Assault allegations should not end a career
Let’s just be honest here. Politics has now so infected the entire Brett Kavanaugh nomination debate that it is virtually impossible for anyone on either side of the debate to listen to anyone else.
They’ve turned off their brains. They’ve long since abandoned any intention or interest in leaving themselves open to considering the opposing side.
The nonpolitical observers of all this now only hear the screaming, and to be perfectly frank I don’t think they’re listening much either.
Republicans trust absolutely no one, and believe that the Democrats and the media are so obsessed with destroying Donald Trump that they will sink to any low in order to accomplish that.
To Republicans, Christine Blasey Ford is immediately able to be dismissed, and her story is automatically deemed to be a fabrication. She is a Democrat, an anti-Trump activist, and her story is incredibly vague with no corroboration or evidence possible that dates from the time of the event, they argue. This is all political, so dismiss her out of hand.
But that is insane. There is every possibility that the event that Ford claims to have occurred happened exactly as she remembered it. In the general, nonpolitical population of the United States, Democrats have experienced sexual assault at the hands of Republicans, just as much as Republicans have experienced sexual assault at the hands of Democrats.
Just because it helps the Democrats spike a Supreme Court nomination does not make it untrue.
Likewise, to Democrats, Ford’s account is automatically true, and should immediately be believed. The details of the case were never going to matter — it could have been a slam dunk case with an avalanche of evidence, or it could have been completely unprovable. The accusation made is all that is necessary.
But that is just as insane as the Republican reaction. In any kind of situation where a horrific, career-destroying accusation like this is made, it is morally wrong to blindly accept the story with no scrutiny, and use it to destroy someone’s reputation, livelihood or life.
Ford’s letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein is essentially the only evidence she has. Yes, she has produced four people confirming that she told this same story between 2012 and 2017, but that is not evidence of the incident actually occurring. It is evidence that she told the same story to friends — 30 years after the incident allegedly happened — that she told in her letter.
But she told no one at the time. She did not alert the authorities when it happened. She did not even confide in her closest friends.
Which, just to be clear, does not mean it didn’t happen. Victims are often embarrassed and humiliated by an assault, and just want to move on with their lives and forget that it even happened.
Unfortunately, it does mean that there is no way for a reasonable person trying to be fair to everyone — Ford and Kavanaugh both — to truly know what really happened. If we wanted to form a more confident opinion about the truth, we would need some kind of evidence beyond the accusation being made.
Not only do we not have that, but the four other people that she says were at this party, including Kavanaugh, say they do not remember such a party even occurring.
Leland Ingham Keyser, a lifelong friend of Ford’s and one of the other attendees of the party, denied knowledge of the incident or even knowing Kavanaugh. “Simply put,” her lawyer stated to the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with or without Dr. Ford.” Patrick Smyth and Mark Judge have also denied — in sworn statements under penalty of perjury — any recollection of attending such a party.
Which, to reiterate for a third time now, doesn’t mean Ford is lying or that the incident didn’t happen. It just means there is zero contemporary corroboration. Of any kind.
So ultimately, should we use an accusation with no evidence, and no real possibility of acquiring any evidence, to wipe out a person’s reputation and career?
I argue no. And that judgment is not a determination that the incident didn’t happen, that Ford was lying, or that accusers and survivors should ever be dismissed.
Rather, it is a statement that an accusation without evidence can never be something that we use to personally or professionally destroy anyone in this country.
Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.