VA's Lt. Gov. is testing the Left's 'believe all accusers' standard

A sexual assault allegation against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has added to the chaos in a state already reeling from the publication of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's yearbook pagethat included a photo featuring one person in blackface and another one in a Ku Klux Klan costume. But more broadly, the allegation will be a test of the Left's "believe all accusers" standard that has emerged in recent years, most prominently in the confirmation hearings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

When the photo of Northam emerged and his response was initially to say he was in the photo, though he later claimed he was not, Democrats were quick to call for his departure. The calls to resign were no doubt a mix of legitimate disgust at the photo and a more cynical calculation knowing that Fairfax — a younger and more charismatic black Democrat — was in line to replace Northam should he resign. Not to mention, abandoning Northam was a convenient way for national Democrats to sidestep questions about whether they agreed with his horrifying recent statements on abortion. 

But now there's a sexual assault allegation against Fairfax, and his accuser has hired the law firm that represented Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. So what do Democrats do?

Putting aside politics for a moment, I understand where the "believe all accusers" impulse comes from. For far too long in our society, claims of women who were survivors of various forms of sexual misconduct have been blithely dismissed. Male assailants have moved on and up the ladder while women have had to live with the emotional consequences of what happened, and the lack of punishment makes everything sting that much more. The lack of confidence that they will be taken seriously also discourages women who have been harassed or assaulted from coming forward to bring perpetrators to justice. 

However noble the intentions may be, if the "believe all accusers" statement is followed in every case, it will inevitably clash with the long tradition of due process in this country. It's true that with accusations against public figures that aren't going to court, they don't involve the same evidentiary standards as a legal proceeding. But just because there may be looser standards outside the legal arena, it doesn't mean there should be no principle of fairness. 

I would say it's similar to the issue of free speech. It isn't a violation of the First Amendment every time somebody is denied a platform from which to speak, but because the principle of free speech exists, as a society, we tend to have a concept of open speech that strives to allow for a broader debate in the public sphere. (Ultimately it is the concept of open speech that's being breached when figures such as Ben Shapiro are barred from speaking at a given college campus, not the constitutionally protected First Amendment freedom of speech.) 

Likewise, accusers of public figures may not be expected to prove their accusations true beyond a reasonable doubt, but people accused of something that, if true, would be seriously damaging to them, should be able to have a fair hearing, and there should be some sort of evidence that sufficiently corroborates any allegation. The "believe every accuser" standard, followed to its logical endpoint, is incompatible with this principle. 

Democrats, in the past, have shown a willingness to ignore accusers when it was politically convenient. For instance, they dismissed multiple rape accusations against Bill Clinton, even though he had a long history of misconduct toward women. And that wasn't in an ancient era — it was a few years after the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. 

In this case, it turns out that a woman approached the Washington Post after Fairfax was elected in 2017 to come forward with the accusation that he assaulted her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. But the Post, which played a central role in advancing accusations against Kavanaugh, has now revealed it determined not to run the woman's story because "Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present. The Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version." 

Though the Post says that the woman had not told anybody of the event before contacting the publication, there are ways in which her accusation is more credible than the one from Ford, who was the most credible of Kavanaugh's accusers. For instance, the accuser is able to identify the time and place when she says the assault happened, Fairfax acknowledges that a sexual encounter took place (even while saying it was fully consensual), and the gap between the time of the said assault by Fairfax and her first mentioning it was shorter at just over 13 years. 

In the case of Ford, the Post relied on excerpts of therapist notes provided by Ford's lawyers indicating she mentioned the assault in a 2012 session — notes that didn't mention Kavanaugh by name, had some different details, and came 30 years after the supposed encounter. Ford was only sure that the encounter with Kavanuagh happened at some point in a summer during her high school years, at various points describing it as somewhere from the early to mid-'80s, before homing in on the summer of 1982. And nobody Ford mentioned as being at the party when the alleged assault took place could even corroborate the party. 

Whether the Washington Post applied a double standard, however, doesn't mean that Democrats have to as well. It's possible that they may decide, with a Democratic attorney general waiting in the wings to take over, they can sacrifice Fairfax and signal that they aren't hypocrites when it comes to policing their own.


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