There is no longer any politics in our political contests. There is only slander.
As pleased as I was to see Andrew Cuomo resign the governorship of New York, the accusations that elicited his departure depressed me rather badly. Cuomo, for all that I dislike him as a man and a public official, was brought low by a charge increasingly deployed against persons of whom nothing else negative can be said: allegations of sexual impropriety. Why that weapon? Was there nothing pertinent to his gubernatorial responsibilities that could be held against him?
Deanna Fisher’s article of this morning highlights the prevalence of the sexual-impropriety weapon:
[W]hen, at a rally on Sunday, Trump endorsed Charles Herbster for governor, it drew some attention. While the gubernatorial race in Nebraska hasn’t exactly drawn a ton of national attention, Herbster has quite a lot of baggage.
Eight women have accused Herbster of sexual misconduct, including state Sen. Julie Slama (R), who said he reached up her skirt and touched her inappropriately in 2019, according to The Nebraska Examiner.”
Since the publication of the allegations, one of Herbster’s other alleged victims, Elizabeth Todsen, went public about her claims after first being included as an anonymous accuser in the report.”
And yes, while these claims are just claims, can I just remind everyone that Andrew Cuomo was never charged with anything either, and had an equal amount of women accusing him of sexual misconduct?
Such allegations are being used to cripple candidates for high office. No, that’s not new. Neither will I insist that such claims are always entirely fallacious. But consider them in isolation from their political utility for a moment. Consider their typical age. What substantiable accusation of bad behavior is allowed to “age in the can” for as long as these?
Such accusations are mounted against any male candidate who cannot account for every instant of his life from puberty onward. Rare is he who is not required to face them. It gives new emphasis to Mike Pence’s policy of never being alone with any woman other than his wife.
The allegation of sexual impropriety has become the flamethrower of politics. It wounds, sometimes fatally, even without needing substantiation. The accused seldom recovers his reputation, regardless of exoneration or subsequent revelations. I mentioned Jack Ryan only a couple of weeks ago. Do any of my readers remember Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones, wrongfully accused of raping Tawana Brawley?
Brawley’s claims in the case captured headlines across the country. Public rallies were held denouncing the incident. Racial tension climbed. When civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, with attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, began handling Brawley’s publicity, the case quickly took on an explosive edge. At the height of the controversy in June 1988, a poll showed a gap of 34 percentage points between blacks (51%) and whites (85%) on the question of whether she was lying.
Sharpton, Maddox, and Mason generated a national media sensation. The three claimed officials all the way up to the state government were trying to cover up defendants in the case because they were white. Specifically, they named Steven Pagones, an Assistant District Attorney in Dutchess County, as one of the rapists, and called him a racist, among other accusations….
In 1998, Pagones was awarded $345,000 (he sought $395 million) through a lawsuit for defamation of character that he had brought against Sharpton, Maddox and Mason. The jury found Sharpton liable for making seven defamatory statements about Pagones, Maddox for two and Mason for one. The jury deadlocked on four of the 22 statements over which Pagones had sued, and it found eight statements to be non-defamatory. In a later interview, Pagones said the turmoil caused by the accusations of Brawley and her advisers had cost him his first marriage and much personal grief.
Pagones had also sued Brawley. She defaulted by not appearing at the trial, and the judge ordered her to pay him damages of $185,000. The $65,000 judgment levied against Al Sharpton was paid for him in 2001 by supporters, including attorney Johnnie Cochran plus former businessman Earl G. Graves, Jr. In December 2012, the New York Post reported that Maddox had paid his judgment of $97,000 and Mason was making payments on the $188,000 which he owed. Brawley reportedly had not made any payments. The following month a court ordered her wages garnished to pay Pagones.
Haven’t we had enough yet? Isn’t it long past time that our legal system put a sharp temporal limit on how long after the purported event such a claim can be made? Isn’t it long past time that We the People demand that such claims be made promptly, no more than a day or two having elapsed since the event, if we’re to give them credence?
There will come a time when we will look back on all this and ask “What were they thinking?” – and I don’t mean the persons who were accused. We are the worst sort of fools to give any attention or respect to these accusers, whose shrill denunciations and implausible claims of victimization (often stale by twenty years or more) deserve only to be snorted aside with contempt.