Late on Wednesday night, Page Six broke the news that unnamed producers are shopping around a show that would star Charlie Rose talking to men who were negatively impacted when sexual misconduct allegations came to light about them. The potential guest list so far, you ask? Matt Lauer and Louis C.K.
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that there have been rumblings of men at the center of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct allegations trying to launch their redemption tours. Lauer, for example, finally left the seclusion of his gigantic Hamptons mansion (oh no, the horror!) to take a ride around Manhattan. Back in December, I had words for everyone about Billy Bush, who was taking his second stab a a comeback tour after the “grab ‘em by the pussy” tape heard ‘round the world.
There are a lot of reasons this Charlie Rose show is a terrible idea. For one thing, instead of a show where a creepy, misogynistic man interviews a slate of other creepy, misogynistic men, I’d prefer that the opportunities were given to all of the women whose careers and lives were derailed by the actions of these men. What about all of those women? Do their hopes and dreams and potential not matter?
Second, the idea that these men hiding out in multimillion dollar mansions for a few months and ordering Seamless amounts to “suffering” is ridiculous; that’s a vacation many of us would love to take. Meanwhile, many of the people they hurt have suffered for years, and in some cases, decades; that trauma doesn’t suddenly go away, nor do the effects their actions have on careers and livelihoods.
And lastly, let’s be honest with ourselves: The world is not worse off now that these men are no longer in the spotlight. The women who’ve essentially taken over morning news hosting since Lauer and Rose’s exits have been phenomenal. Christiane Amanpour’s star has only risen since taking over Rose’s timeslot on PBS. And is anyone really all that upset about the lack of Louis C.K. projects? It feels like there are 20,000 new Netflix comedy specials each week, many of which feature talented people. Aside from these men themselves, is anyone really, truly, and honestly upset about their sudden irrelevance?
A lot of those reasons are crucial in explaining why this show is an abomination. What I want to talk about, however, is the fact that this situation even exists is proof of something far more sinister.
Charlie Rose even getting this potential opportunity says something about us, the viewership in America. During the second Billy Bush redemption attempt four months ago, I warned that every other one of these men who’d actually suffered some form of negative consequences for their awful actions would be watching what Bush was doing and taking notes on the public’s reaction. And while some people (myself included) said they wouldn’t be giving him the time of day, just as I feared, there were plenty of folks lined up to take the bait. People fawned over his New York Times op-ed. They gave glowing reviews of his appearance on Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show. They lined up the false equivalencies for why it was OK to not only forgive Bush but to give him the spotlight. “There are other men who did worse!” they said.
But all of those other men who were accused of sexual misconduct and finally forced to the sidelines? They — and their overpaid crisis communications teams — were in fact watching Billy Bush. Given that there’s a conversation about this Charlie Rose show illustrates that the lesson they learned from Bush was that the public wants a comeback tour. Americans, they decided, like the idea of redemption for certain people — and men like Rose and Lauer and whoever these other potential guests are fit that mold. We can’t put that on these men; we need to take on responsibility for that ourselves.
As a society, we’re the ones waiting in the wings for their return while continuing to shun the women they hurt. We’re the ones giving this opportunity to wealthy white men, while we wouldn’t give it to men and others who don’t fit these identities. We’re the ones who kept complaining about #MeToo becoming a movement instead of staying a moment so that we could go back to the way things were. As a collective group, we need to own that now we have sexual predators out in the open wanting to profit off of the pain they caused to so many people because we showed them that the opportunity not only exists but is acceptable.
The good news is, I don’t think all hope is lost. Systemic change doesn’t happen in a matter of hours or tweets, but completely condemning this Charlie Rose project is a start. The fact of the matter is this: We can’t give ‘em an inch. If we’ve learned anything over the past six months, it’s that they’ll take it and then some in a heartbeat.
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