by Alex Knepper
Sex crime accusations are gut-wrenching to deal with because the gravity of the offense is so heavy — and our tools for sorting truth from falsehood are profoundly and necessarily limited. On the one hand, we want to believe and console those who have been victimized — but we also don’t want to condemn a man as a monster unless we have incontrovertible evidence against him. It is difficult enough to neutrally evaluate sex crime accusations without partisan and ideological concerns getting in the way — but when we apply that political layer to an accusation, it is nearly impossible to have an even-handed discussion, since much is at stake beyond the simple guilt or innocence of the accused. Whether one gives Bill Clinton the benefit of the doubt seems to be motivated in almost every instance by partisan concerns, it seems — and I look at myself, too, and recognize that, as a supporter of Hillary Clinton, I want to believe he didn’t do what he’s accused of doing. So I will say here that I cannot state decisively that Bill Clinton is innocent. What I can say is that there are good reasons to give him the benefit of the doubt.
We know that Bill Clinton has a history of being a user and a cheater. We must remember that cheating is not assault, nor is it indicative of a greater likelihood to commit assault. Trump supporters love to sneakily cluster all sexual impropriety under the same umbrella — but while both are examples of bad behavior, only one is a crime. With this in mind, I will not bother addressing anything about Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, or other episodes in which the consensual nature of the affair is not in doubt. There are three primary accusers Republicans point to as evidence that Bill is a sex criminal: Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick.
I cannot decisively say that any of these women are lying. But I can say that there are good reasons to be skeptical of their claims, and that pro-Trump Republicans are exploiting both people’s ignorance about the details of the cases, as well as the popular progressive tendency to insist that we ought to always believe accusers. I do not accept the notion that we must always believe the accuser. We should always take accusations seriously — but from there, we must look at the evidence and only then decide how much weight to assign them. The weight of the evidence shows that there is good reason to give Bill Clinton the benefit of the doubt.