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A middle-aged man going through a divorce begins dating a woman he met online. The relationship becomes torrid and eventually the man sends his girlfriend lewd texts and nude photographs of himself.
Several years later the two break up and, in revenge, the woman shares their private correspondence with other people. Nude pictures of the man wind up on the Internet and ultimately in the media. He is ridiculed and humiliated.
So who is the victim here? If you guessed the 68-year-old man whose five grandchildren can now find naked pictures of him online, you obviously haven't been reading The Washington Post lately. The man in question is Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas. And, according to the The Washington Post, he deserves to be ashamed of his "secret sex life."
Keep in mind that nobody has accused Barton of abuse or even abuse of power. The relationship was consensual. If anything, it is Barton's former girlfriend who may be guilty of a crime; so-called revenge porn is illegal in many places and ought to be. And yet for reasons never explained, The Washington Post and many other media outlets treated Barton like the heir to Harvey Weinstein, even offering anonymity to the woman who overturned his life and humiliated him.
Sex abuse stories have dominated the news for the past six weeks beginning with Weinstein, predators in Hollywood, the media, and politics have been exposed and they have been punished. And that is good news because justice is always good news and we'll continue to bring you updates on those stories as we get them and we're sure we will. But going forward, we should also be careful that the noble effort to end sexual harassment does not degenerate into a witch hunt. It can happen. As the Washington Post just proved.
So with that in mind, two things to remember. First, anonymous accusations always lead to abuses. The right to face your accusers is the cornerstone of justice and has been since ancient Rome. That's why it's enshrined in the Sixth Amendment in the Constitution. That's why we ban star chambers. We don't allow people to accuse others of armed robbery or murder from behind the shield of anonymity. Why do media outlets allow it in cases of sexual harassment?
If you are going to name the accused, you ought to name the accuser, assuming it's an adult.
News organizations are not courts. They shouldn't take a side when guilt and innocence are in dispute. It's too easy to get it wrong and they often do.
Second, not everyone accused of a sex offense is guilty. Not every accuser is telling the truth. I learned this the hard way a number of years ago when I was accused of felony rape by a woman I had literally never even seen.
"If you are going to name the accused, you ought to name the accuser . . ."
She was a certified public accountant in Indiana, upstanding member of her community and also apparently delusional. Her claims were grotesque, but they were highly specific. The assault she said took place in the back room of a restaurant in Louisville on a specific day at around 10:30 p.m. She included loads of graphic and horrifying detail. It was stomach-turning.
And, yet, none of it, none of it was true. I spent the next two months trying to stay out of jail.
I couldn't tell my children because I knew they would be ashamed. I couldn't tell my employer because I knew I would be fired immediately.
I spoke only to lawyers and I paid them a fortune. I took a polygraph exam from the former head polygrapher at the FBI.
I never stopped worrying that the charges would become public and destroy my life.
Everyone accused of sex offense did something wrong. Everybody knows that. And I knew no one would believe otherwise. This isn't a defense of sexual harassment or misbehavior, obviously. It is just a reminder that real life is complicated. More complicated than sermonizing on Twitter.
Sometimes the mob is wrong. Sometimes the innocent are crushed. That's always a tragedy, no matter what the charge is.
Of course, crushing the innocent also may be the point of the exercise and we are seeing that.
Last week a feminist called Emily Lindin announced on Twitter that she was, "not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs in the search for perpetrators of sexual harassment. If some innocent men's reputation have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I'm absolutely willing to pay."
Lindin not surprisingly is a columnist at Teen Vogue. We asked her to come on our show to talk about her views, but she refused.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson's, “Tucker's Thoughts” on Monday, November 27, 2017.