Ever since the great #pervnado of 2017 began, a lot of people have been confused. They have been throwing around words like trial, conviction, due process, presumption of innocence, and other courtroom type words in discussing various pervs suffering politically from sexual misconduct allegations.
With regard to allegations against Roy Moore and others, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) told the Associated Press that, “We shouldn’t have trial by newspaper.”
In Alabama, GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore hopes to win Tuesday’s special election even as allegations of sexual misconduct are swirling around him. Multiple women have accused him of sexual misconduct decades ago, when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
Cotton declined to say whether he thinks equal standards apply in all cases against Franken, Moore and Trump, who has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct and was recorded by “Access Hollywood” bragging about touching women without their consent. All three men have denied details of the accusations, if not the claims outright.
On Moore and others, Cotton said, voters “are going to make that decision, just like the people of this country made their decision last year on Donald Trump.”
He added that women should be able to complain of sexual assault and the accused should be able to defend themselves.
“We shouldn’t have trial by newspaper,” he said. (emphasis added)
Cotton is absolutely right that we shouldn’t have trial by newspaper. Someone who is arrested and charged with a crime deserves due process and a fair trial that isn’t interfered with by sensationalist media. This is why juries are instructed to abstain from reading or watching coverage of the trial for which they’ll have to deliver a verdict. In more extreme cases, juries are sequestered to prevent the media or other outside influences from swaying their opinions.
You can’t apply that sort of process to an election or to whether a particular politician should stay in office. Roy Moore, Al Franken, John Conyers…none of these men are on trial.
An election is not a trial. Losing an election or being asked to resign are not the same thing as being convicted of a crime.
Politicians have always been elected or unelected by the whim of public opinion. If credible reports of a candidate’s past misconduct become news, that is no more a trial by newspaper than stories about the candidate’s policy positions are.
If we decide that what is happening to people like Roy Moore is a trial by newspaper, then we must recognize that EVERY election is a trial by newspaper. As unreliable as it often is, the news is the primary evidence voters use to decide between candidates. Saying we shouldn’t have trial by newspaper either mischaracterizes what an election is or suggests that every election is being conducted improperly.