A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.
Mario Batali, the celebrity chef and restaurateur, is the latest case. Batali has been in career exile since December, when the website Eater reported numerous accusations of sexual harassment and groping against him, dating back decades. Among other allegations, he was said to have grabbed colleagues’ breasts and compelled a female employee to straddle him. Even worse, a subsequent report in the New York Times included a claim that Batali had, at a party in 2008, kissed and groped a woman who appeared to be unconscious.
Despite a disastrous public apology — it was appended with a recipe for pizza dough cinnamon rolls — Batali barely seemed to take a breath before pondering his professional future. By February, he was in talks about potential next steps, including an idea for a new company, this time headed by a female executive.
But over the past few days, 60 Minutes and the Times have disclosed two previously unreported allegations, both from women who said Batali had drugged them. One of the women said she was at his restaurant Babbo in 2004 and woke up as he was raping her. The other woman said he assaulted her in 2005 at the Spotted Pig, the New York City gastro pub owned by Batali’s close friend Ken Friedman, who also was accused of widespread sexual harassment. The New York Police Department reportedly is investigating both incidents.
Batali, who has denied engaging in nonconsensual sex, has so far declined to send out another baked goods recipe.
A similar arc has played out with Charlie Rose, the television host who, in a November Washington Post exposé, was accused of sexual misconduct — including groping, lewd phone calls and exposing himself — by eight women who had worked or hoped to work with him.
The journalist Tina Brown reportedly said at a private event in April that she had been approached about co-hosting a new show with Rose, in which they would interview other men who had faced #MeToo allegations. "These guys are already planning their comebacks!" Brown is said to have scoffed, noting that she turned down the offer.
One week later, more than two dozen additional sexual harassment accusers came forward against Rose in a follow-up article in the Post, in which it was also reported that CBS, his employer, had been aware of allegations against him starting more than 30 years ago.
Though the past seven months have ushered in an enormous shift in how society responds to episodes of sexual misconduct, these sagas show how much work remains. Outing individual bad apples is critical, but as long as those bad apples continue to take up space while the women they harmed suffer additional indignities for their bravery in coming forward, the work of the #MeToo movement will not be done.
In the meantime, more of the men who have been felled in recent months might do well to listen to Christine Muhlke, the food writer and consultant who met with Batali in February. "Leave the field," she said she would advise any accused chef, "and let us do the work needed to build something better."