Democrats Wanted Zero Tolerance for Misconduct. Then Came Virginia.
From the New York Times. I'm Michael Barbaro. This is the day. Today. Democrats have adopted a policy of zero tolerance from his conduct has or press. My members of their own part. The growing political crisis in Virginia is testing that approach. It's Friday February. Good afternoon. Dave for calling by marriage towns down. That's how maybe this is. He they're I'm trying to reach. I guess name Jonathan Martin in room five. Oh six I'll cook right now. Thank you. Guys. Hey, how are you? Good. I think we did find the right Mary at. Okay. Let's trumping Jonathan Martin covers national politics for the times Jonathan where does this story really start? I think it has a drew in the Al Franken scandal a growing firestorm on Capitol Hill after democratic Senator Al Franken is accused of forcibly kissing and groping a woman more than a decade ago. What if you recall, it was the fall of twenty seventeen another woman is coming forward to make groping accusations against Minnesota, Senator democrat Al Franken in array of stories came out and another woman has come forward accusing Senator Al Franken of groping her during a USO tour. She's the fifth woman to accuse the Minnesota Senator of inappropriate behavior there were Nuff charges against him Senator Kirsten gillibrand Claire mccaskill maisy Hirono Maggie Hass and bit. Finally, Patty Murray camera Harris, Tammy Baldwin, Bob, Casey of Pennsylvania. I wanna get urged him to resign. Fine, led by Cureton gillibrand now keen lid for president and keep in mind. This was the same time that in Alabama Senate candidate ROY Moore remains defiant at this point denying sexual assault allegations and rejecting calls to drop out now more had been accused of sexual misconduct with a group underage women when he was younger and the Democrats were trying to pick up that seat, and they didn't want to give the Republicans any fodder dilute their attacks against or more enough. This is a conversation. We've been having a very long time. We need to draw a line in the sand and say, none of it is. Okay. None of it is acceptable. And we as leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally valuing women. And that is where this debate has to go. You wanna position themselves on the high round morally and politically in you take that and put it against the backdrop of an Alabama Senate race. Where lo and behold Democrats now have an opportunity to win a seat. They hadn't hadn't decades, and they are acting in ways that are going to position themselves. Best four serving and the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life and Alf Rankin was being accused of these things during that moment. And Democrats did not really has the Tate today. I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate. So what does asking Senator Al Franken to resign represent about the strategy that the Democrats were forming in this moment, I think the strategy was we have to police our own ranks, and this sort of implication of that was in the Trump era, we have to have clean hands. And if we're going to criticize the president we have to have a zero tolerance policy in our own ranks we cannot accept misconduct that is going to let the Republicans muddy the waters, politically if you will when we come after them. I remember Jonathan as I'm sure you do that some people saw Franken as a kind of sacrificial lamb for the Democratic Party to pursue this strategy. You're describing and I wonder if as a political reporter in that moment, you sensed what the conversation was among democratic politicians to just about decision had made western that privately. Plenty of Democrats were saying bit. Franken is. Basically walking the plank because we have to make this point. And we have to be pure on this issue. Now, they wouldn't dare say that publicly but remind the backbone of the Democratic Party in this era is women they are crucial to Democrats winning elections. And I think that the party felt like they didn't have a choice when it came to Franken in that moment, so zero-tolerance can seem hard line. But it allows the Democrats to call out the Republicans without any room for acusations of being hypocritical. That's the idea correct in. How did this democratic tragedy of zero-tolerance actually play out after Franken was forced to resign? Yeah. So I think the Franken president is what has first time. Now carry the day for Democrats you had other accusations of sexual misconduct. Edina, the house of representatives its longest serving member step down today. Under pressure Democrat John Conyers was accused of sexual misconduct. John Conyers longtime ever congress from Michigan. You had an upcoming democrat in the house from Nevada who also was similarly forced out because of serious actual harassment charges that has become the kind of Democrats rule of thumb that we're going to take us where zero tolerance approach on these kinds of allegations. We need one standard across the board. So folks, we're gonna call on Donald Trump design John Conyers who has retired over signed. It folks are gonna call and everybody else to resign that we have to hold Senator Franken anyone else that is accused of sexual assault to reside. And I think that is what really set the predicate going into the bread Kevin hearings. Democrats once they found out that he had been accused of sexual assault. A lot of them felt like this is somebody who simply cannot sit on the highest court in the lien for them. It was the very principle of do. We believe women. I believe you, and I believe many Americans across this country. Believe you that's the guiding. Force in terms of the democratic strategy on this. We come down on the side of the accuser, we believe women. This man is not a monster, nor is he what has been represented here and these hearings, but the Republicans, and what was really a sign of a divided country sided largely with Cavanaugh. And I think there was no more Alestra tive moment of this country's chasm on these issues. Then those premium court hearings last year, right? But it also to me started to signal some of the potential limitations of zero-tolerance go, which is that some Americans started look around them at the people, they know or at themselves and to ask what I want to be held to zero tar standard that the Democrats are holding people to write. Yes. Because what happened with the cavenaugh hearings was also this question of how far back. Do we go? In Oregon start judging people based on their high school and college conduct. And that was a huge thread of that moment. I think that a lot of conservative women, especially looked at somebody like you have on said that could be my husband