Ah, televised Board meetings. Whatever would we do without them?
Gentle Readers, for a slight change of pace, we are going to journey down the road into the County Seat of Norristown, to look at “breaking news” from the September 9, 2018 Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Meeting (full video HERE; relevant discussion begins at 35:23). I don’t habitually watch these meetings and, had a friend not called my attention to it, I wouldn’t have watched this one either.
What happens during public comment at this meeting is very disturbing. Excerpt below:
Let’s state this right up front: This blog post is not here to determine the veracity of these disturbing changes. As we’ve recently read elsewhere, guilt or innocence is for others to determine and the era of #metoo has produced a glut of these types of accusations.
So let us set aside the question of the legitimacy of the disturbing allegations of drugging and sexual assault lodged against Commissioner Ken Lawrence and examine instead how they have been handled.
Watchdog Media is Napping in the Yard
Did I mention that this video is from the September 9, 2018 Commissioner’s meeting? That’s a little more than six months ago.
As I wade through the crocodile tears from last week’s local newspaper outlets’ lamentations over the loss of the “watchdog” media due to their failed business model, I can’t help but wonder: why is this the first time I’m hearing about this? I mean, I’m pretty plugged in to County politics, and so are many of my friends and acquaintances, none of whom has heretofore heard a peep about this story.
The fact that a resident made those accusations during a public meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners is itself news, regardless of the merits of the allegations.
So where was our watchdog media on this story?
It’s almost like this story was squashed.
Do a google search on Ken Lawrence for yourself. Ken Lawrence is probably the only politician I know who has never had a negative thing written about him.
The Relevance of hyperbole depends on the Target
Ken Lawrence is a well-liked politician on both sides of the aisle. Democrats love him and Republicans feel like he is someone with whom they can work. I’ve met Ken Lawrence a couple of times and agree, he’s a nice, personable guy. When I appeared before the County Election Board in 2017, Lawrence promised me answers “by the end of the day” as to how the Election Board would address my complaint about John Pearson’s lack of campaign finance statements in 2015 (full story on this issue can be found HERE). Lawrence was true to his word in following up by day’s end, and promised an investigation by County Detectives into the matter. The matter was quietly resolved with Pearson paying fines for breaking the law. Lawrence did not carry a flag into battle for me, but he didn’t squash my complaint against his fellow Democrat, either.
That all being said, does anyone doubt for one minute that if Joe Gale was accused of sexual assault in a public meeting, no one in Southeastern Pennsylvania would be able to avoid hearing about it?
In fact, a year earlier, at the September 7, 2017 Commissioner’s Meeting, freshly declared candidate for State Senate Katie Muth engaged in a bit of political theater to gain some name recognition by pronouncing Joe Gale “a liar” during public comment. Gale’s crime was calling Planned Parenthood an “abortion mill” and attempting to deny “women’s freedom” by limiting “access” to “women’s healthcare” because he appeared at a pro-life rally in Reading. (Full meeting can be found HERE).
The merits, and relevance to County Business, of Muth’s accusations here are tenuous at best.
During these rather inflammatory and hyperbolic accusations, Chairman Val Arkoosh allowed Muth to just talk and talk and talk. Headlines blared about the confrontation, but somehow, our “watchdog media” missed the fact that “Concerned Citizen Muth” was really “Candidate Muth.” A critical point in determining motivation for the comments, wouldn’t you say?
It was a very different Val Arkoosh that chaired the meeting a year later. That Madame Chairman showed her Mama Bear side when someone attacked her cub, Ken Lawrence. Arkoosh and County Solicitor Shelly Smith continuously talked over the accuser, cutting off her remarks. They insisted her remarks were inappropriate because they had nothing to do with business before the Board, and unlike Katie Muth a year earlier, whose comments were at least as irrelevant to Board Business as this accuser’s, Arkoosh and Smith denied the accuser a right to be heard.
What happened to “believing all women?”
