ABC News chief political analyst Matt Dowd argued that the presumption of innocence is an important principle but that everyone should also presume that women who accuse powerful men of sexual assault are telling the truth.
During a roundtable on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday morning, Dowd delivered an impassioned defense of accusers in sexual assault cases. He said women are looking at the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh to see whether their voices will be heard and believed rather than viewing it through a partisan political lens.
Dowd, a political consultant and self-identified “diehard independent,” was the chief strategist for the successful reelection campaigns of former President George W. Bush in 2004 and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.
According to Dowd, the “totality of the problem with almost everything we have today” is that people do not listen to others when it’s a message they don’t want to hear. He said the #MeToo movement is a really important cultural moment that’s been brewing for decades.
“And this is a moment where, yes, the presumption of innocence is a standard in something that we need to do, but part of the problem is that we’ve also said we presume in these cases that the woman — in most cases, the woman — is lying,” Dowd said. “So, instead of saying let’s presume she’s telling the truth and we have a presumption of innocence, what do we do?”
Christine Blasey Ford recently accused Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, of drunkenly attacking her at a high school party 36 years ago. President Trump’s response on Twitter to this allegation on Twitter received tremendous pushback.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!” Trump tweeted.
To make his case, Dowd commented on the oppression that women have faced throughout history and said they have been treated as property for thousands of years and as second-class citizens by powerful institutions like the Catholic church.
“Women didn’t get the right to vote in this country until 1920, even though they were told in the 1780s that all men are created equal in this,” Dowd said. “Women have dealt with this for hundreds and hundreds of years, and the question is ‘Will they be believed when they actively accuse a powerful man?’”
He said it wasn’t until the 1980s that women were finally told that someone can get raped in marriage and that most cases of rape are not reported or investigated. He suggested that it’s far more likely for a woman telling the truth about a sexual assault to not be believed than it is that she would bear false witness.
“Part of the problem when we get to a ‘he said, she said’ is almost every single time in a ‘he said, she said’ case the default position is he wins,” Dowd said.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken Sept. 16-19 and published Friday found that men supported Kavanaugh’s nomination 41 percent to 33 percent, whereas women opposed his nomination 42 percent to 28 percent. Opposition among college-educated women was even more pronounced at 49 percent.
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