Due process, you’re now officially uncanceled.
Sure, you had your temporary reinstatement last spring when a woman named Tara Reade (remember her?) accused then-candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault. All woman couldn’t be believed, it seemed, as journalists began uncovering damning evidence about Reade’s history, like the fact that she, um, had issues with landlords and former acquaintances called her “deceitful” and “manipulative.”
Plus, it was just one woman and nobody really paid much attention. Giving men accused of sexual impropriety a chance to clear their name could still be problematic, it seemed. After all, if we had to apply those standards to every situation, we might have to critically examine those Title IX show trials at colleges and universities and, let’s face it, who wants that?
But no. Sometimes you’ve just got to plant your flag in the sand and say enough is enough. For Slate, that moment came when yet another Andrew Cuomo accuser came forth.
Was it the third? Fourth? Fifth? Are we even keeping track now? We were actually on number three when Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick came forward to say that it’s high time we realize, in the case of New York’s Democratic governor, that nobody’s saying “drawn-out sexual harassment investigations are perfect, but that doesn’t make the press-and-rush-to-resignation version a perfect substitute.”
Many years ago, back when Twitter’s sense of humor still existed and cut both ways, the hashtag #slatepitches was one of the best things ever. Basically, it was a competition to try and come up with a fake headline obnoxiously liberal and/or contrarian enough that it could, theoretically, be the title of a Slate piece. Personal favorites: “Suck It: How Chewing Is Destroying Food,” “Soccer: It’s time to let players use their hands,” and “What ‘Twilight’ can teach us about climate change.”
Lithwick wasn’t trying for a #slatepitch, but she almost succeeded. Her Wednesday piece was headlined: “Maybe It’s a Good Thing Andrew Cuomo Is Still Governor: The Me Too movement should welcome due process.”
Oh, thank goodness! So we’ll start asking some serious questions about the inconsistencies in the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, right?
Not quite. Lithwick was responding specifically to piece in Monday’s New York Times by columnist Michelle Goldberg and criticizing Goldberg’s point “that the failure of high-profile Democrats to demand Cuomo’s resignation in the face of credible (and contemporaneously reported) claims about inappropriate comments, texts, and behavior suggests a diminution in the power of #MeToo.”
“As she argues, not incorrectly, ‘if this scandal had broken a few years ago, high-profile Democrats would have felt no choice but to call for Cuomo’s resignation,'” Lithwick writes. “Goldberg also surmises that part of this failure stems from a public pivot away from gender to race concerns, and a lingering regret on the part of Democrats about ejecting Al Franken from the Senate.”
The piece is profoundly blinkered and doesn’t look beyond any #MeToo scandal that doesn’t involve two very specific cases that happened in an insanely narrow time frame in the late fall of 2017. First, in a Senate race in Alabama, controversial former judge Roy Moore won the Republican nomination in the special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who had resigned to become then-President Trump’s attorney general. Moore was accused of sexual impropriety involving young women going back several decades.
As this happened, Democrat Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota was also accused of improprieties. The thing was that, in Franken’s case, there was a picture of him pretending to grope the breasts of one of his accusers while she was asleep during a flight on a USO tour. Democrats pressured Franken to resign because his continued presence in the Senate made it difficult for them to wage a #MeToo war (ultimately successful) against Moore.
Franken’s resignation has long been a sore spot for liberals for a number of reasons. Some feel, not incorrectly, it was forced upon him so that Democrats could score an upset victory in Alabama. There’s also a bit of cynical buyer’s remorse: The Democrat who ended up getting elected in Moore’s place, Doug Jones, didn’t make any substantive difference in the Senate’s balance of power and ended up getting crushed in 2020 when he ran for a full term. Even more cynically, there are plenty of Democrats who have continued to grumble that so many of Franken’s accusers were conservatives.
But again, Lithwick’s piece on Cuomo deals very narrowly with the Moore/Franken kerfuffle, which allows her to say things like this: “As I have tried to argue throughout the #MeToo era, journalism when it is not followed up by fact-finding and due process was never going to be the answer to the power and information imbalances that lead to sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood, in government, and in the judiciary,” Lithwick wrote.
“I am a journalist myself, and I am wholly in favor of a sober and serious probe into Cuomo’s alleged conduct. It’s not a terrible thing to allow an independent investigator to gather all the facts and arrive at a formal conclusion before calling for his immediate ouster,” she continued.
“To allow a formal fact-finding process to play out is neither a disparagement of his accusers — whose accounts should be taken absolutely seriously — nor a get-out-of-jail-free card for the governor. It is merely an acknowledgment of something that should have been clear from the vitally important beginnings of the #MeToo era: There is a difference between having the media surface and report predation, and having something akin to a formal process investigate and determine what occurred and what should be done about it. The press has never pretended to be experts at that latter function.
“This isn’t a knock on the crucial role played by journalism, which has been invaluable in smoking out abuses that are all too often obscured by confidentiality agreements, acute power imbalances, and victim shaming. It’s simply a recognition that journalism should launch the process of due process, as opposed to finishing it.”
Now you may think that I’m saving Lithwick’s points regarding the elephant in the #MeToo due process room to the very end to keep you reading. If only. Let me illustrate the problem with this piece by pointing out the number of times a certain proper noun appeared (or didn’t appear) in the article:
In a piece about due process involving political figures accused of sexual impropriety, not once did Lithwick see fit to mention that a Supreme Court nominee named Brett Kavanaugh was tarred and feathered as a sexual abuser based on uncorroborated testimony regarding events that happened decades prior by a woman who was an ideological opponent of that nominee and whose accusations were reported uncritically by Democrats and the media.
When Kavanaugh reacted angrily at being called a sexual abuser, this was actually taken as evidence he was guilty. Despite an investigation that couldn’t corroborate the version of events that painted Kavanaugh as a predator, no one on the left cared.
All this and Kavanaugh never killed a single nursing home resident. Oh, the joys of having a D after your name.
Since Lithwick wrote this piece, more women have come forward and accused Cuomo of untoward behavior. The Washington Post ran a Saturday story describing a “hostile, toxic” workplace environment that stretched back decades in which “former aides and advisers described to The Post a toxic culture in which the governor unleashes searing verbal attacks on subordinates. Some said he seemed to delight in humiliating his employees, particularly in group meetings, and would mock male aides for not being tough enough.”
This isn’t even touching on the worst part of Cuomo’s troubles: The increasing body of evidence that his administration altered numbers on nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus and hid those numbers from the public. But, hey, the guy deserves due process, right?
Yes, he does. So did Brett Kavanaugh — and Roy Moore, for that matter — but it’s interesting how the tone switches when Andrew Cuomo is the one in the crosshairs.
At least we can thank the New York governor for officially uncanceling due process.
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