The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings brought to the fore sweeping changes in the way many Americans now view accusations of wrongdoings of a sexual or racial nature. It will be recalled that Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser claimed he assaulted her when both were high school students several decades before. There were no witnesses to anything untoward brought forth by Dr. Christine Ford, nor was there any record of anything happening between the two. In a word, there was no corroboration – only Dr. Ford’s accusation based solely upon 35 year-old recollections.
Yet the charges alone almost succeeded in derailing the Supreme Court nomination of an experienced, supremely well-qualified and respected appellate judge. At the time we were dismayed by how far we have gone as a nation from the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” All of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee – most with a decidedly leftist bent – gave Kavanaugh a rough time. Senators Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, both now having declared for the presidency in 2020, were particularly intense and argumentative. And the media followed suit.
That pattern has continued. Last month, television personality Jussie Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed he was attacked by two masked men as he walked to his apartment from a restaurant. He alleged they shouted racial and anti-gay slurs at him and that “this is MAGA country,” an apparent reference to the Trump campaign mantra “Make America Great Again” and an effort to identify the attack with support for President Trump.
Harris promptly responded to the allegation this way: “This was an attempted modern-day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”
Similarly, Booker: “The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I’m glad he’s safe…. To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our anti-lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime – I urge you to pay attention.”
The media followed suit. Robin Roberts, one of the hosts of ABC’s Good Morning America, interviewed Smollett at length, allowing him to go into the details of the incident. Not once did she use the word “alleged.” Indeed, other national media outlets ran with the narrative that Smollett was definitely attacked as he described, and at the hands of supporters of President Trump.
Of course, it is now being reported that the whole incident is a hoax and never occurred. While the reasons for the new conclusion seems compelling – there are said to be serious inconsistencies in Smollett’s full account – we will have to await the final outcome. But our point is, it is now rather easy to get people thinking a certain way without having to provide any evidence, turning the presumption of evidence on its head.
In their effort to delegitimize Trump, some people seem to be willing to accept pretty much anything as true. This is not to say that Trump has never made some questionable assertions. But the presumption of innocence is vital to our system of government.