The Weaponization of the MeToo Movement: America’s Due Process Crisis
By Andrew T. Miltenberg, Esq.
When it comes to the issue of sexual assault allegations, there has been an erosion of due process in our country that is destroying lives and ruining careers of innocent men and women. Witness the recent uncorroborated, third-party allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as reported in The New York Times which prompted a flurry of 2020 Democratic presidential nominees to call for the Supreme Court Justice’s impeachment.
According to an exclusive New York Times report, Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year of college, was seen by a classmate with his pants down at a drunken dorm room party “where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.” No other witnesses corroborated this report, yet, in response, virtually all 2020 Democratic candidates called for his impeachment from the United States Supreme Court.
One day after the story was published, The New York Times made a striking revision to the story — the alleged victim, Harmon Joyce, said she did not recall the sexual assault in question at all.
The Times’ revision says: “Editors’ Note: An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the book’s account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate that friends of Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into the hand of a female student at a drunken dorm party. The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.”
Did any of the 2020 Democratic contenders reverse their statements based on the flimsy allegations and complete lack of due process afforded Mr. Kavanaugh? No, or at least not at the time of this publication. This continued of weaponization of the MeToo movement against Brett Kavanaugh and others should be shocking and unacceptable to all of us as Americans. But sadly, it’s not. We’ve reached an erosion of due process in this country where unsubstantiated allegations have just become accepted at face value. And even worse, it’s now become part of the 2020 political playbook.
The right to due process should not be a partisan issue, yet there is a double standard where sexual assault allegations are concerned. As someone who represents clients who have been deeply wronged by the system — including those who have been sexually assaulted and those who have been wrongly accused of sexual assault — I have seen firsthand how differently the media treats individuals of varying races, political parties, and sexual orientation.
Case in point — I am currently representing a straight, white man in his sexual assault lawsuit against prominent CNN anchor Don Lemon, who ironically has been a champion of the MeToo movement. This is a classic case of sexual assault, at its most basic level. Mr. Lemon assaulted, demeaned and publicly humiliated my client in front of his colleagues and friends, in public at a bar, with various witnesses who have publicly corroborated his story to the media. However, CNN, his employer, has gone to great lengths to defend Mr. Lemon’s grotesque actions and victim-blame my client. Just because the victim is a white, heterosexual man, doesn’t make this assault any more acceptable than if he were a woman. There should be zero tolerance for sexual assault no matter a person’s sexuality, race or gender.
As a survivor of sexual assault himself, Mr. Lemon should know the traumatic impact such an incident has on a person’s long-term wellbeing and livelihood. Being sexually assaulted by Don Lemon is not something this victim will ever forget. It has impacted him tremendously — in his personal life, his professional life, and in his future career prospects.
On the other end of the spectrum, the weaponization of the MeToo movement, coupled with the complete erosion of due process, is destroying the lives of good men on a daily basis. I’ve seen it in politics, and I see it in the work I do on college campuses in Title IX sexual misconduct cases. If the MeToo movement continues to be used as a blunt weapon, it will no longer serve the true purpose for which it was intended — to help real victims.
With offices in New York City and Boston, Andrew Miltenberg is a New Jersey attorney who specializes in due process in cases of sexual assault. He is currently engaged in several groundbreaking Title IX cases at Brown, Colgate and Penn State Universities. For more information, visit www.nmllplaw.com.