A black woman accuses a prominent white lawyer of rape. The anonymity of the woman is protected as is that of the law enforcement official who speaks with reporters. Allthough no charges have yet been filed, the lawyer’s name and picture are splashed across the pages of the Daily News, the New York Post and the NY Times. The headline screams rape claim, and even though this man may turn out to be the innocent one in this incident , it is the woman whose reputation is protected. The assault is said to have taken place following a birthday party for Al Sharpton at which both individuals were guests. Mr Sharpton, who came to national prominence (and disgrace) with the Tawana Brawley case, had the insouciance to state “My heart is with both of them that the truth come out.” (NYTimes 10/6)
In the Brawley case, the truth did eventually come out but that never deterred Al Sharpton from continuing to defend Ms. Brawley, insisting that in fact, the truth didn’t matter. The besmirching of Stephen Pagones who went from being an exemplary Asst D.A. to a racist white rapist required a grand jury to peruse 6,000 pages of testimony before they concluded that all of Ms. Brawley’s accusations against Pagones and 5 other white men were a hoax concocted by a young black woman to avoid her feared stepfather’s violence. This non-rape occured in 1987 and here we are in 2014, still allowing people’s reputations to be irrevocably damaged before they are found guilty of anything. Al Sharpton has become the confidant of the most illustrious politicians in the democratic party. Hailed as the kingmaker in the election of De Blasio, he not only has the mayor’s attention and support but has wangled his former employee into a specially created job of assistant to the mayor’s wife to the tune of a $170,000 annual taxpayer-funded salary. Despite Rachel Noerdlinger’s failure to disclose that her live-in boyfriend was a convicted killer among other criminal misdeeds, she was neither fired nor censured for lying on the background check forms she was required to fill out. Sharpton has spoken out in her support, claiming that what her boyfriend did and says should have no bearing on Ms. Noerdlinger’s ability to do her job. But what about her willfull decision to omit telling the “truth?”
The truth is that names of accused rapists should be protected until that designation has been proved. Just as criminals are not allowed to profit from accounts of their crimes, the media should not be allowed to profit from destroying someone’s name and standing in the community under the guise of reporting the news. Selective shielding of self-reported victims while trashing those whom they may falsely accuse is blatantly unfair and discriminatory. Perhaps the Reverend Sharpton who professes love of truth will consider urging the politicians in his pocket to campaign for laws that will truly and equally protect the innocent.
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