Before We Hang ’Em High, Can We Convict First?

This didn’t feel like a Notorious post, so I created a Medium account to talk about things that I feel like talking about without interrupting the flow over on my main blog.

By now, you’ve heard something or another about an incident that happened in our (that would be the real estate) industry at a major conference. Stacie Perrault Staub wrote a story about it here on Medium. And ignited a firestorm.

Go read it in full if you haven’t already.

The salient facts are these:

  • Stacie and two other women were in a bus traveling from a party to another event.
  • There were three men in the back of the bus, who were talking (fairly loudly, one imagines) about things and in ways that angered, frightened, and disturbed Stacie and her women friends.
  • These men, Stacie, writes were talking about, joking about, and even advocating violence against women — specifically, the ex-wife of one of the three men who had cheated on him.
  • Stacie used these men as examples of how sexist our society is, how even well-respected male leaders in the real estate industry are scumbags who advocate beating up a woman, and fucking any ho that walks by, and so on.
  • She ended with some sort of generic statement about how a disgusting man like that is running for President and wondering how she is to prepare her kids for such an awful possibility.

Now, the banal political crap is completely uninteresting, at least to me. I don’t care if people want to vote for a douchebag or a criminal or an alien from outer space. I just don’t care.

But I know Stacie, I know the other two women who were with her, and I know the real estate industry. In fact, I’m a frequent male speaker on the same conference circuit that Stacie is referring to. So this generalization, whether intended or not, that we men who speak at events, are leaders, and so on are some sort of unrepentant neanderthals… well, that gets under my skin a bit.

I mean, I’m no kind of feminist — in fact, I was talked about recently with much opprobrium because I made a joke with the word “MILF” in it. So I guess I’m an unrepentant sexist pig… but there are some lines that I do not cross and am unwilling to tolerate in others. Domestic violence, except in extreme circumstances (i.e., she’s running at you with a knife), is one of those.

Plus, as a result of that Medium post, and the resulting social media shitstorm that has covered those three guys, major organizations and companies are punishing them. I wish I had proof and links and such at this time but, what I have heard so far:

  • One or more of these men have been disinvited from speaking at an upcoming Xplode event (a popular real estate conference). [CLARIFICATION: I confirmed with Matt Fagioli, the proprietor of Xplode, that the gentleman in question disinvited himself, but that he “might have asked him to step aside if he hadn’t because this is clearly a hot potato.”]
  • Their company was supposed to do something big with NAR — that would be the National Association of REALTORS — and that got squelched. Furthermore, one or more of these guys were frequent contributors to various NAR blogs — all of their posts have been pulled offline. [CLARIFICATION FROM NAR’s NOBU HATA: “Nick and Tristan spoke at our last tech event in Atlanta on Facebook marketing and I recorded a podcast with them on the same topic that was to be published soon. Tristan had signed up to be a blog writer for our conference. It’s realtor.com and their tech savvy agent relaunch that they were heavily involved with, not us. We had nothing “big” planned with them. All of the realtor.com stuff with them was cancelled this morning.” The podcast will not be published, and Tristan will not be writing the blog for NAR’s conference.]
  • Their company is doing a major event in a couple of weeks; agents who had registered are canceling and demanding refunds.

And so on. I’m sure there are other consequences happening as I write this.

So I looked into what this is. And, well, I got some questions.

The Story So Far

For whatever reason, Stacie herself, her two friends, and others have chosen not to name names, not to describe the specifics of what happened, where, etc. But they did tell a number of people in private Facebook groups, especially some women-only Facebook groups, so the word has been out there for a while.

I don’t see why any of the facts surrounding what went down have to be kept as some sort of a secret, so I’ll just lay out what I’ve been told by reliable sources.

The event in question was Inman Connect San Francisco just this past August. That is, without a doubt, one of the major events on the real estate calendar.

The three women were Stacie Staub, the author of the Medium post, and two others who are well-known and respected in the real estate industry, especially among the “crowd” that go to conferences and events: Nikki Beauchamp and Valerie Garcia.

The three men from the story are Ronnie George, Nick Baldwin, and Tristan Ahumada. The three of them are proprietors of a company called Lab Coat Agents, which is… well… kind of hard to describe it actually… I guess you’d call it an affiliate marketing company attached to a very active Facebook group of the same name.

As you can see, this Facebook Group has 40,462 members. That’s fully 4% of the 1 million or so REALTORS in the United States.

The six of them were in a bus taking them from one event to the next when this overheard-inappropriate-conversation allegedly happened.

Now, I say allegedly because… while I have no reason not to believe Stacie, I’d rather know both sides of a story before I make a judgment one way or the other. In the present case, there have been some attempts by at least two of the men involved to try and… well… I don’t know if “tell their side of the story” is quite accurate… so I’ll just post the videos and you decide for yourself.

