Jacques: #MeToo drowns out due process

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Am I missing something? 

The uproar over two alleged incidents involving Republican state Sen. Peter Lucido has dominated the news and social media the past two weeks. 

From all the reports and the outpouring from state Democratic leaders, you’d think Lucido of Shelby Township did something truly frightening. 

When you delve into the details, however, the outrage seems overblown. 

Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, speaks to reporters on Tuesday afternoon after filing a harassment complaint against fellow Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township.

One interaction involves a young reporter, Allison Donahue, who works for the progressive outlet Michigan Advance. The other accusation comes from Lucido’s freshman colleague Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak.

Earlier this month, Donahue, 22, accused Lucido of telling her that a group of high school boys — who were standing nearby — “could have a lot of fun with her” and she could have fun with them. She then wrote a column about the encounter, which garnered her a lot of state and national attention, including a private conversation with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Senate leadership has launched an investigation into Lucido’s behavior. 

Donahue’s accusation spurred McMorrow this week to file her own sexual harassment complaint against Lucido, regarding an interaction she had with him a year ago during an orientation for lawmakers. McMorrow, 33, says Lucido put his hand on her lower back (too low in her opinion), and then told her he could “see why” she beat her opponent.

Michigan State Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, addresses a crowd of 60 people on Friday, January 17, 2020, in Washington Township.

Were Lucido’s alleged comments completely tone deaf and boorish? Sure. Most women have stories about how they’ve been belittled or demeaned in their careers. But is Lucido a sexual predator? I don’t think so. 

Especially in McMorrow’s case, even though she’s more than 20 years Lucido’s junior, she’s also his equal in the Senate. She seems like a confident woman who could have just told him to knock it off or she could have simply taken a step back. He probably would have gotten the hint. 

Now McMorrow seems intent on sinking Lucido’s reputation. For instance, she’s asked Lansing's MIRS news service to strip Lucido of his “senator of the year” title, which he earned last year for important, bipartisan criminal justice reforms he shepherded through the Legislature.

This is a common pattern in the #MeToo era, and one of its biggest flaws. Accusations are treated as fact, and guilt is assumed immediately. Remember what happened to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh? 

Look also at the reaction to news that University of Michigan Provost Martin Philbert is on leave, following sexual misconduct allegations. An investigation is underway, and no conclusion has been made about the veracity of the claims. Yet Regent Jordan Acker tweeted out his support for the “survivors,” and Rep. Debbie Dingell applauded their “bravery.” 

Language is meaningful, and by calling accusers “survivors” before we even know the facts strips any semblance of due process from the accused. 

In 2017, I came to the defense of Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken when his colleagues cried for his resignation following several accusations of misconduct, including some patting of women’s backsides. That was prior to any investigation. Franken did step down, but last year several senators who’d called for his head said they regretted doing so. 

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, told the New Yorker: “We needed more facts. That due process didn’t happen is not good for our democracy.”

Lucido also deserves some due process in the court of public opinion. But don’t hold your breath.

Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques