Posts Tagged ‘Sam Seder’

Service of Who Will be Left? Are Companies Jumping the Gun?

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Photo: 411mania.com

I covered this subject in October in “Service of Why Now? Does Today’s Indignation & Punishment of Sexual Harassment & Assault Have Legs?” Why the same subject so soon again? The topic continues to haunt me as it expands like wine spilled from an entire magnum of red on a white tablecloth. The corporate skin and ear, once so thick and deaf to women reporting abuse, has suddenly become thin, sharp-hearing and trigger happy.

Photo: cnn.com

What inspired today’s post? I couldn’t find the Tavis Smiley show last Wednesday night and the next morning learned that PBS suspended the distribution of his show due to misconduct allegations against him.

The PBS investigators wouldn’t tell Smiley who is accusing him of what, he said in a Facebook video, [and later on Don Lemon’s CNN Tonight]. On Facebook he added: “I have never groped, coerced or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years.” I wonder if he’d had help with his statement from his lawyer as the word “inappropriately” hit me funny. When is groping, coercion or exposure appropriate in an office setting or am I being picky and naive? Later he admitted to one or more consensual relationships with staff.

Photo: slate.com

As I mentioned above, Smiley is not employed by PBS; it distributes his program which makes his case different than Sam Seder’s. Seder, an MSNBC political commentator and podcast host of the “Majority Report,” was fired and for a different reason: He was accused by a far-right activist for writing an “inflammatory tweet he posted in 2009,” according to Jonah Engel Bromwich in The New York Times. The cable channel had the grace to rehire Seder after thousands signed a petition in Seder’s favor, reaffirming that the tweet in question was “meant to be satire.”

The tweet: “Don’t care re [Roman] Polanski, but i hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scene.” Seder was reacting to support of Polanski by the French culture and foreign ministers. It was “a cutting parody of a statement defending the director,” wrote Bromwich. As you may recall Polanski “was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 in connection with” the rape of a 13 year old in the 1970s.

Here’s MSNBC president Phil Griffin explanation for reinstating Seder in Bromwich’s article: “‘We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about, but we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.’”

Office romances are mundane. Some go sour; others are forbidden according to company policy. I wonder how investigators are able to distinguish which accusations described abusive and frightening behavior and which may have at one point been consensual. Might any represent payback by a jilted lover or even by an ignored, delusional, colleague or staffer hoping to catch the eye of a celebrity or boss?

Companies are free to fire whom they want but I get the feeling that fear and chaos in the C-suite has resulted in some too-quick reactions. Smiley is not on trial and is not an employee so I suppose nobody owes him any information about who reported him.

Is it OK, appearance-wise, for companies to revert to this country’s witch-hunting puritan roots and indict without a trial? Does this reaction let off the hook executives who previously dusted complaints under the rug and often fired the women who reported them?

Kudos to MSNBC for reinstating Seder but shouldn’t the company have investigated first and fired Seder second? And what about all the real cases of abuse and coercion involving average citizens affecting hotel and restaurant workers? Do they count?

Photo: lawprofessors.typepad.com

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