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David Rafferty: Carlson squandered chance to ‘be fierce’

January 7, 2018

Redemption is the American way. Commit a crime. Sin. Do whatever it takes to get to the top. Then when you’ve made enough money or your conscience demands you be publicly born again, you walk away. Write a book. Hit the talk show circuit. Tell everyone how woke you are as you cleanse yourself through the power of public and private soul bearing. It’s time for your second act, traditionally as a champion of virtue and good behavior. Pay no attention to who I was, look at who I am now. Take for example, Fox News alum and Greenwich resident Gretchen Carlson.

Today you’re an author and champion of women who are suffering the indignity, humiliation and terror of sexual harassment. You are everywhere, telling women to Be Fierce and stand up to the very real nightmare of predatory harassment that far too many women have to accept. As a victim of repeated harassment in the workplace, you fought back when fired for not submitting to the sexual advances of a superior. You took a stand, forced the issue into the sunshine and brought down a media titan. And for that, you deserve your victory lap.

But I’m skeptical of your personal redemption book tour and its recent stop here in Greenwich. Your current stand asking women and girls to be courageous doesn’t wash away the decade you spent in a position of prestige and authority where you had every opportunity to show generations of women that they could be smart, strong, and I would even say fierce, but you didn’t.

Instead, you hid away your intellect and worldliness, took the money and created your lightweight, aw shucks, totally un-serious frazzled mom character. You sat in front of television cameras, looked America in the eye, and chose cynicism and “truthiness” over facts and reality. In doing so, the trail you blazed helped Fox News devolve into our dear leaders state-sponsored propaganda outlet. And for what? You minced words, obfuscated, lied and defended the lies of others to advance an agenda that by virtue of your world-class education and life experiences, you knew couldn’t be right. But you did it anyway. Instead of genuinely inspiring women and making men rethink their prejudices by using your smarts and understanding of the world to fairly and eloquently frame national and global issues, you chose to pander to the mob who terrifyingly believe that knowledge is somehow elitist.

You pretended not to know things so that your viewers would think you were just regular folk, while cynically speaking down to your audience, stoking their fears and anxieties. Misinforming that audience, and helping lower the level of national civility and public discourse. Even while you yourself were smart enough to know better.

And relevant to your current reinvention as a champion of all women who have also been bent and broken by sexual harassment and misconduct, you sat complicit in front of those cameras. Often participating in, yet rarely ever condemning the disturbing, juvenile and arrogant male behavior that you now rail against. So looking back, how much courage did that show?

You are right though. I want the next generation of young girls, including my daughter, to have the courage to walk strong and proudly wherever they want, and not have to be confronted by harassment and abuse. I also want them to have the courage to say no when the job says to lie, cheat or dissemble. To not trade her moral compass for a few dollars now, and go on a personal redemption tour later. To have the courage to tell a boss, I won’t do that, because I know it is wrong.

Forget embracing #MeToo for reinvention. Along with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and the rest, #YouToo helped fracture America as unapologetic accomplices in the Roger Ailes/Fox News debasing of this country. #YouToo helped gestate and give birth to deliberately deceptive fake news, over-caffeinated culture wars and ultimately, the rise of President Donald Trump and the horrors his cronies are now inflicting on America. #YouToo enabled it, and the first question asked at your Greenwich luncheon should have been, “Are you sorry?” Unfortunately, for many who are #YouToo, sorry only comes after the damage is done.

David Rafferty is a Greenwich resident.

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