Last week it emerged that disgraced television host Charlie Rose may be ready for his comeback. Rose, who was fired from both PBS and CBS after at least eight women accused him of unwanted sexual advances, has, according to Page Six, been floated as a potential host of a new TV show. While the 76-year-old broadcaster—who interviewed celebrities, politicians, and other public figures against that iconic black background for nearly three decades—certainly has the qualifications, this show would have a more narrow focus than his old work: Rose would be interviewing other men accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of #MeToo.
This idea has not gone over well. Tina Brown, who was apparently approached about producing the series (although she says she can't remember by whom), rejected the pitch, as did much of the online commentariat. But I, for one, think it's a great idea—if, and only if, all the men featured agree to recreate their alleged crimes during the interview. So, for instance, Charlie Rose, who reportedly enjoyed conducting business meetings with female underlings while wearing only an open bathrobe, will be required to conduct all his interviews in that very same outfit as his balls dangle in the wind. And when Rose interviews, say, Louis CK, the comedian will have to jerk off in front of him. Harvey Weinstein will have to do the same, except he'll have to jerk off into a potted plant and then give Rose a massage while he protests and tries to get away. Honestly, I don't know who is going to pick up this show (could get weird!), so it may have to be broadcast on YouTube—or maybe an even less credible channel, like Fox News. But hopefully it'll give the men of #MeToo a small taste of what sexual humiliation feels like.
Now, I'm (mostly) kidding about this, but the conversation about what's next for the #MeToo perps needs to be had, as Katie J. M. Baker wrote in the New York Times last week. Maybe not right now, less than a year after these allegations came out and the men at the heart of them have barely graduated from sex rehab, but eventually, we're going to have to grapple with the reemergence of the men of #MeToo.
Dan, Eli, and I talked about this on the Blabbermouth podcast today, and as Dan rightly pointed out, with most crimes in this country, once the perpetrators have gone through due process and served the appropriate sentence, they are, in theory, free to go about with their lives (although felony convictions make it impossible to register to vote and/or get a job/find place to live in some states). With sex crimes, however, there's no getting past it thanks to the sex offender registry, which has ruined the lives countless non-violent offenders caught up in a bad system with no way to get out.
Take Leah DuBuc, a woman who came out publicly as a registered sex offender several years ago. According to DuBuc, the saga started when she was accused by her (allegedly abusive) stepmother of performing oral sex on one stepbrother and having intercourse with another stepbrother at the age of... 10. DuBuc denies the allegations, and in an interview with the New Yorker, said the kids were "play-acting" sex, which is hardly uncommon in pre-pubescent children (if you've been a child, you may remember). Still, at the age of 12, DuBuc was sentenced to 18 to 22 months in a residential facility for juvenile sex offenders, and after 18 months in custody (which she describes as exceedingly violent), she was released back into society and placed on the sex offender registry, where she would remain for the next 25 years. And, in some ways, she got lucky: Many sex offenders are on it for life.
DuBuc's status on the registry impacted her life in all sorts of ways. Now a stay-at-home mom with one masters degree in social work and another in comparative religion, she told me she's been fired from nearly every one of her jobs when her employers find out about her past (which, thanks to Google, isn't hard). The state of Michigan, where she was convicted, took her and many other juvenile offenders off the list in 2010, but from getting work to finding places to live, life for those on the list can be incredibly difficult. In most states, registered sex offenders are prohibited from living within a thousand feet of any school, park, day care center, or playground, and that's the best-case scenario: In parts of Florida, the regulation is 2,500 feet, which makes it so impossible to live in any normal city or town that many sex offenders become homeless.
Obviously, not all sex offenders are like Leah DuBuc. She was a kid engaging in normal behavior, and she was a victim herself; Harvey Weinstein was not. But her case shows that, in America, we have not figured out an equitable way to deal with sex crimes. Perpetrators of sex crimes, or even kids like DuBuc, are considered un-redeemable in a way other types of criminals just aren't. Is this because sex offenders are more likely to commit crimes after their release from prison? Well, no. According to the bulk of research on this subject, sex offenders actually have lower recidivism rates than non-sex offenders overall. In fact, the crimes that have the highest rates of recidivism are property and drug crimes—the crimes, in effect, that are most connected with poverty and unemployment. Thank god, we don't make everyone who has been busted shoplifting from the grocery store live a mile from every park, daycare center, or school for the rest of their lives (yet), but it seems to me that if we believe in due process, once someone has done the time, they should be given at the least the opportunity to re-enter society and get their lives back.
Of course, the majority of powerful, wealthy men who were taken down by the #MeToo movement will not face criminal charges for their actions. The only court most will face is that of public opinion. Harvey Weinstein may be an exception, and for good reason: He's been accused of sexual assault, not walking around with an open bathrobe. But for others who fell, people like Charlie Rose or Al Franken or even Aziz Ansari, it's worth asking the question: Are they redeemable? And who gets to decide when they've been punished enough?
As Katie Baker writes in her piece, alternatives to the traditional justice system do exist. For one, there's "restorative justice," which is commonly used in communities that don't trust the justice system. Restorative justice, Baker writes, asks that "victims, communities and wrongdoers together discuss the crime committed and what should be done to make amends." But while this sounds good in theory, it doesn't always work out, and bias in this system can be just as harmful and inequitable as bias in traditional courts. Plus, there's a reason judges and juries, not victims themselves, are tasked with meting out punishment in actual courts.
Until someone comes up with a better idea, perhaps Charlie Rose's open-robed, televised mea culpa is the best amends that we'll get. If nothing else, the sight of his own balls on national television will make him understand why, exactly, he's still in the dog house. Then—maybe, eventually—he can really come back.