I have to admit, when I first heard the news that Al Gore had been accused of sexual assault by a Portland-area massage therapist, I had to question the source, which at that time was an online National Enquirer article. As fine a publication as the National Enquirer is, I tend to take its “news” stories with a container of Morton’s salt. Then, as I browsed the blogosphere, I came across this post on The Sexist, which caused me to seek out the actual police report on the incident, which includes a lengthy transcription of the 54-year old alleged victim’s account of the assault.
Having read the actual transcript, it boggles my mind that anyone would dismiss this woman’s allegations out of hand. I’m not going to recount the transcript here, but the alleged victim’s description of the event is very detailed, very lucid, and very believable, if you’re not addicted to the Al Gore Kool-Aid. Apparently some women who call themselves feminists were swimming in the punch bowl, because the immediate reaction from many was to discredit the accuser based on trivial things like why she’s kept a pair of pants she wore the night of the assault that had “suspicious stains” on the front of them. Hello? Here’s a little Sex Ed for you: When men are aroused, they can emit a bit of fluid from their “love rod”. That fluid contains – guess what? – DNA! So if you’re a woman accusing an adored, very public figure of sexual assault, why wouldn’t you keep a pair of pants with possible evidence on them to back up your story? Get a clue, people. Hanna Rosin, the woman who wrote the above-referenced “why did she save the pants” article on Double X, had NOT read the police report before she decided to comment on the situation. After she did, she backed down, stating “[...] this very long and detailed statement paints a picture of Al Gore that is so disturbing and so completely at odds with everything we know about him that it’s hard to know what to think.” Really, people, do the legwork. I know everyone wants to be the first to write about this juicy story, but having to update your post after reviewing the evidence just makes you look silly.
Other media outlets haven’t been so gracious as to recant their skepticism and victim-blaming. Salon gives us “3 reasons to doubt the Al Gore sex assault story“. The author, Steve Kornacki, states as his third reason:
We have seen plenty of cases of baseless (if vivid) sexual allegations against celebrities before. Tucker Carlson was once accused of rape by a woman he’d never met, for instance. Something similar happened with magician David Copperfield last year, too. (Plenty of celebrities have been guilty of sex crimes, too, of course.)
So naturally since some baseless allegations have been made, we shouldn’t give the accuser the benefit of the doubt, especially since she has so much to gain from making these accusations, like having other women make fun of her for not washing the aforementioned pants for four years.
The alleged victim’s friend, Donna Burleigh, has spoken out about the truthfulness of her story, stating that her friend recounted the incident to her after it happened in 2006, without revealing the name of the “high profile” client until Gore made an appearance in Portland 2 years later. According to Burleigh, the incident left the alleged victim suffering from panic attacks, and her previous health problems were exacerbated. But, of course, she probably has a history of “hysteria”, reason 4 to doubt her story.
There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the alleged victim was compensated for her story. This article, published online on June 24th, reports:
The editor of the National Enquirer said Thursday the tabloid didn’t pay the Portland massage therapist for its story. The statement rebuts reports that the paper paid $1 million for the story that it broke a day earlier online.
“We did not pay the therapist or any representative of hers,” Editor-in-Chief Tony Frost said. “In fact, she was unaware the story was being published.”
Yet in Howard Kurtz’ column in The Washington Post, he states:
The executive editor of the National Enquirer says the Oregon masseuse who made a sexual allegation against Al Gore asked the tabloid for $1 million but that the Enquirer did not pay her or anyone else in reporting the story.
Barry Levine said in an interview Thursday that the woman offered to sell her account through her lawyer but that “no money exchanged hands” and the paper conducted only a brief interview with her.
Regardless of whether or not the alleged victim asked for money, the immediate knee-jerk reactions of some reporters to circle the wagons and spread doubt about the allegations reflect the deeply ingrained sexism that comes to the fore whenever a beloved liberal icon like Gore is accused of misconduct. Even feminists jump on the victim-blaming bandwagon, sometimes in quite vicious ways, and in this case, without even reading the alleged victim’s account of the incident. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize and single-handedly bringing global warming to the attention of the world (yeah, right) doesn’t make you immune to the typical trappings of those in power — they want what they want, and will pursue it with impunity. Left-leaning media outlets and bloggers would do well to not be blinded by their idol-worshipping.