Tennessean columnist Alex Hubbard noted in a column over the weekend that “Some Questions Matter More Than Others in Megan Barry Affair.” He’s right, and many of the questions he posed are actually among those that deserve a clear and honest answer from Mayor Barry. However, there are a number of other “non-ideological” questions that Hubbard either doesn’t want asked or answered. Perhaps there is an ideological basis for the questions that the liberal Tennessean prefers to ignore.
First, Hubbard follows the lead of previous Tennessean editorial commentary in defini-tively stating that the current “public discussion surrounding sexual harassment does not apply here.” Really? Sexual harassment isn’t just about “consensual versus non-consensual” distinctions when it comes to sexual relationships in the workplace. A boss and subordinate may be perfectly happy with their secret affair, and the benefits that inure to the subordinate in terms of promotions, bonuses, and other work benefits. That may have been the case with Mayor Barry and Sgt. Forrester. But what about the other members of the security detail who didn’t benefit from the “consensual” relationship? Perhaps another officer passed on the flirtations of Mayor Barry, thereby denying himself the overtime and international travel that Sgt. Forrest as a willing participant earned “on the job.”
At the very least there was a discriminatory policy in place that the Mayor implemented to benefit her lover at the expense of other hardworking and dedicated police officers who didn’t get busy with the boss. Sexual harassment policies don’t generally stop at a determination of consensual versus non-consensual. There are other “victims”, and they deserve attention and protection. Did the benefits provided to Sgt. Forrest create a “quid pro quo” environment or a “hostile work environment” under the law? Were other officers discriminated against due to their refusal to enter into a relationship with the Mayor or the fact that they didn’t appeal to her? And will the officers in the security detail not complain or file an action against the City for the same exact reason the women have long chosen to remain silent and not complain about inappropriate behavior in the workplace — the fear that it would be a career ender?
Surely The Tennessean could find some experts in the legal and human resources fields who could explain the broader context of sexual harassment and victims of others engaging in “consensual” relationships. Certainly there’s a question or two worth asking, and perhaps it might broaden the current national discussion. Should the matronly older woman who doesn’t get the financial benefits, promotions and other benefits of a “consensual” relationship between a male boss and a young, beautiful and willing female subordinate be protected in the workplace or not? What about a female subordinate who is not offered a consensual relationship with a female boss who prefers the young male subordinate as a travel partner? Yes, so many questions that The Tennessean prefers to overlook.
Perhaps the most bizarre aside in the Hubbard commentary is his attempt to distinguish the Barry-Forrest relationship as possibly being non-consensual relationship on Forrest’s part as a “technical” subordinate because he “carried a gun for a living and presumably could take care of himself.” Really? So, female police officers and those serving in the military couldn’t possibly be subjected to sexual harassment because they have guns and can take care of themselves? What about females who also have a carry permit? Or, are physically stronger than the man who has allegedly harassed them? Liberal logic deployed to excuse the be-havior of a liberal political figure. You just can’t make this stuff up.
And the best historical comparisons Hubbard can come up with are Republicans Nelson Rockefeller and Mark Sanford? What about Bill Clinton? Harvey Weinstein? Matt Lauer? Bill Cosby? Al Franken? John Conyers?
Democrats lost, at least temporarily, their super-majority control of the legislature thanks to resignations in the wake of sexual harassment claims. There are plenty of current examples on both sides of the aisle, but The Tennessean only finds two Republican scandals as comparative to the Megan Barry situation. And in virtually every other recent case of PROVEN or ADMITTED misconduct while in office, the men accused were forced to either quickly exit or soon announced that they would not seek reelection in the upcoming 2018 election cycle.
Why is The Tennessean treating Mayor Barry with kid gloves regarding her misconduct while IN OFFICE?
In addition to THAT question, there ARE a number of other questions that The Tennessean prefers not to ask, and which Megan Barry and her team may not want to answer:
What did her staff know and when did they know it? If the “glitch” uncovered by NewsChannel 5’s Phil Williams was actually a back door that enabled Barry’s staff to enter travel approvals without actually going through the proper channels was that intended to cover up the affair? What other actions did her staff or perhaps members of the Security Detail engage in to keep the affair secret once they suspected or learned of it? Will Freedom of Information requests targeted at the communications of her staff and the security detail regarding emails, texts or other messages that refer or related to the Mayor and Forrest reveal what they knew and when? Two years of a relationship in front of and around numerous police officers and nobody “detected” anything?
How did the relationship begin; and when and how did it end? Did she approach him or vice versa? She and her staff have simply said “it’s over” in response to repeated inquiries. When and how did it actually end? Did his upcoming retirement, and the possibility of locking down his pension, factor into their timeline?
Why did the decision to have the Mayor provided with enhanced security, as supposedly decreed by the Police Chief, leave so many gaps when she would sometimes travel without that same security? Who decided when she needed protection and not? Were there any female members of her detail? If not, why not?
Yes, some questions matter more than others. Including the long list of questions the The Tennessean doesn’t even want asked.
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