The Videos

I obtained these videos from my friends and sources in the industry who are part of the Lab Coat Agents group, as well as other Facebook groups, where these videos were posted. I understand that since a couple of hours ago, these videos have been taken down, which is silly for a lot of reasons.

If they were posted to the Lab Coat Agent group… that’s 40,000-plus people. At least a few of them probably know how to save a Facebook video for posterity. The idea that you can post something to the public Internet (and I’m sorry, 40K+ Facebook groups are about as public as the Internet comes these days) then want “privacy” after the fact… sorry, fellas.

In any event, here they are.

That’s Ronnie George.

And that’s Nick Baldwin. (I’m sure I’ve at least met one or both of those guys at least once in my travels, but I’m also reasonably sure that I’ve never gone karaoke with them or hung out extensively with them… cuz I tend to remember those crazy people who do both with me.)

Once you’ve viewed them both, move on to the next part.

Key Statements by Ronnie and Nick

Before we move on to questions, let’s make sure we get the statements by Ronnie and Nick clear. I don’t want to misquote or mischaracterize what these gentlemen say in their own words.

Ronnie:

  • Ronnie says that he remembers what he said during that ride. Direct quote: “I can recall just about every word that was actually said.”
  • He also says that he and the other guys weren’t speaking in a manner that was “in a manner of anger or hatred or disrespect.” Instead, it was merely his describing the journey from a painful horrible divorce with an ex-wife who had cheated on him to the good place he’s at now.
  • Further, Ronnie say there was “conversation” and “joking”, but that the language was nowhere near as foul as Stacie had portrayed.
  • He then states that Stacie “fabricated” the language of your discussion… and I quote, “maybe for shock value”.
  • Ronnie also says that he was on Tinder, but that he hadn’t met anyone, and that the talk was more about “Have you met anybody on Tinder?” rather than what Stacie stated, which was, “Now I’m back on Tinder just hitting that shit — I’m still married but fuck that cheating bitch” and “You guys know what I mean — fuck all the bitches, amiright?”
  • Ronnie agrees that if they had actually behaved as Stacie had described, then that’s horrible, disrespectful, shouldn’t be tolerated whatsoever in any way shape or form, and that “they should be spoken to.”
  • He repeats again that the way that the event was portrayed by Stacie was, and I quote, “totally false, totally fabricated”. He didn’t tell the story in that way, nor did the other two guys speak that way.
  • Then he says, “I just don’t like when someone lies for no reason whatsoever, and tries to fabricate for whatever means.”

Nick:

  • “The words that were attributed to us were patently not true.”
  • Nick says they have dedicated their lives to their wives, children, and socially conscious business practices.
  • He is saddened that someone would attribute those kinds of words and thoughts to us. “This is not who we are, and this is not who I am.”

Let’s be perfectly clear about this. Both men have acknowledged that there was conversation about the disintegration of Ronnie’s marriage (using Nick’s words there) but that (a) they didn’t use bad language, at least to the extent described by Stacie, and (b) the story wasn’t told in an angry, hateful, disrespectful way.

OK? Did I misrepresent anything there? I don’t think so, so let’s move on.

The Questions for the Six Involved

These are my questions for the six individuals involved.

To Ronnie and Nick (and Tristan):

Ronnie, you say you remember every word that was actually said. Obviously, the way that Stacie wrote her story, if you said those words, then you’re a bad guy and deserve everything coming your way in a shitstorm, and then some. You agree, because if someone had actually thought in those ways and said those things, you say “they should be spoken to.”

And Nick, you say you’ve devoted your life to your wife, children, and socially conscious business practices, so surely, you would remember if Ronnie or Tristan (who we haven’t heard from) said something so vile.

So… what did you guys say? If you remember every word, it shouldn’t be difficult to write a post detailing your conversation, or re-enact the scene on camera, using the words you say you actually used. Given the impact this controversy is having on your business, your reputation, and your careers, I’d imagine this is an important misunderstanding to clear up.

Because what I can’t quite figure out is how you could be so misinterpreted. I mean, we’re not talking about some kind of comprehensible, “hey, the women were several rows ahead so maybe they misheard” type of scenario here.

For example, if you had said, “Yeah, I was really crushed when I found out she cheated on me” and Stacie and her friends heard, “Yeah, I wanted to really crush her with a fountain”… OK, maybe that’s some sort of Rashomon deal, where someone misheard it.

But I don’t quite understand how you get from “Have you met anybody on Tinder?” to this:

“Now I’m back on Tinder just hitting that shit — I’m still married but fuck that cheating bitch.”
“You guys know what I mean — fuck all the bitches, amiright?”

All that from six little words? I must confess I’m having trouble with that. And not just one woman, but three? None of whom, as far as we know, have any reason to fabricate some crazy story like that about you.