could be my son who could be there is falsely accused and hot of other people looked at plsy forums at heck that could be my daughter, or my wife, and I his heck with them to be believed. So it did start this moment of the conversation of okay? What isn't is not fair game. And what is that line? We still have sort of defined that still kind of moving target here. But quietly you do hear some Democrats starting to wonder what how far is this gonna go and Virginia has really brought that question home. We'll be right back. With Lincoln learning, you can access over thirteen thousand online courses taught by real world. Experts to help you land that job nail that new project or earned that next promotion Lincoln learning recommends courses based on your career and helps you learn skills. Employers are looking for at every level. Keep learning all the moments that matter to your career CHAI Lincoln learning free for one month at linked in learning dot com slash daily linked in learning dot com slash daily. So let's just start Jonathan by reviewing what's actually happened in Virginia over the past week deep breath. Okay. It's been a extrordinary week in Virginia. Nobody in capital here has seen anything like this in state history. It started on Friday breaking tonight, a racist yearbook photo taken over three decades ago has surface leaving Virginia's democratic governor facing some. Mm serious questions about his past conservative website published a yearbook photo from governor Ralph north medical school and from nineteen eighty four decades old yearbook page suddenly in the spotlight tonight because of this picture of two people one in black face, the other KKK hood this immediately created a firestorm. He was either the guy in the Klan outfit or in black face when he was an adult in medical school. This is not some youthful indiscretion. This is an adult acting as a racist in by Friday night. Go to north head conceited and apologized for being on that page and ask for forgiveness. I cannot change the decision I made nor can I undo the harm my behavior calls then and today, but I sent responsibility for my past actions. And I'm ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust. Well by midnight de. Kratz across the country and ever Jinya were demanding he resigned reaction across the political spectrum pouring in tonight. After governor Ralph northern admits and apologizes for appearing a racist photo that dates back to was med school days in hundred eighty four on Saturday, go into north, and reversed course, had a news conference at these executive mansion in Richmond. Our since I made my statement yesterday. I reflect it with my family and classmates from the time and firm to my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo. He concluded that he was not one of the two men in that photograph, and the he had no plans to resign did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which dark in my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume is. Because my memory of that episode is so vivid that I truly did not believe I'm into picture in my yearbook then. When Sunday Super Bowl Sunday. There is rumors swirling all day that tenant governor just in. Fairfax has some kind of a me too issue. It's not clear what it is. Now Justin Fairfax himself stands accused of serious wrongdoing at three in the morning on Sunday night. So Monday morning Fairfax, Lieutenant governor post a statement on his Twitter account preemptively saying that he did not commit sexual assault on a woman. Monday morning, watching the post published a story saying we reported this out last year around the time that Fairfax was being inaugurated, and we decided that we couldn't corroborate it, and we're not gonna publish it. But they did at that point offer some details about the woman about the encounter a politics. Professor from California called Vanessa Tyson says that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in his hotel room at the two thousand four democratic national convention in Boston Fairfax and fatty denies again the case and at that point start suggesting that some of his political rivals are potentially behind the leap don't. Have to be a political genius to understand that this is a complete smear. And in my character. I've put up for election for people to come for Jinya in three statewide elections. Never anything like this ever been raised not throughout my life flash. Four then to Wednesday where the state's leadership is already in chaos. People are waiting what they're gonna do. Will. They resign in rumors again pickup update now. Multiple scandals embroiling Virginia's top officials more hearing the attorney general has some kind of racially insensitive issue in his past a stunning admission from Virginia's attorney general, Mark herring. Who revealed he wants wore black face in college. He said he was dressed as a rapper and the style of the legendary Curtis blow this comes after hearing called that photograph on north medical school yearbook page in defeat. Profoundly offensive shocking and deeply disappointing. And that leads us to Wednesday where the state of Ginny isn't utter utter chaos, and it's not clear who is still going to be in power by the end of the week. So obviously this presents a kind of overwhelming stress test. I have to imagine on the Democrats zero-tolerance policy. That's exactly right now. This is where the rubber meets the road are Democrats going to enforce their own policies in this moment, where you've got three Democrats who lead a major state in this country who were facing serious allegations of racist conduct and sexual assault. Are they going to force all three out are they gonna show forgiveness for some? But not others. Are they gonna show for goodness for all three? We'll walk us through how Democrats are handling it so far and what they have been thinking. So far, the hardest line has been on north tonight. The calls for governor. Ralph north to resign are growing reaction with with with much of the outrage coming from north fellow Democrats state legislators, the Virginia state black caucus. For example, residents candidates, comma, Harris Kirsten gillibrand Elizabeth Warren job, I Hillary Clinton Obama turning. General air colder Bernie Sanders. Cory Booker or swale. Well, practically every major democrat has called on north to resign. He Democrats are largely United on that front. Okay with Fairfax. There's much more of a wait and see mode. Here we go again, except for now, you have Democrats who are avoiding talking to the press it's difficult because you've got a woman making detailed accusations now on the record Fairfax and Batley denies it. Neither of them have yet to produce corroborating