October 13, 2016

WHAT IT TAKES TO GET THE WASHINGTON POST TO FACT-CHECK A RAPE VICTIM’S STORY:

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler took the time to sift through the 41-year-old case of Kathy Shelton, who said she was raped when she was 12 years old by a then-41-year-old man.

Ordinarily, I’d expect the Post to take Shelton’s claims at face value (and to be fair, Kessler does call her a rape victim, as her attacker, Thomas Taylor, agreed to a plea bargain). The Post would be accused of “victim-blaming” if it dared point out an accuser’s changing story, even if it ultimately seemed sympathetic to her.

But Shelton is different because she has told the press that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “took me through hell” and has appeared with GOP nominee Donald Trump.

This earns Shelton extra scrutiny. Kessler points out that she didn’t know until 2007 that Clinton was the defense attorney in her case, that she may or may not have been misquoted about harboring no ill will toward Clinton and that she said she had a psychiatric exam but court records say she didn’t.

These aren’t the “smoking gun” contradictions I would usually consider evidence of an untruthful accuser (and again, Kessler is not saying she is untruthful). Shelton could have hated a random, unnamed defense attorney until she found out it was Clinton, who by that point had become a household name. That would have been pretty devastating for a victim, to find out that a former first lady, U.S. senator and, at the time, presidential candidate was responsible for allowing your rapist to walk free.

In 2007, Shelton apparently told Glenn Thrush, who was then a reporter for Newsday, that she felt Clinton “was just doing her job” by representing Taylor. Seven years later, in 2014, she told the Daily Beast she was misquoted and that “Hillary Clinton took me through hell.” She could have been upset with an unnamed defense attorney, as I wrote above. Or she could have never thought about the other people involved in the case until she was shown an affidavit from Clinton claiming Shelton “is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and to engage in fantasizing” and “has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body.”

Clinton merely said in the affidavit that she had “been informed” of these things about Shelton, but offered no source or proof. Shelton told Thrush in 2007 that she was shocked by the affidavit because “it’s not true” and she had “never said anybody attacked my body before, never in my life.”

It’s always “believe the women” until they threaten the career of a Clinton. Then it’s “a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty” and “look what you get when you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park.” And the press plays right along because, well, think of them as Democratic operatives with bylines and you won’t go far wrong.