During a White House press conference on Monday, Playboy White House correspondent (they have those?!?!?) and CNN contributor Brian Karem asked Press Sec. Sarah Huckabee Sanders if she had ever been sexually harassed. His tasteless question came during a back and forth about women who have previously accused the president of impropriety coming forward again.
This 20 minute briefing became occasionally testy during which Sanders clearly appeared perturbed at the insistence on talking about things she didn’t want to discuss. That part comes with the job, but Karem’s question crossed a line.
“As a woman, standing up there talking to us, I know your job is to relate what the president says — have you ever been sexually harassed?” asked Karem. “And I’m not saying by the president, I’m saying ever. Secondly, do you have an empathy for those who come forward, because it’s very difficult for women to come forward?”
Sanders responded by first addressing Brian’s question about whether or not she’s empathetic to victims, “Absolutely, I would say I have an empathy for any individual who has been sexually harassed and that certainly would be the policy of the White House,” she said.
She continued by circling back to his original question.
“I’m not here to speak about my personal experience on that front, but I am here to relay information on behalf of the president and that’s what I’m focused on doing here today,” said Sanders.
Good for her — and a much more calm response than I would have mustered under such circumstances.
If Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been sexually harassed in any job she has had (past or present day), it is up to her how public she wants to be about that experience. It has nothing to do with the policies of the president or the White House. For Karem to ask her this is a severe invasion of her personal privacy, and in my opinion an attempt to victim shame.
Two things can be true at once:
- Trump could be a jerk who has harassed women in the past (see Ben’s 5 standards for resigning here).
- You shouldn’t victim shame or “out” a woman.
Karem was apparently first attempting to ask Sarah if she’s been a victim and second, ask her how she could work for a man who said “grab ’em by the p****” on tape and has been accused by 19 women of harassment.
Of course step three would never have been taking a look at the creator of the publication he works for that objectifies women. All. The. Time.
Now, the complaints against Trump are troubling, his behavior towards women is one of the reasons I vehemently opposed him during the primaries and one of the many reasons I did not vote for him in the general. But the media hypocrisy here is rich. In scandal after scandal during the Obama administration, these reporters let the men in Sanders’ role, including Josh Earnest and Robert Gibbs, slide by with gushing softballs. Never once did any man from the media ask them a question like, “If Ambassador Stevens were your brother or son would you want to know where the president was the night of the Benghazi attack?”
Now, that doesn’t mean that the media can’t or shouldn’t ask Sanders tough questions; that’s their job and it’s a part of hers to speak on behalf of the White House. It’s her job to address ACA, tax cuts, even questions about why the president is backing Roy Moore. But she is a spokesperson for the White House, she is not there to talk about her personal opinions or experiences. The press corps should know better — they do know better. Shame on them.
It is up to a woman to determine what she believes is or isn’t an episode of harrassment. It is then that woman’s right to determine if and when she wants to make that harassment public. It is disgusting to try to “out” her in a work setting on national television. Brian Karem should know better. He was trying to put Sanders in a corner and publicly humiliate her. That. folks, is victim shaming.