And now Matt Lauer is gone, poof, fired in a day. The anchor America has breakfast with, responsible for $500 million in annual revenue, was let go Tuesday night. A victim and her lawyer came in Monday evening with “a detailed complaint” of sexual misconduct reportedly beginning at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. She asked for nothing but accountability. Quickly, Chairman Andrew Lack announced that Lauer would no longer be hosting the Today show.
We are living in a country where TV and Hollywood executives have a moral compass, eventually; where Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, and Garrison Keillor lose their jobs over sexual misconduct in an instant. Politicians, however, at least those in Congress, do not. I give you Rep. John Conyers. They’ve constructed a system designed to protect them from claims of misconduct with a taxpayer-filled slush fund to pay off anyone with the courage to fight that system.
It’s no wonder then that we are governed by a president who is not a worthy role model for schoolchildren but is one for those accused of sexual harassment and abuse. Deny, as he did, all charges of sexual misconduct by his dozen accusers and you can become president. Follow his example if you’re Roy Moore and you could become a United States senator, despite being accused of molesting seven young girls. You can even get the president’s blessing. Express sorrow, as Sen. Al Franken did, for a comparatively minor incident, and Trump sees in you a loser who must go.
The Trump way is paying off for Moore, who has steadied his shaken campaign. He is now running 10 points ahead of Democratic attorney Doug Jones. Trump couldn’t have done better himself. Oh, right. He did do better. He’s in the White House.
Trump has no shame because, well, he doesn’t, but also because of solidarity with those accused (as long as they’re Republicans) and because of the specter of the legal and ethical noose that hovers ever so menacingly over his head. That’s why, against almost every other Republican repulsed by the disgraced former judge, and the advice of his daughter who has reserved a place in hell for Moore, Trump interjected himself into what most saw as a race to be avoided. Staff almost had him out of town for Thanksgiving when he stopped to answer reporters’ questions on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn. Shouting over the whirring blades, Trump said admiringly, “He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him.” [Meaning subconsciously: to me.] He added that Moore ran eight races and “this has never come up . . . 40 years is a long time.” [As are the decades it took my 12 accusers to come forward.]
There’s the heart of it: They are brothers in the swamp of sexual charges. Over the holiday weekend, Trump continued to plump for Moore wooing those voters who were wavering over child molestation charges with the rationale that Moore [I] might be bad, but Jones [Hillary Clinton] is so much worse. Trump charged “Liberal Jones” with being weak on crime (despite his winning a hard-to-get conviction in Alabama of two Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church), the border, the military and vets. Oh and he “WANTS TO RAISE TAXES TO THE SKY.”
It’s deplorable what Trump will do to lift an accused child molester into the Senate to vote for his tax cut for the wealthy. All this and Moore will only keep the seat from this special election until 2020.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and Trump is lapping it up as he watches Moore deploy tools Trump honed during his own campaign. Trump quibbled over one charge by a woman who says he lifted the armrest on a flight, the better to fondle her, claiming she wasn’t good-looking enough in her picture to bother with. Similarly, Moore, who first saw the woman he would marry at a dance when she was 15, quibbles at the margins, over where, exactly, he picked up one of the girls, and whether that’s his signature in a yearbook. Like Trump, who doesn’t remember his accusers (except the ugly one), Moore flicks his off as nobodies he’s never met like lint on his cowboy hat. When told by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that Moore doesn’t remember her, Leigh Corfman responded calmly, “There are a lot of me’s out there he doesn’t remember.”
Trump is so pumped by the success of his mentee that he’s taken up a new denial. He’s regretting that he didn’t deny the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape where he boasted that, as a star, he could do anything to women he wanted with impunity. Who says Trump hasn’t grown in the presidency? He regrets having told the truth that one time, having learned in office how easy it is to lie and get away with it.
Wednesday morning, in between retweeting white nationalist videos, Trump chimed in on the Lauer bombshell. But he’s so morally compromised it wasn’t to criticize Lauer, praise NBC for acting swiftly, or sympathize with the victim. He merely wanted to know when the network would get around to policing fake news.
Trump takes solace in seeing another denier succeed and in bringing voters who might have shunned Moore back into the fold, including the pastor who justifies Moore’s appetite for young girls as a search for “purity.” In this sudden cultural shift, many men have admitted what they’ve done and borne the consequences. If Moore is elected, having followed the Trump blueprint, it could be back to the future as the accused deny all and lawyer up to drag the accuser(s) through the mud. Should Moore win, the second happiest man in the land will be the president.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.