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‘Have We Reached a Dangerous Tipping Point in the #MeToo Movement?’

On 'The Ingraham Angle,' a heated discussion — and a passionate pushback by PBS host Tavis Smiley over anonymous allegations

Scores of sexual harassment allegations in the past few weeks have been made against actors, politicians, and many others. Headlines have been saturated with #MeToo stories of (mostly) women who report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

On “The Ingraham Angle” Thursday night, host Laura Ingraham and her guests discussed the potential fallout as two more media figures, at least temporarily, fell from grace.

This week, Ryan Lizza, a correspondent for The New Yorker and a CNN contributor, was fired from the former and suspended from the latter over allegations of improper sexual conduct, according to a report in USA Today. And a major media figure, talk-show host and author Tavis Smiley, was indefinitely suspended by PBS following an inquiry that revealed “multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS,” the network said in a statement.

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The twist? This time, the specifics of the allegations were not made public. “No names, no stories … nothing,” Ingraham said. In addition to the dearth of publicly available detail, unlike many of the other recent #MeToo stories, both men this week insisted the relationships in question were consensual.

Smiley went directly to Facebook in a counterattack. In his video, he said that “PBS overreacted, and they launched a sloppy investigation. It is clear that this has gone too far. And I, for one, intend to fight back.”

“Have we reached a dangerous tipping point in the #MeToo movement?” Ingraham asked. “Is this the start of some serious pushback from men, and maybe women, too?” She went on to emphasize that she believes that sexual harassment in the workplace indefensible — and that lodging unprovable allegations 20 years after the fact is unfair to the accused.

“I’ve known Tavis as a casual friend for about 20 years,” she said. “I think he’s telling the truth.”

She also said, “My gut, I watched Tavis … he’s really ticked off. He’s really mad. And now a consensual relationship in the workplace is tantamount to sexual harassment.”

Related: National Football League Is Getting Sacked Again — Over These Allegations

“In the name of justice, you can’t just be charging men and having secret investigations with people who may have had consensual relationships … This feels like a revival of ‘The Crucible,'” said Raymond Arroyo, managing editor of EWTN News, on “The Ingraham Angle.”

Arroyo added that someone he had worked with, actor Robert Knepper, was cleared that day of similar charges. After the charges were lodged, Knepper was suspended. Following an investigation by Warner Bros., he was cleared to return to the set of “iZombie.”

“He was almost driven away entirely,” Arroyo said. “There were reports in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. His name was tarnished as a result of this. And I worry when you have [even] dead people who are charged … There’s a fever in the air, and that men, particularly those in the public eye, are susceptible.”

“I, for one, intend to fight back.”

Dr. Wendy Osefo, a Democratic strategist and the Johns Hopkins University professor, agreed with that. “Even if you are found innocent, the court of public opinion has already judged you.”

Ingraham said she believes the #MeToo movement will expand to include more women as alleged perpetrators. In addition, she expressed concerns that employers, both men and women, will become increasingly reluctant to hire women if this trend continues.

“Men, and women, perhaps are going to be afraid to operate in the workplace because of these kinds of charges.”

Michele Blood is a freelance writer based in Flemington, New Jersey.

(photo credit, homepage image: Tavis Smiley, CC BY-ND 2.0, by Center for American Progress Action Fund; photo credit, article image: Melanie Barnes and Tavis Smiley, CC BY-ND 2.0, by Center for American Progress Action Fund)