Thursday, October 13, 2016

Using sexual assault to further a political agenda

Donald Trump held a press conference before last Sunday night's debate with Bill Clinton's sexual assault accusers. Then he had the accusers sit in the audience and watch the debate--the same audience where Bill Clinton sat. It was an unprecedented political spectacle. Fox News Trump supporter Sean Hannity and others on Fox News have treated each of Bill Clinton's accusers as sexual assault victims.

The goal of many allied with Trump is to claim that Hillary Clinton hates women as shown by her actions in attacking her husband's accusers. We previously decried this tactic, noting that "the attacks on Mrs. Clinton for defending her husband echo the shrill siren of radical feminism" which assumes guilt on the basis of an accusation. While it is certainly fair to point out Mrs. Clinton's hypocrisy when she urges that women who cry rape "should be believed" while her husband's accusers should not, it is absurd to suggest that it's proper to assume rape on the basis of an accusation.

Ah, but the plot thickens--things just got a lot more complicated for Trump allies. Last Sunday, we wrote about Donald Trump's repulsive locker room bragging about sexual assault. We added this: "And I'm wondering when the women will come forward, a la Bill Cosby? Perhaps this disclosure will trigger women coming forward."

I didn't have to wonder long. The accusers have come out of the woodwork and, mirabile dictu!--they somehow found their way to the New York Times, less than four weeks before the election. The one accusation concerns an alleged event that occurred more than 30 years ago.  That's right--30 years ago. Chances are, Trump can't possibly prove he was somewhere other than where the woman claims he was because any evidence that could support an alibi is obviously long gone by now.

Trump claims his locker room bragging was all talk--that he did not sexually assault anyone. For the same reason that we should not assume Bill Clinton committed sexual assault based on accusations, we should not assume Donald Trump did so, either. Nor should we assume the accusers are liars. We should not take sides unless the claims have been subjected to a fair hearing.

Unfortunately, that's not how a lot of people will look at it.

The mainstream media--which has no use for Trump--will report these accusations 24/7 if possible in an effort to put the final nail in the coffin of the Trump campaign.

Trump supporters will take a different approach--and the real question is: how will Fox News treat these accusations against Trump? Will Sean Hannity et al. give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt--something they steadfastly refuse to do for Bill Clinton? Will they try to smear the accusers even after they treated Bill Clinton's accusers as if they were Mother Theresa's sisters? Or will they do the right thing and report the facts about these accusations without taking sides as to their veracity? And if Fox News does the right thing in this instance, will that expose its hypocrisy because Fox News has failed to do the same in Bill Clinton's case?

My guess: Trump supporters will try to make the case that the accusations against Bill Clinton are credible while the ones against Trump aren't. And my guess is that most objective people will see through that.

That's what happens when you use sexual assault accusations to further a political agenda. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.