In the wake of sexual assault/impropriety revelations, I hear a lot of people claim that these situations often unjust. Recently, 100 french women, including Catherine Deneuve published a letter, saying, among other things, that:

Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone's knee or try to steal a kiss

Catherine Deneuve defends men's 'right' to hit on women, BBC

I don't have a good definition of "stealing a kiss", so would rather concentrate on "touching a knee" and similar actions, such as brushing hand on back or buttocks (no squeezing), touching arm.

So, have any public figure been fired or even resigned due to an incident involving such unwanted touching alone?

I could only come up with one case, Garrison Keillor claiming that he was fired because of the following incident:

I put my hand on a woman’s bare back, I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized.

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    No time to craft a full answer now but: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… is fairly well-known in the UK. (independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/…)
    – richardb
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 8:43
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    @richardb: The touching of Mrs. Hartley-Brewer's knee seems to be "only" the last straw there, and Fallon's resignation a kind of damage control regarding earlier incidences...
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 9:44
  • @DevSolar I largely agree. I certainly wasn't going to answer, 'Yes, Michael Fallon'.
    – richardb
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 9:54
  • Women defending men's right to 'steal a kiss'... The French are weird.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


It's most likely a reference to British politician Michael Fallon, who resigned his position as Secretary of State for Defence (but continued to hold his position as an MP) amid a spate of Westminster scandals.

Summary: There was a well-publicised incident with Fallon repeatedly touching a female journalist's knee, but it's misleading to say he was punished or forced out of his job for it:

  • After that story broke, he continued as a minister with the backing not only of the Prime Minister, but also the woman whose knee he had repeatedly touched, who both supported his stance that it was a minor, resolved incident
  • He then resigned as a minister the following day, citing multiple incidents and accusations and admitting his behaviour had been inappropriate over a period of time.
  • Shortly after his resignation, it emerged that other, more serious accusations had become known to him and his colleagues, including at least one which was reported the same day he resigned, plus accusations by one of his ministerial colleagues

However the story had already been reported in many places, including in the French press, as if the knee-touching led directly to Fallon losing his job. For example (Google translation from French):

In an article published earlier this week, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon was accused of having, in 2002, put his hand on a journalist's [lap/knee]. Following his revelations, he resigned on Wednesday.

The first accusation against Fallon to be made public, before he resigned, was that he repeatedly inappropriately touched a female journalist on the knee during a meeting, until she "politely explained to him that, if he did it again, I would 'punch him in the face'". However:

  • This was neither the only accusation nor the most serious of those Fallon and his colleagues in the Conservative Party are known to have been aware of at the time he resigned (see below). It was rather "the only allegation that had been made public" at that time - there's no evidence to suggest it directly prompted it.
  • Fallon wasn't punished for the knee-related accusation, and continued as a minister, with official backing:
  • He then went on to choose to resign as a minister the next day, and his resignation letter makes it clear this was about more than one incident or accusation, and doesn't cite this specific incident:

    A number of allegations have surfaced about MPs in recent days, including some about my previous conduct. Many of these have been false but I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require...

Other allegations against Fallon known to have been discussed among senior Conservatives at the time include:

There are also cases of people being criticised for putting their hands on others' knees, for example this article about Adam Sandler on a UK chat show, but there's no suggestion at all that he was in any way forced out of a job or punished beyond being talked about / written about, or that it was particularly reported on in France.

  • Another example of someone being strongly accused because of knee touching: independent.co.uk/voices/…
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 21:11
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    @PoloHoleSet It's just as ambiguous in British English, but I'd expect something like written notes Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 21:39
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    @Sklivvz hmm, I'll edit it in for completeness but I can't see any suggestion that anyone even thought Adam Sandler was forced out of any job for that or anything similar Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 21:41
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    @Sklivvz - I found the actual video, compared to the claims of her reactions, to fall more than a little short of descriptions. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 21:43
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    @Sklivvz i would say, Adam Sandler's incident is close to the point by act, but not repercussions Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 6:51

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