If you don’t remember electing Ken Lawrence, that’s because you didn’t. Ken Lawrence was appointed to the seat vacated by Josh Shapiro when Shapiro won PA Attorney General. As mentioned in a previous blog, Josh Shapiro, who never misses an opportunity to capitalize on hot political issues to further his political career, recently cut a PSA video with none other than #metoo poster girl Alyssa Milano on the importance of taking all sexual assault allegations seriously.
In this video, Shapiro cites a statistic that one in three women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
Gentle Readers, what do you think about this? If this statistic cited by our illustrious Attorney General is accurate, does it give the accuser’s allegations more weight or less weight?
In any case, Shapiro has also been silent on the accusations tainting his replacement at the head of Montgomery County.
From Josh Shapiro’s part in the PSA:
“America suffers from a cultural undercurrent that permits and protects the worst instincts and behaviors of misogynists and sexual predators, and our public response has been TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.”
Later in the PSA, Josh and Alyssa recommend steps to take:
“Alyssa: Listen to survivors and their advocates. Showing that we believe is crucial to helping others come forward.
Josh: Thanks to the #metoo movement, we’ve made important strides, but some of our media and many of our politicians continue to minimize and belittle survivors, putting them on trial instead of their abusers.”
Hmmm. Politicians “minimizing and belittling” survivors is exactly what I just witnessed happening to Ken Lawrence’s accuser at this six-month old Commissioners’ meeting.
So what is Josh Shapiro going to do about this situation in his own backyard? Because I don’t see any politicians or media or #metoo groups taking up the gauntlet for this accuser.
The “Crisis Point:” #HimToo
In what has to be the height of irony, earlier last week, Democratic “leaders” of Montgomery County penned an open letter calling on State Senator Daylin Leach to resign. It’s important to remember Daylin Leach, like Ken Lawrence, has also been accused of sexual assault that happened many years ago, and also like Ken Lawrence, the allegations have not been proven. Throughout this ordeal, it’s important to remember that Leach has maintained his innocence.
“Nonetheless, we regret that we find ourselves in an untenable situation; we have reached a crisis point. As to the accusations, that is for others to decide. Our concerns are the following. Over the past fifteen months, your reactions and behaviors to your set of circumstances has created a divisiveness that threatens Party harmony and undermines our cause at a time when we need to be united. Without exaggeration, Party members have described your lashing out, lack of judgement, and tone-deafness, as examples of behavior not becoming a state senator and leader of our Party. Regretfully, it has imposed disruptiveness among many members of the committee and elected officials. Our call mirrors that of the steady appeals made by committee members from across the county, as well as those elected officials who have already issued individual statements. We further note that holding elected office is a privilege, and to that end every officeholder has the responsibility to maintain the trust of the electorate and the Party with which that individual stands. We do not lightly dismiss that trust, but recognize that when behaviors so weigh down that trust as to shatter it to the point of continuous controversy, the damage becomes irreparable. What has been done, cannot now be undone.”
Ken Lawrence signed this letter.
That Daylin Leach has reacted to this situation by “lashing out,” and displaying a “lack of judgment” and “tone deafness” should come as no surprise to anyone;
this is who Daylin Leach is. He is no stranger to accusations of reacting inappropriately or making off color remarks, yet his voters are apparently unbothered by this behavior and regularly return him to the Senate year after year. I have never been a fan of Leach’s and have been vocal of my criticisms of him, but he was duly elected to office and he, like every other America citizen, deserves due process, especially before his livelihood is deprived of him. If you want to remove him, do it at the ballot box.
Gentle Readers, mark your calendars because this will probably never happen again: I actually applaud Leach for standing firm in the face of his cowardly party.
The major difference here is that the allegations against Leach have been blown up in the media and are actually being “investigated”–whatever that means for a he said/she said incident that happened 34 years ago. Also, the accuser, Cara Taylor, who herself was convicted of perjury back in the 90’s, has gained some vocal and visible support in the form of the local #metoo organization called Accountability PA. Taylor filed suit against Leach; Leach filed a countersuit against Taylor and two of her Accountability PA cohorts citing defamation.
