At the exact moment Jon Favreau is receiving high praise in pre-inaugural media puff pieces, the 27-year-old chief speechwriter for President-elect Barack Obama (not Jon Favreau, the Hollywood actor/ director) finds himself in a minor mess over a photo from a recent private party showing him groping the breast of a cardboard cutout of Hillary Rodham Clinton as an unnamed pal wearing an “Obama staff” T-shirt kisses and feeds her beer.
If you haven’t seen it, imagine the early stages of the barroom rape scene of “The Accused” with Jodie Foster. Or think prosecutor Mike Nifong’s graphic (though false) descriptions of the Duke lacrosse party. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson danced to a similar tune at the 2004 Super Bowl.
Fraternities have been closed for less.
The provocative party pic uploaded to Facebook for a very short time was soon discovered and printed in The Washington Post then disseminated across the Internet and featured prominently on Politico, Gawker and the Drudge Report.
If the photo had exposed a Republican offender, there’d already be a full-bore media scandal and cascading resignations. MSNBC would be rearranging its schedules for a wall-to-wall 24/7 bonanza. Rachel Maddow would finally have her big story. Barbara Boxer, Patricia Schroeder and other righteous feminists would walk up the Capitol steps, reprising the time they tried to destroy Clarence Thomas - for nothing.
Yet so far there is no groundswell of feminist rage in the District of Columbia. The unnamed co-conspirator thrusting the beer bottle into the mouth of the designated secretary of state isn’t yet a household slur.
Instead, with the accused being a member of the protected Democratic class, we only have a quick peripheral debate. The mainstream media headlines soften the story’s implications: “Obama speechwriter Favreau learns the perils of Facebook” (CNN).
Next time, don’t share your coarseness with the world. It’s the technology’s fault.
The aggressive iconography of two young drunk men taking advantage of a life-size cutout of a woman - especially a powerful one - would bring an elite college campus to a standstill, force a housecleaning of a Fortune 500 company, ground the Air Force Academy and would, in most cases, ruin the career of a Republican staffer or elected official.
Every sexual harassment training manual makes exceedingly clear that this type of behavior is intolerable. If only former President Bill Clinton could offer his sage advice on sexual harassment and put this conundrum to rest.
If, for instance, President Bush’s former speechwriter Michael Gerson had been caught in flagrante cartone, he would have stepped down before the president could fire him. If not, the media, the feminist establishment and the Democratic Party leadership would have destroyed Mr. Gerson and Mr. Bush and crafted a “culture of harassment” umbrella descriptor to hang around the administration’s neck in perpetuity.
In GOP land, apologies and resignations are never enough.
However, the Democratic double standard on political correctness kicked in immediately as the feminist establishment, the media and even Mrs. Clinton herself came forth to save the fast-rising Obama wordsmith.
Can she fix it? Yes, she can.
Mrs. Clinton ignored the sexism and sexual assault the photo projected and accepted Mr. Favreau’s apology through her spokesman Philippe Reines, who weirdly joked, “Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon’s obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application.”
This is not the first time, of course, that Mrs. Clinton has saved a man from exceedingly bad behavior with women. In fact, it’s her signature skill.
To her credit, CNN’s Campbell Brown sought to put it in the record that Mr. Favreau’s actions were not as innocuous as the Clinton spin: “She is joining Team Obama, and, apparently, this photo of her likeness being groped by another key member of Obama’s team doesn’t bother her a bit. Just good-natured fun, or so her spokesman says. Really, Senator Clinton? Boy, have you changed your tune.”
The National Organization for Women, which last struck issuing news releases on why Sarah Palin isn’t a real woman, refused to comment on the Obama speechwriter incident.
When NOW’s press secretary Mai Shiozaki was reached Friday, she first claimed not to have seen the Favreau photograph. But when called later, she offered two reasons for not weighing in: “I haven’t looked into it” and “I have a 5 p.m. deadline. … I am already late.”
The New Agenda, a new nonpartisan group for women’s rights, and perhaps a valid heir apparent to the dying NOW brand, did speak out: “These antics ought to be summarily condemned by President-elect Obama. He ought to fire Jon Favreau. If he does not fire Favreau, he risks fostering the perception that he condones Favreau’s disrespect toward Senator Clinton. He also risks encouraging this sort of behavior in other young men toward women who are not merely cardboard cutouts.”
But as it is, Mr. Favreau is primed to set the tone of the incoming president as he crafts Mr. Obama’s much-anticipated inaugural address. With Democrats in control of the House, the Senate, the media and academia, perhaps Mr. Favreau can be a mensch and declare over the era of media double standards benefiting Democrats; perhaps he can give a nod to Gloria Steinem’s “One Free Grope” rule crafted for Mr. Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky flap; and perhaps he can make a rhetorical bow to the new breed of permissive feminists with this hoary old chestnut: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
• Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site www.breitbart.com and the video site www.breitbart.tv. He also is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity.”