Blindly Attacking the Defenders of Those Accused of Sex Abuse Is Counterproductive and Dangerous

This weekend’s news cycle has been dominated by a theme: Attacking those, specifically the President of the United States and his chief of staff, who dared to even somewhat defend those who have been accused of sexual abuse. President Donald Trump has been roundly castigated by just about everyone not possessing a membership card in “Cult 45” for making multiple statements appearing to “defend” two former male members of his administration accused of domestic violence. Trump lamented the fact that lives are being destroyed by mere accusation and reminded people that those involved have insisted they are innocent. Similarly, though not in nearly as high-profile a manner, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens got thrown to the Twitter mob because he dared to take the extremely unpopular position of defending actor/director Woody Allen against an old allegation of child sex abuse that has haunted him for a generation. I totally why there has been such a rabid reaction to these events. The vast majority of people, quite appropriately, have extraordinary disdain for sexual abusers. And on an issue as understandably emotionally-charged as this one, passions can easily cause not only the accused to be targeted with great anger, but also those who appear to support them in any way as well. Specifically, Trump, having “convicted” many people inappropriately over the years, is clearly a very poor spokesperson for the cause of defending “due process.” He also has obviously worn out his benefit of the doubt after having rushed to support numerous men who have been accused, apparently truthfully, of sexual abuse. Meanwhile, Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, is also getting rightly ripped for providing a contradictory timeline of events leading to Rob Porter’s resignation. Though I am confused as to why Kelly finally being convinced by damning photos that Porter really did abuse his wife is so infuriating to so many people. Then there is also the issue of the nature of our currently very broken public “discourse” being extremely slanted (especially on Twitter) toward the perspective which is more popular and politically correct. No one wants to be on the very unpopular side of a heated issue and in this toxic #MeToo environment it is easy for people to get destroyed simply for taking the “wrong” side (even Matt Damon!). In short, the lure of “virtue signaling” is very strong, and often is totally overwhelming. It is also frequently counterproductive and dangerous. It appears that we have now reached that point in this new cycle. To be clear, it sure seems to me that Rob Porter is “guilty” and that he should never have risen to the level he did within the White House. On the other hand, the story of Trump speechwriter David Sorenson appears to be far more complex, and he may well be totally innocent (it may have been his case to which Trump was referring in his much criticized tweet on Saturday). As for Woody Allen, I have no idea what really happened there except that it was investigated and he that, like almost every other high-profile person being caught up in the #MeToo movement, was not even charged with a crime. But here’s what I do know: Every person, even a rich white male, deserves a legitimate chance to defend themselves before they have their lives destroyed, especially in cases like these where the real truth is usually very difficult to know for sure. How did we ever get to the point where defending a person accused of something as being plausibly innocent is somehow the same thing as claiming that what they allegedly did is remotely acceptable?! Because there is no longer any doubt that this bizarro world is exactly where we are. Sending the attack dogs after those who dare to even caution against rushing to judgment has an incredibly chilling effect on the truth ever coming out in any viable manner, especially in today’s badly busted new media. I can honestly say that no one knows more about this scary reality than me. When the much-misunderstood Al Franken controversy was going on I was asked by USA Today to write something about my view that the now former senator was getting railroaded. Since the facts were on my side, and I was a conservative defending a liberal icon, I figured that the process would be remarkably easy. Instead, the intense vetting my piece endured — to an almost hilarious level — was a total nightmare and caused the column to be delayed for at least a critical week. This had nothing to do with what I was saying (in an opinion piece!), but everything to do with the insane level of political correctness protection that accusers, even those alleging little more than an overly rehearsed kiss, now get in this post-Weinstein environment. I have experienced the same phenomenon on steroids in my now six-year quest to tell the truth of what really did and did not happen in the so-called “Penn State Scandal.” I am positive that my narrative is FAR closer to the truth than the mainstream media’s, but the nonsensical rules that they have set up for cases like this one (especially when they are completely invested in a premature conclusion) have made it impossible, at least so far, to properly tell the full story. I have even been dissuaded from writing about elements of the #MeToo movement which I believe to be lacking in credibility. The fact that even someone like me, who cares less about being “popular” than probably any other public person, can be “chilled” even a little should show you just how dramatic the impact has been across the board. Exploring counter narratives in this realm simply has no reward in comparison to the great risk involved. No one is saying that accusers don’t deserve strong protection, but it is now abundantly clear that the pendulum of protection has now swung too far in their direction. Contrary to the media’s fundamental presumption in this realm, there are reasons why some accusers may exaggerate, or even fabricate accusations, especially against high-profile people and institutions with deep pockets. Being a law-and-order conservative with two young daughters, no one is more in favor of punishing guilty sex abusers more than me, but shouldn’t we at least make sure they are actually guilty first? When we make it effectively impossible to even support that principle, we are dooming ourselves to injustices just as awful as allowing bad men to get away with harming innocent women. John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at

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