The rise of social media has brought justice upon individuals that would otherwise go unpunished, but it has also brought unjust punishment to those who would ordinarily get a slap on the wrist. When Billy Bush engaged in “locker room” talk with Donald Trump, who led a conversation about how his advances toward the then-married Nancy O’Dell went unrequited, and how he attempts to kiss women whether they like it or not, the public viewed Bush as complicit. He should have spoken up. He should have said, “Donald, don’t talk that way. That’s uncalled for, and I won’t tolerate it. Women deserve to be respected, and you should not hit on married women.” Most importantly, he should not have laughed.
The entire event reminded me of a recent lunch I experienced with a friend of a friend, who made a comment I deemed racist. I did speak up. I said it wasn’t cool, and I wouldn’t tolerate it in my presence. The conversation quickly came to a halt, and things got awkward. Those who know me are well aware I am not afraid of confrontation. I am not easily intimidated by authority, and there’s no amount of money, fame, or recognition you can offer that would make me sacrifice my integrity. But I am a rare breed. Most people do not want confrontation. Most people can remember those “locker room” moments where they don’t want to be the odd man out, and they participate in deplorable behavior even though it does not reflect their character. They vow to be better people the next time around, and they feel silently ashamed.
I don’t know Billy Bush. Perhaps he is a misogynist. Perhaps he does not respect women. Perhaps he is personally friends with Donald Trump and agreed with his off-color, offensive comments. But to repeat my original point, I don’t know him, and neither do you. We all make mistakes in the workplace and don’t get fired for them. We all do things of which we’re ashamed and silently correct them without the world watching. And if the world wasn’t watching, would Billy Bush be suspended? Or would he simply be privately admonished? Before you judge him, take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you too would like to be forgiven for your own mistakes.