Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Chris Matthews: Sexual Harassment??

Sexual harassment often involves unwanted sexual comments or touching. There are other definitions and other things involved but those are two of the more obvious and common components. 

At one extreme, say that represented by Harvey Weinstein, most reasonable people, men or women, would agree that there is untoward behavior occurring, which needs to be halted immediately. 

However at the other extreme, absent certain context, there is not a whole lot of difference between comments that could be sexual harassment and acceptable or invited expressions of romantic or sexual interest. It all depends on who is saying something and how it's received. MSNBC host Chris Matthews, 74, was accused by columnist Laura Bassett of bad comments that occurred about four years ago. 

Longtime MSNBC host Chris Matthews was absent from the network's live coverage of the South Carolina primary on Saturday, one day after being accused of sexual harassment by GQ columnist Laura Bassett.

Among other allegations, Bassett in a GQ opinion piece published Friday claimed Matthews told a network makeup artist to "keep putting makeup on her" and asked, "Why haven't I fallen in love with you yet?"

"In 2016, right before I had to go on his show and talk about sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump, Matthews looked over at me in the makeup chair next to him and said, 'Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet,'" Bassett wrote. "

When I laughed nervously and said nothing, he followed up to the makeup artist. 'Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.'"

"Another time, he stood between me and the mirror and complimented the red dress I was wearing for the segment. 'You going out tonight?' he asked. 

I said I didn’t know, and he said—again to the makeup artist—'Make sure you wipe this off her face after the show. We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this,'" Bassett also wrote.

"I’m pretty sure that behavior doesn’t rise to the level of illegal sexual harassment," she added. "But it undermined my ability to do my job well. And after I published a story about it, even though I didn’t name him, dozens of people reached out to say they knew exactly who it was."

I would agree that Matthews' statements are questionable. Matthews' comments are not things I would ever say in the workplace. I am not a multi-millionaire author, pundit and journalist who could easily afford to lose his monthly paychecks. 

That said, honesty also compels me to state that in over two decades of working in Fortune 500 companies I have seen a few people, both men and women, blue collar and white collar, worker bee and upper management, put the moves on each other. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. 

Sometimes the people involved became a long term couple or even married each other. Men and women make moves, throw out hints, and get together. They always have and always will.

There was only one case (post-breakup) where I saw two people become so upset with one another that HR and bosses became involved. Both people were eventually assigned to different departments. 

Generally people who aren't scumbags figure out where the limits are and what is acceptable banter or flirtation for a particular person and what isn't. We don't know what was in Matthews' mind or what vibes he thought he was picking up. Per Bassett, Matthews was mistaken and wrong. She wasn't interested and didn't appreciate his comments at all.

Usually I think there must be room for people to shoot their shot respectfully provided they are mature enough and moral enough to hear a "no" and keep it moving. Matthews' problem is that he apparently had a history of making women uncomfortable. So that apparently changed things for his employer.

The company that suspended Jason Johnson for a bad joke about Black women who support Bernie Sanders needed to act decisively against a host who apparently wouldn't stop hitting on women. So maybe this is why Matthews "retired" in what he described as a mutual decision between MSNBC and himself to part ways.

What do you think?

Was this sexual harassment?

Would you have fired Matthews?

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