I have to admit that Greg Gianforte has more firsthand knowledge about the criminal justice system than most of us, but it seems that his experience assaulting someone and lying about it didn’t teach him the valuable lesson that we should take allegations of child abuse seriously.
Today on the Voices of Montana show, Gianforte was asked for his opinion ” on women’s rights and the sexual allegations that have kind of swept the country, as of late.” Instead of directly answering the question, Gianforte was desperate to pivot to a discussion about the economy, but not before describing the allegations made by a series of women against Judge Roy Moore as “distractions” and “sideshows” that “happened a long time ago.”
Well, sexual harassment has no place in our society, and – if they turn out to be true – need to be taken very, very seriously. Just as you said John, I don’t know these individuals involved. I don’t know if the allegations are true – they certainly happened a long time ago. But, I think it bears on someone’s character, and it’s important to investigate it. The challenge – and this is one of the things I’ve seen since being back in DC – you think all we do back there is talk to the Russians, if you just look at the national media. So we do seem to have a lot of sideshows. There’s a lot of important things we need to be talking about, like getting our economy going again, creating jobs for folks, making sure the government isn’t taking away our individual liberties. And I think that’s where the Trump Administration would like to focus. I know it’s where the House wants to focus – we need a little help in the Senate. But these sideshows just seem to be, a lot of them tend to be distractions.
It’s hard to square Gianforte’s assertion that there is no place for sexual harassment in our society with immediately casting doubt on accusations of harassment and abuse before dismissing them as less important than his talking points. Sexual harassment certainly isn’t a sideshow to the 85% of American women who say they’ve experienced it, and discussion about sexual assault certainly isn’t a distraction to the millions of American women who have experienced it and not been believed by their communities and law enforcement agencies.
Working in Congress, where the workplace environment fuels pervasive harassment and speaking as a leader of a party whose members have defended Roy Moore by claiming that pursuing a fourteen-year-old girl was defensible because Moore wanted to “raise a large family,” Gianforte had the opportunity to stake out a clear stand defending the right of women to be free of harassment and assault. Instead, he helped perpetuate the culture that makes reporting these acts so difficult, dismissing them out of hand.
Writing in The Hill, Professor Bonnie Stabile explained why it is so important that we stop treating accusers as if they cannot be trusted:
Any legal or policy advancements to counter the disparaging narrative that women are not to be believed must contend with the longstanding cultural context, where women’s bodies are subject to unwanted cat calls and “pussy grabbing,” and their testimony diminished and questioned both in actual court, and the court of public opinion. A flood of voices will be needed to drown out historical mischaracterizations of women as untrustworthy, and it is coming.
Given the opportunity to fight that sexist cultural context, Congressman Gianforte did the opposite and leaned into the misogynistic culture that permits assault and harassment to go unpunished.
And he failed the women he’s supposed to represent one more time.