The buzzphrase of the week seems to be “credibly accused.” The Left says that Brett Kavanaugh has been “credibly accused” of sexual assault. The term is littered all over Twitter, where liberals have unanimously declared Christine Ford’s story “credible.”
Far be it for me to credibly accuse them of calling accusations credible for purely political reasons, but I’m not sure how else they could have arrived at that conclusion. When I look at the situation, I see a politically partisan accuser who never told anyone her story for 30 years and only went public after the accused was nominated for the Supreme Court. She doesn’t remember the date of the alleged crime, or even the exact year. She doesn’t remember exactly where it happened or how she ended up there. She says that she and the accused were both kids at the time and both drinking alcohol. Her story has changed at least once, and significantly, between the first time she brought it up in 2012 and now. This seems like a rather low bar for “credible.”
But where should we set the bar? Well, I think it could be helpful to consider, by way of example, an actually credible rape accusation. I am not looking to play the “what about” game here. I just think it’s important that we have some standard for calling an accusation credible. After all, a man has already been convicted in the court of public opinion the moment the word “credible” is tacked onto an accusation. It is important that we don’t throw the word around carelessly.
So, consider Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of raping her in 1978 — right around the time that Ford says Kavanaugh assaulted her. But that is where the similarities in their stories end. Here is Broaddrick’s allegation, as reported by BuzzFeed:
Broaddrick, then 35, first met Bill Clinton when he was 31 and the attorney general of Arkansas, during a campaign stop he made at her nursing home. They discussed her business and his campaign — Broaddrick wasn’t much into politics, but she had recently started volunteering for him with a friend — and Clinton told Broaddrick to call his office if she was ever in nearby Little Rock. A few weeks later, she did just that while attending a nursing seminar there. They arranged to meet one morning in the coffee shop in the hotel where the seminar was held. At the last second, Clinton called up to Broaddrick’s room and asked if they could meet there instead, since there were reporters in the lobby below. She said yes. Minutes after entering her room, he tried to kiss her, she says, biting her upper lip, hard.
Shocked, Broaddrick says, she resisted Clinton … He ignored her, she says, and pushed her on the bed and raped her. Afterward, she says, he put his sunglasses on and told her to get some ice for her swollen lips before leaving the room.
… Two of Broaddrick’s friends who had also attended the nursing conference found Broaddrick in tears, her lips swollen and blue. She told them what had happened but made them swear not to tell anyone else. She was scared of retaliation, didn’t think anyone would believe her, and blamed herself for allowing Clinton to come up to her room.
Broaddrick knows the exact day and location of her assault. She has two witnesses who found her in tears with a swollen lip. She told them what happened. It’s true that she didn’t come forward publicly with this story for another 20 years, but she wasn’t completely silent for those two decades. What’s more, she had a very compelling reason to keep quiet all those years. Clinton was a powerful man at the time of the attack, and only became more powerful as time went on. Also, according to Broaddrick, Clinton’s own wife had threatened her in a thinly veiled way.
Finally, adding even more credibility to Broaddrick’s account, Clinton has been accused by multiple women. There is an established pattern of behavior. He is a known liar and a known pervert. Broaddrick’s story is not only detailed, not only corroborated by two people who witnessed the immediate aftermath of the attack, but it fits into the overall picture of Bill Clinton. Credible? Broaddrick’s case is far more than credible. It’s overwhelming. She leaves you no conceivable reason to disbelieve her. To side with Bill Clinton is to trust the word of a pathological liar and notorious womanizer over the detailed account of a woman who has gained absolutely nothing from telling her story.
That’s the other important element of this: Broadrrick didn’t come forward until Bill Clinton was in his second presidential term. She wasn’t some devout right winger running onto the scene a week before the 1992 election. If this were a politically motivated smear, it would mean Broaddrick is brilliant and enormously stupid all at once. Brilliant for concocting such a compelling story and sticking to it so convincingly for so long, but stupid for waiting until the guy had already been elected governor twice and president twice to finally set her plan in motion.
But Broaddrick need not be brilliant or stupid. She is just a regular person telling the truth. She has given us a perfect example of a credible accusation. Ford’s story, on the other hand, does not meet this standard. It doesn’t even come close to it. Does that make it untrue? No, not necessarily. But that probably makes it somewhat less than credible. And it also means that any honest person who believes Ford, despite all of the valid reasons for doubting her, must certainly believe Broaddrick.