of course, there is President Donald Trump. After Fox & Friends’ most dedicated viewer was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, Kilmeade’s big takeaway was: “Soon we’re going to stop talking. Soon we’re going to stop texting and talking to each other because it could come back to bite us. Let’s just stop communicating entirely.”
Later, the show invited Melania Trump on to tell Ainsley Earhardt that she had accepted her husband’s apology. This is how co-host Steve Doocy introduced that interview: “It is official: Billy Bush, reportedly fired from the Today show after NBC executives threw him under the bus in a covert attempt to derail the Trump train.”
The bottom line is, we should all be disgusted and outraged by sexual misconduct, regardless of the perpetrator’s political stripes. If late-night hosts continue to ignore the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, they deserve criticism. But Fox & Friends is just as a guilty for selectively overlooking similar behavior by members of their “team.”
And you know who’s perhaps even more deserving of scrutiny than the “the most powerful man in Hollywood?” The president of the United States.