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Jason Bateman / Image via Shutterstock

Amid all the very serious news playing out over the last week — important decisions in the June primary approaching, a historic vote in Ireland, continued tensions with North Korea, children being wrenched from their parents as a matter of U.S. policy — it was, of all things, an interview with the cast of a zany TV comedy that made the biggest impact.

That’s because the interview wasn’t zany or comedic, it was appalling.

In it, the cast of “Arrested Development,” talks about an instance in which actor Jeffrey Tambor berated his TV wife, Jessica Walter, on set. Walter is clearly still shaken by the incident, years later, and even cries during the interview. Yet the entire cast, particularly Jason Bateman, bends over backward to comfort and condone … Tambor.

It’s this endless, excruciating series of excuses that made the piece go viral. Because even though I believe most women have probably experienced being screamed at (or worse) inappropriately by a coworker or boss, it might be this second wave of bad behavior — in which seemingly rational people explain it away, minimize what happened, eagerly urge you to move on, downplay it, downplay you — that stings the worst.

At NPR, Linda Holmes zeroed in on why the story touched such a raw nerve with so many women, even though the incident at the heart of it all — Walter being yelled at by Tambor — wasn’t even close to the worst instance of workplace misbehavior we’ve seen in the news lately.

Many of us — yes, women, but humans in general — prepare for conflict by trying to toughen up. We build leathery skins and metal bones, and we learn how to fight back without being blamed for the force we used. Come at us throwing rocks, and we cross our forearms and hope they bounce off. Come at us in secret, we run for light. Come at us harder, we at least try to get away. But there is something about these gentle poisoned touches, where someone puts a hand on your shoulder and says, “I understand, but after all,” and an audience cheers, and something bad seeps underneath your skin and up your neck.

And at Buzzfeed, Anne Helen Peterson points out that one of Bateman’s justifications of Tambor’s behavior — that the cast is like a family, and don’t all families fight? — is a kind of poisonous rationale that encourages people to excuse behavior that’s inexcusable: “To call a workplace a family is to elevate the loyalty one should feel to the idea of the company and its members and simultaneously excuse, or flatten, any bad behavior or damage inflicted within its confines.”

In many ways, Bateman’s behavior was more disappointing than Tambor’s. Tambor is a known bad actor who’s been written off the show “Transparent” for harassing co-workers. Bateman is a seemingly nice guy whose words in the interview are nice on their face — he’s just sticking up for his longtime coworker! Can’t everyone just shake it off? — and that’s why it’s so hurtful. Not because his reaction is outrageous on its face. But because his reaction is familiar.

What VOSD Learned This Week

We’re at just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stories about educator abuse and misconduct in local public schools. That’s because several districts and individual teachers have fought our request for public records about those incidents.

This week, Ashly McGlone gave a detailed rundown of our court battle to obtain records across the county. Plus, some news: A Superior Court judge ruled that Vista and San Marcos schools must turn over records to VOSD, after teachers who didn’t want their records released tried to block the documents from being made public.

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If you’re overwhelmed by the deluge of news and claims being made about immigration policies, man, you should be following Maya Srikrishnan’s work. This week she had three stories that all shed important light on the realities of how state and national policies are playing out in San Diego.

First, new federal policies have resulted in a surge of criminal border-crossing cases that’s causing chaos and confusion in court. Former U.S. attorneys say the last time they tried this strategy, it didn’t go well.

Then there’s new state policy, the so-called sanctuary state law: Numbers show the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has notified ICE of unauthorized immigrants release dates less than it has in previous years. But the people not being picked up by ICE upon their release from county jails aren’t the murderous gang members critics of the measure often suggest the law is protecting – they’re people who’ve committed misdemeanors.

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The city and the Port are nearing a deal to buy out the partnership that owns the lease to a piece of land crucial to a Convention Center expansion for $32 million. The city could have bought out that same lease for $12.5 million plus interest a few years ago.

Over in Chula Vista, city officials say public safety staffing is so dire that residents should approve the second sales tax hike in two years to fund more police and fire personnel.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“‘Why do you care?’ is a question that has been slapped against me like a cold, slimy haddock carcass many times since the royal wedding became a topic of conversation last fall. The answer is: I don’t care at all, and yet I must know every detail or I will die.” – This hilarious, perfect piece on the royal wedding was exactly what I needed this week.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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