It was more Missouri straight talk than MSNBC viewers are used to.
When “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough turned to former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill on Wednesday for her take on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal, he tried to frame it in as friendly a way as possible for the show’s largely liberal audience.
But McCaskill’s answer might have had Democrats spitting their morning joe right onto their TV screens.
In setting up the question, Scarborough, naturally, brought up sexual harassment complaints against former President Donald Trump — the standard by which liberals will be judging matters for generations — as well as a New York Times column from Monday claiming Democrats had shot themselves in the foot by forcing the resignation of Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken for his own serial scandals over sexual misconduct.
McCaskill is no favorite of conservatives, and her loss to Republican Josh Hawley in the 2018 midterms was one of the truly bright spots in an election year that saw Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives.
But give credit where credit’s due — she didn’t play MSNBC’s “what-about-Trump” game, and she blasted Cuomo as well as any Republican ever could:
“This is the governor of New York who had a young — a woman young enough to be his daughter in his office,” McCaskill said. “The two of them alone. And he asked her if she had sex with older men. And then he had the nerve to say he was apologizing if his comments had been misinterpreted as flirtation.
“Well, I got news for you. If you have a position of power over a young woman, a very young woman compared to your age, and you ask her if she has sex with older men, you ought to be man enough to say, you did something terribly wrong. Not ‘I’m sorry if it was misinterpreted.’”
Check out the video. It’s worth it just for the outrage and sarcasm in McCaskill’s voice.
“You ought to be man enough” are words exactly the kind of words Cuomo needs to hear.
Cuomo has been dogged, deservedly, since mid-2020 over his decision in March to order New York state nursing homes to accept patients infected with COVID-19, and even forbidding them to test potential patients for a contagious disease that was particularly fatal in elderly populations.
But because he had been set up as a liberal foil to then-President Trump, that story remained largely off the radar screen of the mainstream media. Liberals can overlook even the needless deaths of potentially thousands of elderly nursing home residents when it suits their political purposes.
Now, however, Cuomo is faced with a sexual harassment scandal that has only worsened since December, when he was first accused. Sexual harassment, in the age of the #MeToo movement, is a different matter — and Cuomo is facing a mainstream media grilling.
That was apparent at the governor’s news conference Wednesday, which came hours after McCaskill’s “Morning Joe” interview.
It was also apparent that the third-term New York governor had no intention of following the former senator’s advice.
Instead of manning up, as McCaskill might put it, Cuomo reiterated the same kind of mealy-mouthed apology he’d posted on the governor’s office website Sunday.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at a Wednesday news conference, according to The Associated Press. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”
It was an acknowledgment of the situation, but it wasn’t an acceptance of responsibility.
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” his Sunday statement said. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
Democrats and the mainstream media have long lived by a double standard when it comes to men accused of sexual misconduct, harassment or assault: if the perpetrator is a Republican, he’s put on the public rack even if the accusation borders on lunacy (see Kavanaugh, Brett).
As the Franken case showed, that’s not as blatant as it used to be. Franken — like the late former Michigan Rep. John Conyers — had the misfortune of his scandal coinciding with the cresting of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein explosion, which showed the world how willing liberals in Hollywood were to accepting the repulsive behavior of a man with the golden touch in movie-making, and all the correct liberal politics.
(McCaskill was also one of Franken’s most vocal critics in the Democratic Party.)
But Cuomo’s twin scandals and the mainstream media’s reactions still showcase how much of that bias remains. Does anyone think the mainstream media would have shown any restraint if Florida Republican Ron DeSantis had been credibly accused of causing the deaths of thousands of elderly Floridians by bungling the coronavirus pandemic?
Does anyone think even one hint of sexual harassment allegations against, say, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, would not have been enough to generate a mainstream media feeding frenzy? (Look what happened over a lousy trip to Cancun.)
But New York’s governor, secure in the knowledge that his politics give him the protection of the mainstream media’s Praetorian guard, thought he could coast through a news conference like Wednesday’s with lip-service contrition.
“I have learned an important lesson,” he said, according to USA Today.
“I am sorry. I am sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
He will be “better for this experience”? He would be better if he took a little straight talk from Missouri:
“If you have a position of power over a young woman, a very young woman compared to your age, and you ask her if she has sex with older men, you ought to be man enough to say, you did something terribly wrong. Not ‘I’m sorry if it was misinterpreted.’”
MSNBC viewers might not have been expecting to hear that from McCaskill, but it’s what America deserves to hear from Cuomo.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.