The Accountability PA website seems to exist for the sole purpose of driving Daylin Leach from office, but click on through and you be the judge; perhaps the organization actually does other things too. But I don’t see anything on their website about action in any other sexual assault allegations other than Leach’s. And certainly there is no mention of the allegations against Ken Lawrence.
After living through the national tragedy of the Kavanaugh Confirmation hearings, I’m actually glad that Leach is fighting these charges. The pattern I’ve seen lately seems to be as follows: an accusation that far out dates the statute of limitations surfaces, and because the venue for criminal charges has expired, the accused is tried in the press and on social media. Due process is denied and any reaction by the accused, whether it be tears, anger, or the notorious counter lawsuit, is deemed “inappropriate” and just further evidence of guilt. Men (and boys in MAGA hats) are summarily tried and convicted based simply on the look on their face. Lives and reputations are ruined. All of the consequences fall on the accused; there are no ramifications to the accuser if the charges cannot be proven.
And these old incidents are very tough to prove: physical evidence is gone; victim and witness memory is hazy and subjective. There is a reason a statute of limitations exists for these types of offenses. This is true of both the Kavanaugh hearings and the Leach situation. So color me a bit more cynical with regards to “believing all women.”
It amounts to shadowboxing because it cannot be defended. And it is not America.
Interestingly, during her run for Senate last year, Katie Muth refused to share a stage with Leach at a political event, indicating she had already weighed the allegations and pronounced him guilty in her mind. In response, Leach labeled her a “toxic hand grenade.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, recently elected Senator Katie Muth is now sponsoring legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual assault.
Prior to seeing the September 9, 2018 County Commissioners’ Meeting, I really had no dog in the Muth vs. Leach war and I confess to a certain amount of Schadenfreude watching them duke it out. It was like the Iran-Iraq war: I wanted them both to lose. But the video from the September 9, 2018 Commissioners’ Meeting offended my sense of justice and fairness. Why is Leach the only Montco Dem with lingering allegations that is being singled-out for scrutiny?
If Leach’s accuser can extract a measure of justice which includes public shaming and a demand that he lose his livelihood, why is Lawrence’s accuser not afforded this same “justice?” Is it because she is, as she said, a Republican?
All of this attention on Leach makes the “leaders” of the Montgomery County Democrat Party uncomfortable, hence waddling in with their untimely letter now. This is a direct result of the weaponization of the #metoo movement by the national Democrats. Because the inherent problem with “believing all women,” a code that the Democrats have embraced, means denial of due process for the accused.
This is not how this works. This is not how any of this is supposed to work.
It should be noted that this call from Montco Dem Leadership comes many months after the noted inappropriate behavior and six weeks after Leach’s countersuit was filed. Meanwhile, the allegations against Ken Lawrence, which were brought to light at a public meeting six months ago, really never got any follow-up, and to my knowledge, have never been investigated.
Minimizing and Belittling SOME Survivors
Sexual assault is a serious and real problem. When some accusations are treated differently than other accusations simply because of the political ramifications of those accusations, it devalues all accusations.
Worse, it endangers true victims of sexual assault by diminishing their odds of being believed and getting justice. If allegations of sexual assualt and the #metoo movement are to be taken seriously, and not devolve into opportunistic political weapons (and in my mind, thanks to the Democrat Party, that ship has pretty much sailed), somebody, somewhere should be looking into these allegations against Ken Lawrence.
I wonder what Alyssa Milano would think? Does the accuser of Lawrence deserve at least the same respect and benefit of the doubt that Leach’s accuser has been getting?
Democrat Leaders of Montgomery County: where is your consistency with regards to these accusations against Ken Lawrence from September 7, 2018?
Do you #BelieveAllWomen or not?