Sharon Harris grasps the nettle and addresses the issue of sexual harassment

From 1952-1958, millions of American children watched the thrilling weekly adventures of Superman, the comic book character introduced in 1938. As the Nazis spread evil across Europe, people needed a superhero that successfully fought brutal terrorism and injustice. Superman fit the bill.

The global 1950s Communist threats coincided with the emergence of televisions in American living rooms. Actress Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz’s television studio could now bring a live Superman onto the small screen.

I was too young for the first run, but remember the 1960s reruns. I too thrilled to this “man of steel” battling the bad guys. In the opening set to great music, Superman flew through the air to this bold verbal introduction:

“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s Superman!”

Yes, it’s Superman… strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman… who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!”

I still believe in those final words about justice, but it’s becoming increasingly tougher. In 2018, the issue of sexual harassment and assault permeates every American industry, from politics and business to entertainment, arts and sports. Accusations are everywhere and have brought down the powerful, often without any evidence.

The #metoo movement, which encourages alleged victims to go public, even after decades, has propelled the furor. This issue has now reached the gaming industry.

In January, the respected Wall Street Journal reported that more than 150 people publicly condemned billionaire casino titan Steve Wynn for sexual harassment. Dozens actually accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior in his hotels’ massage rooms.

The most egregious allegation claims that despite her objections, Wynn coerced a married manicurist to have sex on a massage table in 2005. The employee later filed a detailed report with the hotel’s supervisor and Wynn allegedly paid a $7.5 million settlement.

If true, it is shocking. Steve Wynn has been an iconic industry legend and one of the last people I would expect to face these charges. From day one, he has vehemently denied all accusations and has countersued for defamation of character.

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Wynn told the Journal, “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous. We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations, regardless of the truth, and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multi-year lawsuits. It is deplorable for anyone to find themselves in this situation.”

Despite his protestations, it’s too late for Wynn to redeem his reputation. Since January, he has resigned as CEO of Wynn Resorts and as the Republican National Committee’s chief fundraiser. His college alma mater, the prestigious Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, has stripped his name from his namesake scholarships.

New Wynn Resorts CEO Matthew Maddox confirmed that the company’s almost-completed Boston casino will change the name from Wynn to Encore – similar to the Las Vegas property – for its casino license. Maddox explained, “This company is not about a man…Wynn Resorts is about the 25,000 employees that grow this company every day.”

Let me loudly confirm my contempt for proven sexual harassment or predators. Yet, for years in industries from Washington to Hollywood, the anger has been selective.

The Hollywood community has long known and ignored its worst offenders. Congress actually established the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995, mandating secret settlements via a taxpayers’ fund. In two decades, payouts have totaled millions. With exposure and public outrage, many representatives and senators have now resigned and repaid the fees.

However sickening, many of the accused have vehemently denied allegations and American law entitles them to their own day in court. We have to get it right, like in the case of comedy legend Bill Cosby, now 80. He was just convicted by a jury on three counts of sexual assault and could serve a long prison sentence.

I have never encountered sexual harassment or worse, but have rejected advances and obnoxious comments during my career. I thought I knew the definition, but who knows in today’s climate. What I considered someone being a jerk may now be labeled harassment.

This incredibly complex issue deserves more analysis than one column. Watch for an in-depth examination of sexual and/or verbal harassment this summer. How are companies reacting to accusations and what procedures are they instituting to train men and women in their employ?

There are no easy answers.