evidence from that time. So Democrats in that situation are saying, I think it's important to have consistency and moral clarity. I don't have any reason to know whether just in Fairfax, he's telling the truth or not. But I think I'd say the same thing I said in the bread Kevin issue, which is there should be a full and complete thorough independent investigation. That's they wanna hear more. They want to see investigation. Even that's a tough Jewish in. Because what happened if there is no investigation. Does just remain the accusations of mistakes. In and the denial of Fairfax. What do they do? And what's his Mark herring? Need to go. Are there calls for him to go? What's happening? So no calls on herring to go yet with the case of herring. He preemptively apologized to the Blackhawks an emotional meeting Wednesday morning in Richmond. He seems to be on. So what steadier ground because of how he handled the issue also worth noting. Yes. Or is politics in the politics. Here's the law. If the attorney general of Virginia is to resign during the legislative session his successor would be picked by the legislature. Guess what the Republicans control narrowly state house and state Senate? So they would be in charge of picking a successor. If hearing those resigned, so that also has create some incentive for Democrats, hold their fire. So suddenly zero tolerance in the midst of a very confusing situation is being even more for complicated by politics. It's important to keep in mind, Michael if I can just go back for a minute to what happened in the case of L Franken in the haze of John Conyers, there was no real political risk there because you had Democrats in Minnesota who were going to replace Franken. But they democratic John Conyers had a really safe seat in Detroit, and he was going to be replaced by a democrat new real risk. They're two different story. I think in Virginia where you got all hundred forty seats of. The state legislature up for grabs. This fall Democrats are on the threshold of taking back both chambers, which would give them an entire domination of state politics, and you know, d want to ham Republicans the attorney general seat entirely by forcing him to resign in leading the Republican control budgets later appoint his successor. That's a much more real shall we say test of this policy than it was with the Franken or Conyers situation because you're talking about much more in the way of political sacrifice. Right. But I wonder is your sense Jonathan at the bigger question. Here is about that. Whether Democrats are willing to stand by this policy when it could have negative political implications like a Republican taking democratically held seat or that it's about perhaps this zero tolerance policy being too stringent for the reality of our lives. Yeah. There's two things at work here in Virginia as. As more and more revelations come out of college students appearing in black face and yearbooks. I think this question now is how many people are going to get swept up in this kind of investigation. And if we do apply this standard widely that that is a horn behavior of the has to be prosecuted with the loss of a job. Then are we prepared for lucky to lose their jobs? Some people will say absolutely it is an appalling demonstration of racism. That's the worst kind of vestige of the battle days, and we absolutely should penalize folks for that. There are others who will say it took place thirty years ago people make mistakes in their youth. They shouldn't lose their jobs and their livelihoods for their worst day or their worst moment, you're going to hear both of those arguments quite a bit in the days ahead because these Pacers of black face are not going to be limited to a few politicians in Virginia. You can be assured that this is going to be. Turning up and other states and other professions around the country, and it's not gonna stop here. It's going to be a bigger conversation beyond this state and beyond politics. We started by talking about Al Franken and the line that was drawn in his case as Democrats started to create this zero-tolerance all eighteen months ago. I wonder if in this moment, Democrats are recalibrating and rethinking that decision to force him to resign. Given the recalibration we're seeing now I think we're seeing the first makings of that recalibration. I'm not sure if they'll go fully through with rethinking their policy as long as Trump is the president, and they wanna have the high ground, but the best example of this kind of real time assessment is Senator gillibrand who led the charge when it came to pushing out Al Franken, but who has said on Fairfax that she wants to see an investigation. She was very sympathetic to the woman, doctor Tyson and the charges the doctor Tyson Baid, but some their children's not calling Ford Fairfax to resign. She saying that she. Wants to hear or see rather. An investigation of this case that itself is very telling the value of that. Jill bridge has been out front on these issues is not calling for Fairfax to quit calling for an investigation. I think does indicate the first making of some kind of recalibration on this approach. Jonathan. Thank you very much. Thanks bill. On Thursday, yet another elected official in Virginia. This time a Republican became ensnared in the states political crisis state, Senate majority leader Thomas Norman, acknowledged his role in editing a yearbook that featured racist slurs against African Americans Asians and Jews as well as racist photographs including people in black face, a don't condone it. And I haven't engaged in it. If you look back through that yearbook, you'll say first of all do not appear in any pictures any derogatory disingenuous way to any minority group. What else you need to? On thursday. The supreme court voted to block a Louisiana law. That would have made it harder to have abortions in the state in a five to four decision that suggest for now that the court will observe precedent on the issue despite its right Ord till under President Trump the decision in which eve Justice John Roberts sided with the court's liberal. Members prevents Louisiana from enforcing the law that opponents would close most of the states abortion clinics. During today's hearing we will examine a topic of great interest to American people. We've a view whether a president vice-president. In a candidate for the office should be required by law to make a tax return available to the public house. Democrats began hearings on Thursday about a plant that would force President Trump to release his tax returns despite his long standing objections to making them public. In other words, we asked the question. 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