Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman was fired Monday from his post head of the state Committee on Open Government after allegations that he acted in a "sexually inappropriate manner" towards a reporter from the Journal News.

This newspaper published a story on page A6 Wednesday, chronicling the firing of a state employee.

The story took up 14 column inches and included a photo of the fired employee, but we would not be surprised if most of you did not read it.

The story described how a newspaper reporter accused the state employee of “squeezing her shoulder; touching her waist, back and buttocks with his hand; parting her braids from her face and placing them behind her shoulders; hugged her and kissing her on the cheek while holding her head” during an office meeting.

The reporter’s complaint was brought to the attention of the state Inspector General’s Office and an investigation was begun.

The investigation found “compelling evidence” that the employee acted in a “sexually inappropriate manner” toward the reporter from the Journal News.

The state employee was fired on Monday.

That employee was Robert Freeman, the respected and revered head of the state Committee on Open Government, who had been fighting for transparency in government for over 40 years and was a good friend of the newspaper industry.

It left many in the state journalism community rattled, some feeling betrayed by a man they counted on as an advocate for the important work journalists do for the citizens of New York. Some were alarmed they did not know our own employees were at risk.

Freeman’s firing was worthy of the 14-inch story we published on page A6, because this type of behavior cannot be tolerated, no matter how much good you have done in your career, or how much power or money you possess.

The charges were taken seriously by state officials, the investigation done swiftly and the punishment was just and fair.

The New York News Publishers Association went so far as to rescind a 2010 honor to Freeman for “contributions to journalism and freedom of the press.”

Vox news has compiled a list of 263 celebrities, politicians and CEOs who have been accused of sexual assault since 2017. The “#metoo” movement made it clear that this type of behavior was not only unacceptable, but there would be consequences for sexual harassment and assault.

Wealthy celebrity predators would no longer be given a pass.

The tide had turned, we thought.

We feel obliged to point out there was a glaring omission in our newspaper this weekend, where we failed to report the accusations of a sexual assault by another professional journalist against another government employee.

In her account, the 75-year-old journalist said (President Donald) Trump shoved her against the wall in a department store changing room 25 years ago, pulled down her tights and “forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway – or completely, I’m not certain—inside me.”

This newspaper was not the only one that did not run a story that accuses the president of the United States of rape.

But we did report the firing of a longtime state employee.

In retrospect, that makes little sense.

We imagine that newspaper editors and readers alike are numb to the moral depravity of our current president.

And while we apologize for describing the graphic nature of the attack above, we believe it was necessary to understand the gravity of the charges, even if that description is uncomfortable to read.

Depending on who is doing the counting, the number of sexual assault accusations against the current president are somewhere between 16 and 22, with Trump accused of unwanted kissing and groping on multiple occasions with one very famous recording of him bragging about it.

But the latest accusation is the most violent.

We understand there are unscrupulous people in the world.

We understand someone might be settling an old grudge, or hoping to make a buck in a settlement, but how many accusations will lead to acceptance of these accusations?

It reminds us of Bill Cosby in that regard.

Will 30 accusations change our mind?

How about 40? Or 50?

That is the tragedy here.

The morals of Donald Trump have been on display for all to see for some time, but what is truly reprehensible is that we as a nation, as Americans, have accepted that this behavior is OK with us, that we can live with this, because this is all about politics.

And too many of us have come to accept that.

And worst of all, few of us even think it is news anymore.

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Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Interim Publisher Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Connie Bosse, Barbara Sealy and Alan Whitcomb.


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