On November 9, the Washington Post published a news article detailing Leigh Corfman’s allegation that in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32, Alabama Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore, initiated a sexual encounter with her.
The article went on to dramatize the accounts of other women who were young, but at or over the legal age of consent in Alabama when they had relationships with Moore that did not include sexual contact.
Moore stands accused – and to date, only accused – of sexual misconduct with a minor, and having consensually, almost platonically, dated 3 women of the age of consent.
Moore’s campaign has denied the allegation. Aside from Corfman’s account, statements from others that she told them about it much later, and the obvious smear of recounting Moore’s sexless dates with adult women as if there was something nefarious about them, no corroborating evidence for Corfman’s allegation has been offered.
So of course, as should be expected of the stewards of the U.S. Constitution that our federal representatives are, his potential colleagues in Washington are calling for cooler heads, and a thorough investigation, right?
Well, no. Several representatives proclaimed their condemnation, but at least they hedged it with the biggest little word in the English language, “IF.”
If the allegations are true, the consensus goes, Moore should drop out of the race.
Senator John McCain, however, immediately condemned Moore with a statement relying on presumption of guilt.
The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) November 9, 2017
Many might think McCain’s statement is very similar to those of his colleagues, and consider the omission of that little word, “IF,” to be inconsequential, but it’s not.
What Senator John McCain has basically called for with that tweet would set a disturbing precedent, especially in the current legal/social environment.
We live in a legal environment in which female false accusers of sexual violence face few, if any, legal repercussions. They barely face social repercussions. A woman has little or nothing to lose by leveling such an attack at any man.
Already our society is too quick to “listen and believe” when such accusations are made. The accuser doesn’t even have to actually prove there was any contact before people start calling for blood.
Even denial by the accused doesn’t change the public’s response.
Should legislators pressure Moore into resigning without any investigation or any presentation of evidence to support Corfman’s allegations, it would establish the mere making of sexual misconduct allegations as a means to disqualify any candidate for political office, and that precedent would be followed until someone had the courage to refuse to follow it.
A single unscrupulous female citizen could control the outcome of any election involving male candidates by simply waiting until it would be too late for political parties to replace shamed candidates, and then flinging allegations to force one to drop out of the election.
And what would that mean for seated civil servants? If a candidate can be disqualified by virtue of mere accusation, why not a legislator? Why not a mayor, governor, or president?
Why not a judge? Should defendants be able to get rid of judges they don’t feel are treating them fairly by flinging or having a woman fling an unproved but unfalsifiable accusation that the judge committed a random act of sexual misconduct “way back when…?”
Or perhaps, should we, with cooler heads, call for a thorough investigation, while all agreeing that the accusation is of an act which, if committed, would be a disqualifying breach of law and accepted ethical standards?
After all, why have judges at all… why have a legal system… if we are just going to leap past assessment of evidence and presume guilt by reason of accusation?
Latest posts by Hannah Wallen (see all)
- Liar, liar – Accountability gap exposed | HBR Talk 21 - January 18, 2018
- Crime and punishment three – revenge of the accountability gap | HBR talk 20 - January 11, 2018
- Crime and punishment too: Son of accountability gap – HBR Talk 19 - January 4, 2018