Nor can I quite wrap my mind around “I mean, I know how to hit a cunt so that she can hide the bruises.” I can’t come up with an innocent phrase that could be misheard that specifically. What could you possibly have said innocently that was misheard like that?

But you remember every word that was said, so perhaps you can help me (and the rest of the industry). Tell us what you actually said to each other.

To Stacie, Nikki, and Valerie:

As far as I know, you guys have no reason to… what’s the word… as Ronnie said, “fabricate” a story like this. Or do you? Do any of you have any kind of reason to want to take down one or more of the gents in question? Do you have any business interests that would benefit from taking down Lab Coat Agents?

Again, I don’t know y’all all that well, but what I know of you suggests that you have no reason to hate on them. That may be why you didn’t name them, why you didn’t say much about this, etc. etc. but now that the shitstorm has hit, I think we have a right to know if you have any hidden agendas or motives.

I do have one specific question. Given that this happened at Inman in August, and given that Brad Inman, the owner of Inman, has proven himself to be anything other than a straight shooter who wouldn’t tolerate this kind of a thing (more on this later), did you tell Brad or anyone from the Inman organization about this event when it happened? Or soon thereafter? (Within a week, let’s say.)

If you did, what was Inman’s response to you?

The Question for Companies and Organizations that are Punishing These Guys

As I’ve said, I have unconfirmed reports that a number of companies are organizations. For you, I have a question.

What do you know that we don’t?

Because while it doesn’t look great for Ronnie, Nick, and Tristan… I remember Duke Lacrosse. I remember Rolling Stone’s fake rape story. And I personally know what it’s like to be falsely accused of sexual harassment. (Maybe that’s a story for another time….) So before you go fucking up a man’s life, his name, his business, and his career, you had better be sure that you’re doing the right thing.

So what do you know that we don’t? What sort of investigation have you conducted before acting? Were the three guys contacted to get their side of the story?

A special question for Brad Inman, one that he ought to appreciate as a journalist:

This incident went down in early August. It is now mid-October. You have just published a new guideline, literally today:

“Inman is committed to creating a safe and inclusive experience for our readers, customers and attendees, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race or religion. We do not tolerate harassment in any form.
All communication — including at the event and various associated venues, as well as online — should be appropriate for a professional audience, including people of many different backgrounds and experiences. Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other attendees. Act professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate at any time at any Inman event or online setting.
Anyone violating these rules may be asked to leave the conference or online forum without a refund at the sole discretion of the Inman staff. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is or have any concerns, please contact a Inman staff team member immediately.
Thank you for helping make Inman welcoming, friendly places for all to share new ideas, learn and connect.”

So like I asked Stacie, Nikki, and Valerie above… did they let you or an Inman staffer about what happened? If so, when? If they did not, how did you learn about the incident?

Because if you learned about this in August, and you published this guideline today… Brad… I gotta ask you what took so long?

How About We Convict First, Before We Hang Them?

Quite a few of my friends, online and offline, have asked what my take is on all this. My take is simple: I don’t mind hanging the guilty, but I’d like to make sure they’re guilty.

Stacie’s story is explosive, and horrible, and shameful for all of us in the real estate industry. There is no scenario where talking about beating up a woman without leaving bruises is acceptable. There is nothing good about talking about being on Tinder “just hitting that shit.” And Ronnie and Nick agree! If someone had spoken like that, he should be “talked to”, and I imagine that kind of talking isn’t done just with kind words.

At the same time, Ronnie and Nick (and presumably the unheard-from third guy, Tristan) are emphatic in their denials. I don’t know them, and from the videos, they seem sincere. So I say, let’s see what they have to say for themselves. Again, Ronnie says he remembers virtually every word that was said, so it should be no problem to reconstruct the conversation as they remember it.

Plus, both Ronnie and Nick level charges that historically fall under Fighting Words if said to a man. They have plainly called Stacie and her friends liars. They have said that the story is fabricated, that they never used those words, and Ronnie was emphatic in saying that he doesn’t like it when “somebody lies for no reason.”

Somebody is lying. I can’t say who, because I haven’t heard the other side of the story, but this post here is a public request — nay, a demand — that the gentlemen in question produce their version of the conversation as they remember it.

I imagine that by now, the gentlemen in question have lawyered up. And their counsel is telling them not to say jackshit to anybody, and take down everything from everywhere. That might be sound legal strategy, but it’s a terrible business strategy, especially for a company that works in real estate and is dependent on a Facebook Group full of women REALTORS who would not interpret silence as their lawyer might think they would.

Anyhow, that’s it. If these guys really behaved like that, and said those things, then they deserve everything coming to them. If they didn’t, then this is a tragic witch-hunt conducted for no reason whatsoever, and a lot of you jumping to judgment are going to feel like idiots.

Tap the brakes. Slow your roll. Unless you know something that we/I don’t, in which case, now would be a good time to let us know what you know.

Thanks!

-rsh