SCENE: We’re in the middle of a virtual sexual harassment group awareness workshop, moderated by Clinical Social Worker MELINDA CORNSTARCH. There are six male current and former New York politicians sharing the screen, and it is emotionally charged — a lot of pained expressions. Of local interest, two of the attendees are New York Governor ANDREW CUOMO and Representative of the 23rd Congressional District of New York TOM REED. Other attendees include RUDY GIULIANI, ELIOT SPITZER and ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN.
CORNSTARCH: That was great, Eliot. Thank you. OK, group, we have a new member! Say hello to Tom.
ALL: Hello, Tom.
REED: Hello, everybody!
CORNSTARCH: Tom, we’re just about to role play some scenarios. I’ll describe a situation, and we’ll take turns acting out proper and suitable behavior. I find this to be a very constructive exercise. Rudy, why don’t we start with you. OK. The fifteen-year-old daughter of a foreign journalist invites you into a hotel suite bedroom for a drink. What do you do?
GIULIANI: Clearly, you accept. It would be weird not to. Maybe have a seat on the bed, start fiddling with your pants, loosen up a little bit. It’s a no-brainer. I thought this would be hard.
CUOMO: That’s what she said.
CORNSTARCH: Andrew, I thought we talked about “that’s what she said.” It’s really just not appropriate in this setting.
REED: Typical Democrat. I suppose you’d ask if she’s into older men.
CUOMO: Really, Brah? New Member Tom just wants my job, Melinda.
REED: ‘Brah’?!? You did not just go there...
CORNSTARCH: Gentlemen! Please! Andrew, Tom doesn’t want your job. This process can be difficult and it’s not at all unusual for people to lash out at each other. They don’t really mean it.
REED: Actually, Andrew’s quite astute. I do want his job.
CORNSTARCH: Let’s move on to another scenario. I feel like we’re losing focus. Let’s try this one: a former staffer comes forward and says that she was subjected to numerous improper and unseemly conversations with you as well as inappropriate touching. What would be the most honorable and fitting response?
CUOMO: Well, and I’m just spitballin’ here, you could say you were just joking around and didn’t think it would make anyone uncomfortable. Do one of those ‘I’m sorry if anyone took it the wrong way, I never intended any harm’ things. That way you’re not really admitting anything. [There is a general murmur of approval among the men.]
CORNSTARCH: Um, that’s not necessarily…
REED: I hate to say it, Andrew, but that’s not bad. How about blaming it on alcohol? Actually any addiction might do. That makes it about your personal struggle. Then just hunker down and ride out the storm. [Some of the men appear to be taking notes.]
CORNSTARCH: I think we’re misunderstanding...
GIULIANI: My experience is that if you just deny everything and stick to it, it will eventually kind of go away. Louder positive murmuring.] Don’t be afraid of words like “witch hunt.” I have a client who’s had phenomenal success with this approach. I’m talking dozens of accusations.
CUOMO: This is helping, guys. I feel so much better. You were right, Melinda! This is actually turning out to be a really constructive session. Melinda?
[The attendees realize CORNSTARCH has left the meeting...and the screen goes dark.]