The Minnesota Legislature & The Politics Of Sexual Harassment

House leadership in both parties seek to avoid responsibility for creating a hostile work environment by hiring an outside firm to assess sexual harassment allegations. The public should reject this cowardice and insist on their personal accountability.

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This week allegations of sexual harassment were made against two members of the Minnesota legislature, one Democrat, one Republican. That resulted in a mind numbing display of self righteousness on the part of the political, cultural, activist and media classes: this is bad! Well, sure. People vied with each other to be more outraged than the other.

Underlying all of it, however, was politics.

Don’t waste your breath saying that sexual harassment shouldn’t be politicized because it already is. Paula Jones anyone? This is where we find ourselves. It is naïve, which is to say Minnesotan, to think otherwise.

First,  Democrat Sen. Dan Schoen was accused of inappropriate comments as well as rear-end grabbing and texting a picture of his, well, does this need to be spelled out? He has denied the allegations, vowed to fight any move to force him to resign and retained counsel. The DFL, the MNGOP and many others condemned his behavior and called for him to resign.

Second, Republican Rep. Tony Cornish was accused by DFL Rep. Erin Maye Quade of sexualized texting but certainly no photographs or touching, as well as claims by a lobbyist that years ago he put the move on her, albeit not physically. He released the entire text thread and Maye Quade comes off looking like a bimbo. They deserve each other but no one deserves sexual harassment. Was it?

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The same litany of condemnation that greeted the news of Sen. Schoen greeted the news of Rep. Cornish. One alleged perpetrator was exciting enough for the virtues mob, but a second–making the mess bipartisan–whipped them into a tedious frenzy.

Speaker Kurt Daudt issued a timely, and I thought, well written and measured response. He removed Cornish as chair of the Public Safety Committee and called for further investigation.

Jennifer Carnahan, chair of the MNGOP, said nothing. The MNGOP deferred to the House mafia. She was widely and deservedly mocked for this silence, having come out hard, so to speak, after Schoen when those allegations broke.

Given her atrocious press release, also deservedly ridiculed, when Jacob Frey was elected mayor of Minneapolis, perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies. She should stick to fundraising and in this I wish her well; politics per se is clearly not her forté. Isn’t Matthew Pagano on staff?

Because politics is what this is all about, dressed up in unassailable, cheap virtue: who is for sexual harassment? No one. Let’s all bang on about then. Would that this outrage have been directed against female genital mutilation in Minnesota. But that would have taken real, not faux, courage. And for Democrats, truth, reality, is the opposite of effective politics.

The insufferable virtue signaling on this subject, tedious and unpleasant from the left, was bad enough but embarrassing to the point of nausea from the right. Is there a large contingent of Minnesotans who think sexual harassment is a good thing? Who present some formidable challenge to those speaking out against it? Because they sure came off on social media, that safest of spaces, acting as though they were brave in the extreme. Please, it doesn’t get any easier.

But it’s a big news story in a third tier media market in a state slowly being allowed to become a cold California by the dumbest republicans in the nation.

My favorite takes were insane comments that all men are responsible for sexual harassment, something never said about all Muslims after Islamic terrorist attacks. Jonathan Weinhagen, head of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said on Twitter that he was ashamed of his gender, which made me think he should check to see if he was still intact down there. Minnesota: Land of 10,000 eunuchs. 

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Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers said that during his tenure he personally warned Cornish about his behavior. Cornish flatly denies it. One would think a paper trail exists and would have been produced by now.

DFL Rep. Melissa Hortman said, in talking with Speaker Daudt about Cornish, that he told her they didn’t let women get within six feet of him. Again, nothing objective by which to measure this statement, no emails, no texts, no handwritten notes, remember those?

She said, he said. He said, he said. Welcome to the world of mere allegations.

Meanwhile, some journalist has the Schoen, uh, picture. Minnesota media don’t only suppress stories by never writing about them, they help hide actual evidence of the real story.

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Daudt announced that the House will hire an “outside firm” to investigate the allegations against Cornish. This is a terrible dereliction of duty by leaders of both parties, one that should fill them with shame had they the capacity to feel it. This is the environment they allowed to fester and for which they alone should be held accountable in cleaning up. DFL leaders in the House apparently knew about Schoen when he was in that chamber but essentially kicked it over to the Senate when he became a member there.

By palming this off to an outside group, both political parties escape responsibility for that which happened on their respective watches. It’s the perfect swamp remedy to a swamp created problem. Why, by the way, isn’t this outside group examining the allegations concerning Schoen? Why just Cornish? Have I got this wrong?

