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Journalists accused of sexual misconduct offer the same old excuses

New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

The job of a journalist is to cut through talking points in search of truth, but when a journalist is accused of sexual misconduct, he reaches for the same responses or excuses used by men in the industries that the media covers.

That's one of the lessons from a recent spate of accusations leveled against powerful men in the news media. To illustrate the point, I have identified seven recurring strategies found in responses to sexual misconduct allegations, provided one example from politics or entertainment and paired it with one or more examples from the media.

Say the allegations are part of a politically motivated smear campaign

Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the national Democrat Party and The Washington Post on this campaign.”

Fox host Bill O'Reilly: “This was a hit job, a political and financial hit job.”

Issue a vague apology that doesn't actually acknowledge the specific accusations may be true

Film studio mogul Harvey Weinstein: “I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”

Editor and columnist Leon Wieseltier: “For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness.”

Journalist Michael Oreskes: “I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility.”

Commentator Mark Halperin: “I am profoundly sorry for the pain and anguish I have caused by my past actions. I apologize sincerely to the women I mistreated.”

New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush: “I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately.”

Issue a non-denial denial

Actor Kevin Spacey: “I honestly do not remember the encounter.”

Halperin: “Many of the accounts conveyed by journalists working on stories about me or that I have read after publication have not been particularly detailed (and many were anonymous), making it difficult for me to address certain specifics.”

Say that you are/were seeking treatment for something

Weinstein spokeswoman: “Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling.”

Halperin: “For several years around my departure from ABC News, I had weekly counseling sessions to work on understanding the personal issues and attitudes that caused me to behave in such an inappropriate manner.”

Thrush: “I have not taken a drink since June 15, 2017, have resumed counseling and will soon begin outpatient treatment for alcoholism.”

Say that you have learned a lot about yourself and about respect for women

Sen. Al Franken: “Over the last few months, all of us — including and especially men who respect women — have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.”

Talk show host Charlie Rose: “All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and have come to a profound new respect for women and their lives.”

Emphasize that the alleged encounter(s) happened a long time ago

Donald Trump spokesman: “To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault.”

Former NPR Board chairman Roger LaMay: “I finished my second term and chose to not run again. I did not make this decision based on a third-party story about my personal life over a decade ago.”

Halperin: “Those who have worked with me in the past decade in subsequent jobs at Time, Bloomberg, NBC News and Showtime know that my conduct has not been what it was at ABC.”

Claim you thought the encounters were consensual

Comedian Louis C.K.: At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay, because I never showed a woman my d--- without asking first.

Rose: “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”

Thrush: “The encounter was consensual, brief and ended by me.”