It’s one thing to adopt a poorly formed set of principles and foist them on others at every opportunity. It’s another to apply those principles unflinchingly to one’s political opponents while giving allies a free pass.
Celebrity Alyssa Milano — who is famous now mostly for having once been famous — has lately become an expert in this sort of hypocrisy, as she has cashed in her social-media currency to become a useless fixture of our increasingly useless political debates.
Unlike most of our cultural icons, she has declined to use her Twitter and Instagram accounts to fill our feeds with mind-numbing but bearable drivel about nontoxic beauty products, green smoothies, and high-intensity workouts. Instead, she has chosen to become a champion of myriad progressive causes and a star in the vast constellation of anti-Trump celebrities.
One of her more memorable crusades in recent memory was on behalf of failed 2017 Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, who attempted to win an open seat in a Georgia district in which he didn’t reside. But perhaps her most vocal campaign has been as a self-fashioned leader of the #MeToo movement. In this role, she has often invoked the ill-conceived “believe all women” principle by which we are required to reflexively assume that every woman who alleges sexual harassment or assault is telling the truth.
During the lengthy smear campaign against Brett Kavanaugh — in which the nominee’s ideological opponents attempted to tank his confirmation by entertaining unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct — Milano became one of the most vehement anti-Kavanaugh voices.
When one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, gave her public statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Milano attended the hearing, sitting well within view of the C-Span and network cameras. She was there, she said, “to show support for Doctor Ford, to stand in solidarity with other women, other survivors that have been through similar experiences.”
“If professor Christine Blasey Ford is to be believed, and I believe she is, Brett Kavanaugh is a sexual predator,” Milano wrote in a CNN op-ed in October 2018. In one tweet at the time, she shared a statement from discredited Kavanaugh accuser Debbie Ramirez. In another, she wrote:
They have reached out to Deborah Ramirez and her representatives.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 29, 2018
Apparently, she thought that the FBI should “reach out” to Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, who, without witnesses or evidence, accused Kavanaugh of vicious sexual crimes.
Since the dawn of the #MeToo movement, Milano has presented herself as a consistent advocate for women, staunchly refusing to survey the available evidence in each accusation and instead mechanically adopting the position that accused men are always guilty.
No longer. In the wake of sexual-misconduct allegations against Joe Biden, whom Milano has endorsed for president, the #MeToo maven appears to have discovered the long-forgotten notion of due process.
In an interview yesterday afternoon, Milano explained her decision to continue endorsing Biden, even as she defended her position of believing women’s testimony, saying that “for so long, the go-to has been not to believe them.”
“We really have to sort of societally change that mindset to believing women,” she continued. “But that does not mean at the expense of giving men their due process and investigating situations, and it’s got to be fair in both directions.”
Of the accusation against Biden, Milano went on to say, “I did my work and I spoke to [anti–sexual harassment group] Time’s Up, and I just don’t feel comfortable throwing away a decent man that I’ve known for 15 years in this time of complete chaos without there being a thorough investigation.”
In a Twitter thread last week after one of the accusations emerged, Milano wrote, “I respect Lucy Flores’ decision to share her story and agree with Biden that we all must pay attention to it. But, just as we must believe women that decide to come forward, we cannot assume all women’s experiences are the same.”
#MeToo activist and Harvey Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan harshly criticized Milano for her defense of Biden. While McGowan deserves criticism for embracing the “believe all women” mantra and dispensing with due process, she’s right to note the insincerity on display when activists such as Milano apply those principles only when it’s politically convenient.
Milano’s pro-due-process statement on the accusations against Biden is, in essence, the correct one, just as Biden’s recent defense of himself was justifiable. Due process is an essential part of the liberal legal tradition and a foundational part of our culture; there’s nothing wrong with invoking “innocent until proven guilty” on one’s own behalf or that of a friend. There is, however, quite a bit wrong with invoking this principle only when it suits you and jettisoning it when it comes to people holding political beliefs you find abhorrent.