In Brief

Michael Fallon apologises for touching journalist’s knee

Incident is the second to go viral after Adam Sandler grabs Clare Foy’s leg

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has apologised for placing his hand on a female journalist’s knee during a Conservative Party conference dinner in 2002.

The 15-year-old incident - involving media commentator Julia Hatley-Brewer - was raised as sexual harassment claims rattle Westminster following reports of a “dirty dossier” detailing alleged inappropriate behaviour by MPs.

In comments reported today by Sky News, Fallon’s spokesman said: “He had apologised when the incident happened 15 years ago and both Julia and he now considered the matter closed.” 

For her part, Hatley-Brewer said on social media that she had “no issues” with Fallon and did not regard the incident as anything but “mildly amusing”.

She tweeted that her knees were intact and advised people to “get a grip”.

It was the second knee-touching incident reported during a week of heightened awareness involving sexual harassment issues and men in the public eye.

The first involved actor Adam Sandler, who put his hand on the knee of British actress Claire Foy - star of Netflix series The Crown - when they sat next to each other during a recent recording of the BBC’s Graham Norton Show. A video of the incident, uploaded to YouTube on 29 October, had been viewed more than 1.2 million times by midday today. 

While Sandler has been on the receiving end of criticism from viewers and on social media for the last few days, Foy’s spokeswoman told the Daily Mail: “We don’t believe anything was intended by Adam’s gesture, and it has caused no offence to Claire.”

When contacted by HuffPost yesterday, the actor’s publicist said: “This is so blown out of proportion. Adam did it as a friendly gesture just like here in the Jimmy Fallon clip with Dustin Hoffman.”

But The Independent views Sandler’s actions as a “telling indicator of a casual indifference to another woman’s personal space (whether or not, as some point out, he also touched Dustin Hoffman’s knee on another television show)”.

Vaniety Fair weighed in on the debate, saying that “in light of the Weinstein allegations, no gesture is too small to require explanation”.

Not quite, says Slate. “Sandler’s leg touching is not on the level of the Weinstein or Toback allegations, as much as Fox News, with its newfound mantle of defending from famous men who are not Donald Trump or Bill O’Reilly, might like it to be,” the website argues. “But it’s just another example of the way in which men feel they have the right to touch women’s bodies.”

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