Here are three statements about the Me Too movement made on a Sirius XM segment Monday.
- “We have to societally change that mindset to believing women, but that does not mean at the expense of giving men their due process and investigating situations.”
- “I just don’t feel comfortable throwing away a decent man that I’ve known for 15 years in this time of complete chaos without there being a thorough investigation.”
- “I never thought [Me Too] would be something that would destroy innocent men. We don’t want that to happen either. So we have to find this balance in the Believe Women movement and also giving men their due process and realizing that we’re destroying lives if we publicly don’t go through the right steps in order to find out if an accusation is credible or not.”
These quotes promote the correct approach to litigating Me Too allegations, hardly a controversial stance in April 2020, but one that was framed as indecent in the movement’s early days, and later amid Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle. The sentiments are exactly what earned conservatives and others charges of insensitivity from Me Too activists time and again.
On Monday, however, they were made by actress Alyssa Milano, flailing to defend her ongoing support for Joe Biden, who faces a serious new allegation of sexual assault. Milano is, perhaps, Hollywood’s most prominent Me Too advocate.
While Milano is hesitant to believe Biden’s accuser without a “thorough investigation,” she believed Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh the same day the doctor came forward in the Washington Post. (Milano called for Al Franken’s resignation the same day Leann Tweeden’s sexual misconduct allegations emerged against him as well.)
On Sept. 16, 2018, after the Post named Ford, Milano went beyond merely calling for an investigation, instead tweeting out her categorical support for Ford.
I stand in solidarity with Christine Blasey Ford. #MeToo
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 16, 2018
Ten days later, she attended a protest of Kavanaugh in D.C. draped in a “Believe Women” banner.
I’m in D.C. because I don’t believe any man’s misogyny should take precedent over a survivor’s humanity.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 26, 2018
Milano’s comments on Monday came after she faced some accusations of hypocrisy on social media over her silence on Tara Reade, the former Biden staffer who last month accused him of forcibly penetrating her with his finger in 1993. At the time, Reade worked in Biden’s Senate office. Her brother and friend have both confirmed she told them about the allegation after it happened, although there are no direct witnesses.
I explained my silence on the allegations against Joe Biden in this clip.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) April 6, 2020
“Due process” was a particularly damning choice of words on Milano’s behalf. On Oct. 10, 2018, after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Milano went on Larry King’s show to discuss her activism. In response to a question about due process, Milano began by saying, “due process is obviously in the Constitution, but women are not in the Constitution, we only have the right to vote.”
She went on to claim, “As far as women standing up and holding men that have abused their power accountable, we don’t really know what that due process looks like. We don’t know what a fair investigation, especially for this Supreme Court nomination, what that would really look like.”
Later in her answer, Milano added, “Really anytime we have these conversations about Me Too, when we hear from women like Dr. Ford, when we hear from women who stand up, who are finding their voice in this process, I think we are discovering what due process means for this particular issue.”
To recap, when it came to Kavanaugh, whose nomination she opposed before allegations ever emerged, due process was a learning experience. When it comes to Biden, whose nomination she’s endorsed, due process is a prerequisite to adjudicating guilt.
Let’s revisit one of her statements on Monday, where Milano called for an approach that involves “giving men their due process and realizing that we’re destroying lives if we publicly don’t go through the right steps in order to find out if an accusation is credible or not.” Had all those “right steps” been taken before Milano accepted Ford’s story the same day she went public with it?
Now that the fog of Me Too’s frenzied peak has largely cleared, Milano is extending to her partisan ally a much more charitable standard than she extended her perceived opponent. If there’s a glass-half-full reading of the situation, it’s that Milano at least seems to have landed on the right approach, and is mostly being criticized for hypocrisy rather than for insisting on due process.
Ultimately, I have no idea whether Milano is pure of heart, and find it perfectly acceptable for people’s opinions to evolve over time. I’s deeply telling, however, that Milano is now leaning on her personal relationship with Biden, referring to him as “a decent man that I’ve known for 15 years” in her defense of the candidate. Milano promoted one set of standards until those same standards would necessarily condemn a man she trusts. Funny how that works.
Funny is the wrong word, actually. Public figures who downplayed the importance of due process contributed to the creation of a media culture that did indeed “destroy innocent men.” That doesn’t mean Me Too was bad, or most women’s accusations are false. Some are, most, unfortunately, are not. But if Milano really believes her own defense of Biden, she needs to explain what changed.