I’ve spent many hours on national TV talking about politics and current affairs, including sexual harassment and the #MeToo Movement. Many women and some men — some famous, some not — have shared with me their stories of being sexually harassed or abused. It is something that has affected my life and that of practically every woman I know. I have the greatest of respect and gratitude for women who have spoken out. They are serving as an inspiration for many and making the world a little better for future generations.
At times, things strike closer to home.
Coral Gables is my home. The City Beautiful is ensnared in a telenovela-like bureaucratic power struggle that has spilled into public view. Coral Gables' police chief, veteran law enforcement officer Ed Hudak, was called and asked by 14 of his female police officers to drop by a pool party they were having. Some of their spouses and children were there, too. Hudak posed for a picture. The women were in bikinis and bathing suits. Hudak was in uniform.
This wasn’t an Al Franken type picture. Nobody was getting inappropriately touched or grabbed. No lewd gestures. None of the kind of images we’ve cringed at seeing in some cases. This picture was posted on social media. An anonymous website was launched that became the platform for attacks on Hudak and the officers at the party. The officers were the targets of online harassment and requested the website be investigated. They still don’t know who was behind it. An anonymous complaint was received alleging Hudak behaved inappropriately at the pool party.
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This led the city to hire an outside investigator at a cost of more than $50,000 to our small municipality. The exhaustive investigation and 600-page report found no impropriety. But that wasn’t quite the end of it.
The city manager issued a scathing letter against Hudak. He’s now being dragged in front of the City Commission to prolong the public shellacking.
I work in politics and media, two industries that have been particularly affected by the issue of misconduct. We have seen famous and powerful men finally pay a price for behavior they got away with for decades. Many have lost their positions and status, rightly so. The tide has changed. People who before did not believe the victims, do so now. Women are empowered, sticking together, supporting each other and not remaining silent anymore. Good!
I take accusations of sexual harassment seriously. Credible allegations must be investigated. If found to be true, rigorous, swift action must be taken. We must have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, even if the perpetrator is somebody we like and admire.
However, with this newfound power, come new responsibilities. The only way to maintain the movement's strength and integrity is to ensure we reserve our outrage and anger for those that deserve it. We have to be careful not to cry, “Wolf”. We cannot casually raise unfounded accusations, ruin careers and taint the reputation of good people. Doing so, will put the veracity of legitimate claims in doubt. Pointing fingers at those who have been found not to have done anything wrong, strikes a blow against real victims everywhere. Fabricated accusations cheapen real ones.
Hudak was anonymously accused. He has been thoroughly investigated. Some argue he should have never put himself and his officers in that situation. That is a valid point. He has faced consequences as a result. But a lapse of judgment is far from an act of impropriety. It's crucial to democracy and good government to scrutinize our public officials. But it’s time to put this to rest. The dysfunction in Washington is bad enough. We need local officials to work with, not undercut each other.
As a woman and Coral Gables resident, I want Chief Hudak and his police officers focused on keeping our community safe.
Ana Navarro is a political commentator for CNN, ABC News and Telemundo.