Republican messaging is a mess even when it exists. Daudt looks like he’s being led by the nose by Hortman in this matter. Not showing leadership, of course, is nothing new for the Speaker. He agreed to training for House members on sexual harassment issues–well & good–but also included at Hortman’s insistence “implicit bias” training. There’s no such thing as implicit bias but this tack will allow for allegations of sexual harassment to dog the Capitol for the foreseeable future. I was only half joking on Twitter when I said this issue would devolve to claims that some male suggestively raised his eyebrow when an attractive woman, in short supply at the Capitol, passed him in a hallway. Now I wager it will come to pass.

Carnahan needlessly exposed the Republican Party of Minnesota to charges of hypocrisy in calling for Schoen to resign but not Cornish. When challenged she went silent, except to leave the state to write gibberish on the sand beaches of California while celebrating her birthday. You know that person who uses exclamation points too much, as in all the time? That’s her.

Unfortunately, Carnahan is the embodiment of low level management types: full of unwarranted self confidence but manifestly without the talent to be promoted. Her incompetent leadership, tone deaf messaging and abominable press releases have given many observers cause for concern in the upcoming election cycle.

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The sexual harassment panic currently gripping Minnesota politics will pass, at least from its current fever pitch. The “implicit bias” theme that has been introduced, however, promises to be used as a club against Republicans for the foreseeable future. Wholly subjective, weaponized and cost free, allegations will likely be made disproportionately against Republicans because the mileage to be made politically is simply too great to resist. Democrats lie routinely without cost; witness Harry Reid’s false claim about Mitt Romney not paying taxes. The same template holds true even in the backwater of Minnesota.

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Questions: I have questions and it is not too early to ask them. You could hardly expect the DFL or their handmaidens in local media to ask them. Speaking of media, any sexual harassment at the Minnesota media outlets of our brave local Daniel Pearls? If there were, and there surely are, who would report on them?

Why now? Has Maye Quade offered any particular reason for her coming forth now? Wouldn’t she immediately take action or go public if she was as offended at the time as she now claims? What accounts for the delay, well timed as it appears to be?

To ask questions isn’t to denigrate the allegations but that’s precisely what the Left has already suggested. Republicans, insipid, weak and feckless, back down at the slightest challenge. Their base tires of lending them their spines, though that transplant rarely takes.

Where are the documents concerning any and all allegations of sexual harassment? Both parties are implicated here and both parties have reason to want to outsource both the examination of the problem as well as any putative solution.

Why does Schoen feel like a bait and switch? The pearl clutching over him lasted a mere twenty four hours before Cornish was dragged into this particular tar pit. The focus has remained on him to the exclusion of Schoen. Why is this? Schoen allegedly grabbed ass, not Cornish. Is that not objectively the greater offense? Why then has he been allowed to slip under the radar of hysterical overreaction?

It was Schoen who allegedly made unwanted physical contact and sent a picture of his genitals. This is Anthony Weiner level stuff. How can he not be the center of this scandal? Because Minnesota republicans are the dumbest in the nation.

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The Minnesota DFL is currently in a state akin to civil war. Don’t look for coverage of that by local Democrats masquerading as journalists. Nationally, the cultural left is imploding with similar but worse allegations of sexual abuse, both straight & gay because diversity! It’s not unreasonable to think this is deflection, especially given how everyone concerned seemed to know it was going on. Then again, that idea could be completely wrong.

The point is to ask such questions, to suggest such theories and see what holds up against the evidence. And it is real, hard, concrete evidence that is most lacking now. This should be a cause of concern in a society purportedly ruled by law, especially when dealing with lawmakers themselves.

Mere allegations were enough for the third rate minds of the Star Tribune editorial board to call for Schoen to resign. Columnist Jon Tevlin wrote about the scandal mentioning both Schoen and Cornish but only elaborated on the latter while the former stands accused of demonstrably worse conduct. Which party a person belongs to is enough for him.

But it shouldn’t be enough for the rest of us, despite the media praising itself for covering a story that doubtless was spoon fed to Briana Bierschbach of MinnPost. We need to look beyond the sensational aspects of this story in order to see a wider, political picture which is being intentionally drawn, even if for most Minnesotans it has not yet come into focus.

It will soon enough.

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In addition to Alpha News, John Gilmore is also a contributor to The Hill. He is the founder and executive director of Minnesota Media Monitor.™ He blogs at MinnesotaConservatives.org and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy. He can be reached at John@alphanewsmn.com 

Photo credit: CBS

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