School Talk

Due Process For My Side But Not For Yours

In keeping with America’s new love affair with tribalism, Nancy Pelosi stood up for her colleague, Michigan Representative John Conyers, and extolled the virtues of due process during an appearance this weekend on Meet The Press.  While under normal circumstances, we could all agree with Pelosi’s sentiments about the accused deserving due process, there is nothing normal about the current political climate and the recent slew of sexual harassment accusations has added a sadly partisan dose of gasoline to an already fast burning blaze.

Pelosi’s comments with NBC’s Chuck Todd this weekend put her squarely in line with the American Bar Association. But here’s the rub: Pelosi only seems to support due process for those she considers to be on her side and in her tribe. When Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education, speaks of the importance of due process for college students accused of sexual assault on campus, Pelosi’s opinion regarding the importance of due process does a 180 degree turn. Suddenly, she doesn’t like it anymore and calls for due process are, in her words, “outrageous” and “immoral” and a “shocking attack on women.” Here is Pelosi’s statement on the matter:

The Trump Administration’s decision to roll back vital protections for victims of campus sexual assault is a shocking attack on women and a disturbing reminder of this White House’s dismissive attitude toward survivors.

Six years ago, the Obama Administration acknowledged the fundamental right to be free from abuse, harassment and fear by expanding Title IX protections and bolstering its enforcement.  Now, the Trump Administration is dismantling that progress and tearing away the protections that millions of young women and men rely on for safety and justice.

All students have the right to feel safe on campus.  Democrats will continue to stand with survivors, and fight the Trump Administration’s outrageous, immoral attacks on Title IX protections.

(The major sticking point and cause for widespread outrage (and celebration) around Title IX pertained to a shift in the standard of proof from the Obama era’s “preponderance of the evidence” to the more demanding standard of “clear and convincing.” Reasonable people can and do disagree on this.) 

But Nancy, what about the victims of your friend, John Conyers? You argue that they haven’t come forward but isn’t one of the conditions of the disgusting and secretive financial settlements that the victims of sexual harassment by members of Congress that they agree not to disclose what happened? (Yes, the settlements that we, the taxpayers, have been funding to the tune of $17 million!) I haven’t seen or heard you use your platform in the past to criticize the nondisclosure agreements that victims of your friends on Capitol Hill have been forced to sign so it is strange that you would now hold it against those very same women for not “coming forward.”

Folks were quick to criticize Pelosi’s position.

My ask is a simple and apolitical one and I’m confident that many Americans want the same thing: Can we just stop having different rules for people based on their party affiliation and political ideology? If we really want to stand up for women who have been sexually harassed and even assaulted, then we must do it based on principle, not political ideology. That means that we promise to listen to and respect the accusers of powerful men in both parties. Either everyone is entitled to due process or no one is. Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful women in America, failed women this weekend by choosing to move the goal posts based on who is accused of wrongdoing and, in doing so, she has cast a shadow on herself as a leader as well as on her party.

But mistakes can be fixed. So Nancy, get to work cleaning up this mess. America’s women are waiting on you.




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