One of Rob Porter’s ex-wives is falsely accusing President Donald Trump of calling her a liar—an ironic twist since her backlash comes in response to Trump being concerned about false accusations.
Jennifer Willoughby, who has accused the former White House aide of physical abuse while they were married, said in a Time column that she was “floored” when Trump defended Porter’s presumption of innocence. A friend said to her at the time, “The President of the United States just called you a liar.”
“Yes,” Willoughby responded. “And so he did.”
No, Ms. Willoughby, he did not.
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
In the press conference, Trump made it clear that he did not know whether the allegations leveled against Porter were true. No trial had determined his guilt. There were accusations by ex-wives and a man who declared his innocence. That’s all.
Yet, Trump is expected to presume guilt and treat the accusations as true. If he doesn’t, then he doesn’t “care” about women or victims of abuse. To question allegations or to presume innocence is now paramount to calling the accuser a liar. This is nonsense, and something we hear too often in the #MeToo movement.
Trump is right when he says people’s lives are being destroyed by mere allegation. While some allegations are true, some are not, and it’s up to the courts, not a public mob, to determine guilt. Until that determination is legally made, assumption of innocence must be maintained.
This doesn’t mean employment or political campaigns can’t be suspended in the meantime while the accusations are examined, but it does mean that we should not believe an accusation simply because women, as individuals or in groups, provide what seems to be convincing evidence—especially when it’s presented years after the fact and in a highly politicized environment laced with witch-hunt overtones.
Willoughby, however, seems to be offended by the terms “mere allegation” and “falsely accused.” This means, she says, “That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted.”
This kind of thinking is simply dangerous in a society that values due process. It is exactly because we do care about truth that we presume innocence. It’s exactly because we value truth so highly that we don’t treat allegations as fact. This is because we would rather risk not punishing the guilty than punishing the innocent. The former is tragic, but the latter is a threat to the freedom of every citizen in a society.
Edward R. Murrow once said something we desperately need to remember during these dark days of “allegation as fact”:
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not men who fear to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
The requirement to prove your case when you have accused someone of a crime is frustrating. Sometimes you don’t have the evidence you need. Sometimes you find it difficult to prove what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s a struggle and can be infuriating, but it’s a process that must be done, no matter how hard it is.
It’s necessary because the integrity of a person’s life is at stake. Their property, their freedom, and in some instances their very lives hang in the balance. As a nation that values individual freedom, we cannot deviate from the path of truth and allow mere allegation to condemn a man and strip him of his livelihood.
Willoughby’s conjecture that Trump called her a liar is simply wrong. This trope by women has been repeated throughout the days of the #MeToo movement. A woman must be believed, they say, because it’s so hard to prove abuse and she’s so vulnerable. If you question her, you must be calling her a liar, heaping pain on pain that is already there.
This doesn’t mean women are to remain at risk in threatening situations. When it comes to abuse, a woman needs to be protected from possible danger. Whether it can be proved or not, she must be safe while the truth is found out. But, this is not the same as determining the guilt of the man and immediately punishing him by removing him from his job and, in doing that, taking his property—his earnings—from him.
In the Porter case, the women were not in danger. Other women were not in danger. There was no evidence that he was a danger at work. Quite the contrary, even one of the wives said he was good at his job. Due process should be the highest goal here—to get to the truth for the sake of justice, so victims are vindicated and society is protected.
Willoughby denies this need for due process. “If someone finds the strength and courage to come forward, he or she is to be believed,” she said. “Because that declaration only came after an uphill battle toward rebirth.”
Are we supposed to forgo one of our most treasured principles because a woman struggled to come forward? Sorry, but we do not make policy or laws based on emotions. This doesn’t mean we don’t care about victims or their struggles. Our society has the capacity to meet the emotional needs of the accuser and presume the innocence of the accused until it is proved otherwise and justice is met.
Willoughby and the #MeToo feminists want to skip due process, the law, principles, and reason, and jump straight to condemnation and punishment. If we do this, we are doomed as a society. We will no longer be free. How will it be for women then?