Kirsten Gillibrand has written a book in which she reveals some of the appalling comments that some of her male colleagues in the US Senate have made to her. In response, Senator Ron Johnson makes the kind of comment one often hears in such situations by people who are skeptical of the claims but don’t want to outright say so.
In his four years in the Senate, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has never witnessed the type of sexism detailed in Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) new book. Moreover, he thinks Gillibrand should name the male Senate colleagues who she said sexually harassed her, so they can appropriately “explain themselves.”
In the Tuesday interview, Johnson sought to set the record straight. “It was not me” and “and I’ve never seen that kind of behavior in the United States Senate,” he said.
“It’s actually a pretty collegial place. Pretty professional. I have never seen that type of behavior. That’s all I can say. That’s been my experience,” he added.
That may well be his experience but it is irrelevant and counts for nothing. If you are not the person at the receiving end of that type of behavior, or share the kinds of characteristics that cause the problem, then your lack of observations to that effect have no value.
It is like me saying that I have never actually seen young black men being unfairly targeted by police. It is a true statement but so what? The times that I have been in the presence of both a young black man and a policemen have been extremely few while a young black man is a young black man all the time. My chance of actually seeing this kind of behavior is vanishingly small, even if it a routine occurrence in his life.
So if you are not in that same situation, and Johnson being a male is clearly not in the same situation as Gillibrand, then the only observations that are of value are positive ones that confirm the story because negative ones don’t mean anything. When you voice them without pointing out that fact, you are tacitly expressing skepticism.