Is Alabama Governor Robert Bentley chopped liver? Where was the love, an early morning tweet from the president, to keep him from being hounded out of office over a sex scandal?
It’s not out of the question. Just last week Fox TV host Bill O’Reilly got a loud defense from Trump after the revelation that he’d cost himself and his bosses $13 million as they settled charges of sexual harassment against him.
Accused by five women and counting, O’Reilly was showered with praise from the president of the United States. Serving as a character witness, Trump called O’Reilly “a good person,” so blameless he “shouldn’t have settled.” He topped the sundae with a cherry declaring, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
I bet he didn’t since the president doesn’t believe he himself has ever done more than indulge in locker-room talk. Trump understands O’Reilly while a man like Bentley eludes him. Needy and awkward, Bentley is just a poor sap who had the bad luck to fall in love. The biggest outlay uncovered in a 3,000-page report on Bentley is that he charged a burner phone to his campaign account. Married for 50 years and with the hair God gave him, the former governor is boring. He left no victims in his wake, much less five—excepting Mrs. Bentley. The affair was consensual.
There may not be a Trump Doctrine on intervening in Syria but there is one emerging in matters personal: Not all sex scandals are created equal. Some feel closer to home than others and require solidarity with the accused. Others—even if it involves a governor from your own party—are not worth the trouble. An unsophisticated former deacon in the Baptist church, Bentley embarrassed himself with breathless declarations of love caught on tape. The affair would eventually end but not before he lost his wife and, on Monday, his job.
A man like Bentley doesn’t interest Trump. O’Reilly’s alleged actions were about power, something Trump understands. It’s been claimed that the Fox host made his moves on women with less standing at Fox than him. When rejected, he allegedly used his position to punish them.
It’s no wonder then that Trump stuck his neck out for O’Reilly. They’re soul mates. The dozen women who came forward to allege sexual misconduct by then-candidate Trump did not hurt him (O’Reilly blew off Trump’s comments about grabbing women’s genitals as “guy talk”) just as the accusations against O’Reilly have not hurt his ratings, although he’s lost a few advertisers concerned about their female customers. Just as Trump went on to win, O’Reilly just had his contract renewed by Fox. Those wishing the Fox host would get his comeuppance, however, are heartened by the fact that he’s going off on a two week “vacation” today with hopes it could become permanent.
It’s hard to believe, but among Trump’s many roles now is to be a role model. By gratuitously taking O’Reilly’s side, he’s reinforcing the all too prevalent attitude that women are overly sensitive when it comes to harmless, old-fashioned flirting and are not be believed. They welcomed the attention and then changed their minds. It’s not a big deal. They’re after money. They can’t take a joke.
Message to women: Sexual harassment pays, or at least exacts no price. O’Reilly collects a multimillion-dollar check and has just published another best-seller, Old School. Don’t laugh—it’s a defense of traditional values.
And, of course, Donald Trump is president. Women, take your lumps. Now more than ever, don’t report sexual harassment. You lost once when it happened and will just lose again if you report it. Maybe better luck in 2020.