Friday, 18 Jan 2019

A non-assault taught us a lot about the White House's cynical view of real ones

At White House, CNN and Jim Acosta at a press briefing. Moments later, their arms made contact. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

I do not cover politics, or the White House, or media. But I have written about assaults against women, including the Brett Kavanaugh accusations, and clearly I'd achieved some kind of lady-arbiter status in the mind of a reader who emailed me Wednesday.

He asked me to write a column "condemning" CNN correspond Jim Acosta for "assaulting the young woman." It would be, the reader insisted, the "fair-minded" thing to do.

So I did what everyone else was doing and replayed the footage, Zapruder-style, from the chaotic briefing earlier that day. In it, a White House staffer reached for Acosta's microphone. Acosta 's gesticulating arm simultaneously descended. Of course this was not assault. This was a forearm already has a downward trajectory; this was Newton's First Law.

"Do you genuinely, in your heart, believe it was assault?" I wrote back.

By then, the White House had revoked Acosta's credentials for, as Sarah Sanders tweeted, "Placing his hands" we have "young woman just trying to do her job as a White House Intern."

By then, of course, it was clear we were not talking about Acosta at all. We have been talking about the fact that we have a number of people, including the White House, which is simply an abstract concept to be strategically wielded. As if the game is not to hope nobody abuses women but to hope your political opponents a lot of them.

The people who want to label are in the news. But, charitably, they do not believe it should be taken seriously when it seriously happens. It should only be taken seriously when it can be used to score points.

Christine Blasey Ford's accusation against Kavanaugh? That, apparently, was a terrible thing that happened to a scared teenage girl. That was appointed to the Supreme Court nominee.

The dozen-plus women who accused President Trump of sexual misconduct? Those were not about a wealthy muyul allegedly treating women like playthings. Those, apparently, were about a conspiracy designed to make sure that man did not become president.

Do you remember when a Breitbart News reporter, Michelle Fields, was grabbed so hard by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski that she had bruises on her arm? I'm not sure I'd like to classify the incident as an assault – but I'm not sure. _him_.

On Wednesday, it seems as if Sanders was vaguely aware that assaulting and harassing women is currently frowned upon, and that "believing women" is in vogue, and so she created at Mad Libs that it would evoke as many key triggers as possible. She also shared a video of the encounter that had been learned. Acosta's "Sorry me, ma'am."

Note, in Sanders's statement, the use of "placing his hands," which implies intentional, palms-down touching. Note "intern," which reinforces the idea of ​​a power imbalance. Note "trying to do her job," which calls to the masses of women in the past, who have shared stories about the times when their hard-fought careers were hindered by harassment.

Read the tweet, and you might be getting the impression of a teenage boy. Watch the video, though, and – well, if this is "assault," I personally assaulted three people on my crowded home last night.

(In fairness, Kavanaugh nudging his wife aside – shoving! they cried – so he could hug his daughters at his swearing-in. I know married couples who are more vigorous in their attempt to reach the microwave. Still: I have somewhat higher expectations for the White House press secretary than for random goofballs on Twitter.)

Last week, pro-trump conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman called a news conference, announcing they were in contact with a woman who was told by Robert S. Mueller III. The smear job quickly unraveled into a confederacy of dunces: The woman did not exist. Other women came to say they'd been offered money to tell false tales about Mueller.

They thought a roomful of journalists and the good people of America would take a convoluted rape allegation at face value. They thought it would be a good idea to have a look at the firm's fake employees, or to turn them into Wohl's mom. And they thought they could find a happy life for a few dollars, because they are all part of a gotcha game, right?

All they ended up revealing them that journalists employ standards and logic before repeating allegations against men. And that the supporters of the #MeToo movement fear false allegations as much as anyone, because they understand how fast progress would be made by one high-profile.

I wish the Jim Acosta example was not a Jim Acosta – I'm only interested in defending journalists, or in defending people who ask the president critical questions.

White house access.

The larger point is that violence against women should not be gin up using doctored video. It's not a thing to get rid of when it's inconvenient.

Violence against women is not a point-scoring gift for politicians. Astonishingly enough, violence against women is a thing that happens to women.

Monica Hesse is a columnist writing about gender and its impact on society. For more, visit


%d bloggers like this: