Due process is a vital legal concept that establishes rules and procedures to guard against unfair, arbitrary, untrue, or unreasonable treatment that deprives Americans of “life, liberty or property.” That’s because anyone can lie — including self-professed victims of sexual assault. You needn’t look further than the numerous young lives that have been ruined on college campuses by fabricated allegations to understand why due process is important. And anyone can be railroaded. Witchhunts are real. Mobs tend to form rather easily these days. The politically motivated smear the innocent for partisan reasons. Biased organizations peddle innuendo and gossip to exploit the public’s existing biases.
All of that is true. None of it means the allegations regarding Alabama’s Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore are untrue. Don’t let healthy skepticism transform into tribal denialism.
Did most of the establishment already detest Moore for his socially conservative views? Of course. Would The Washington Post pursue someone in the Democratic Party with the same gusto? Probably not. It’s also true that the establishment media gave former presidents and senators who were likely sexual predators virtual free passes for decades. The treatment of the parties on this front will never be equal.
Still, none of that means the accusations about Moore pursuing sexual relations with teen girls when he was in his 30s is any less plausible. Unlike a number stories that have simply relayed abuse allegations without proof or corroboration, The Washington Post’s article on Moore happens to be a solid piece of journalism with multiple sources and timelines that form a wholly credible, sordid story. Accusations of bias shouldn’t convince the fair-minded person to dismiss the testimonies of (at least) four women who don’t know each other but tell similar tales with some specificity.
Nor does media bias change the fact that many of Moore’s answers have been exceptionally unpersuasive to this point. Make what you will of Fox News’ Sean Hannity, but his interview with the Republican Senate candidate posed many of the right questions. When asked if he’s dated 15-year-olds in his mid-30s, an ordinary healthy adult male does not answer, “Not generally, no,” as Moore did, but rather “Hell no.”
Moreover, when Hannity pressed Moore on whether he had dated a 17-year-old, the former prosecutor first claimed the accusation was “completely false” before asserting, “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.” What kind of adult man doesn’t recollect going out on a date with a teen girl? Presumably one that hits on numerous teen girls.
“Due process” shouldn’t be code for “Let’s dismiss anything inconvenient to our political fortunes.” This isn’t a criminal proceeding. If we were on a jury, there would be a different evidentiary standard and burden of proof. But Moore is not on trial for rape of a 14-year-old, he’s running for political office. The lack of a conviction doesn’t preclude the public from pondering the accusations and judging him.
I happen to believe that JonBenét Ramsey’s parents killed their daughter. I believe that O.J. Simpson was guilty. I believe Juanita Broaddrick. I believe Moore was, at the very least, a creep who abused his position to prey on teen girls. If enough people agree, Moore wouldn’t be going to prison, he simply wouldn’t be coming to Washington.
Many Alabamans might deploy a different kind of ethical calculation. They might vote for Moore because they find his sins less consequential than those of a political opponent who supports legalizing the killing of babies, or other policies they find even more morally repugnant. Just recalling some of the people who have held office over the past few decades tells us that voters must wrestle with these kind of trade-offs on both sides — which says plenty about the quality of those running for office. This, at least, is an honest position. But don’t tell me you’re sure Roy Moore is innocent.