Over the past week, congressmen from both parties have been taken down due to sexual misconduct allegations: Al Franken, John Conyers, and Trent Franks. Although I'm certainly not shedding a tear over the departures of any of these men, we can't ignore the elephant in the room: Donald Trump has been accused by over a dozen women of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape.
This morning, American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley answered questions about Trump's accusers on Face the Nation — and her comments were a notable departure from Trump and the administration as a whole. The president has recently claimed the infamous Access Hollywood tape is fake, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has doubled down on the stance that Trump is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Although Haley typically defends Trump — even on hot button issues such as his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — she toed the line on Face the Nation. John Dickerson started by questioning Haley about the recent resignations and the "cultural shift" in how we discuss sexual misconduct, as reported by CNN.
"I'm proud of their strength," Haley said of the women who have come forward. "I'm proud of their courage. And I think that the idea that this is happening, I think it will start to bring a conscience to the situation, not just in politics, but in, you know, we've seen in Hollywood and in every industry. And I think the time has come."
Then Dickerson asked the question Haley surely saw coming: Should Trump's accusers be afforded the same platform as the myriad other women who have come forward to accuse everyone from Weinstein to Franken of sexual misconduct?
"Well, I mean, you know, the same thing, is women who accuse anyone should be heard," Haley responded. "They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up."
When asked if it was a settled issue, she responded that the voters had spoken. "I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them," Haley said.
Compared to other Trump appointees, this comes off as a strong stance and it's certainly a step in the right direction. But there's a big difference between saying women should be "heard" and "women should be believed." I'm glad to that Haley is willing to listen, but she didn't call for any radical change.
Meanwhile, Kirsten Gillibrand has taken a significant amount of criticism from her own party for spearheading the effort that ultimately resulted in Al Franken's resignation. That's what I call taking a strong stand, and I hope Republican women like Haley will follow Gillibrand's lead. Sexual misconduct is, after all, not a partisan issue.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).