Woody Allen before reporters after his 1993 custody battle. Image via the AP.

Bret Stephens, a foreign and domestic policy columnist for the New York Times, emerged from a cave on Friday to tell us What Bret Stephens Thinks about Dylan Farrow. His verdict: Farrow is an opportunist taking advantage of the #MeToo moment for the purpose of “smearing” Woody Allen. He calls it: “The Smearing of Woody Allen.”

Beneath a black-and-white photograph of a rumpled, downcast Allen, Stephens argues that the public is primed to fall for any accusation since we’re inundated with stories of actual abuse such as those by Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, the idea being that it takes a minimum of 80 accusations to prove guilt. He writes:

But if Farrow wants an answer to her question [“Why Has the #MeToo Revolution Spared Woody Allen?”], it’s because we know that the charges #MeToo has leveled against men such as Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey are almost certainly true. The reason they have not been spared is because they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The facts, not the allegations, prove it.

But even in his “factual” evidence, Stephens leaves holes; he cites the “inconsistencies” which investigators found in then-seven-year-old Farrow’s story. Stephens neglects to mention the well-known fact that sexual abuse survivors tend to misremember facts and struggle to recall details. Stephens neglects to mention that the investigation prompted Allen’s custody suit (which he lost twice) in which Allen painted Mia Farrow as a spurned woman who coached Farrow to tell this story in revenge for discovering his sexual relationship with her teenage daughter Soon-Yi. Stephens neglects to mention that two babysitters and one tutor testified to Allen’s weird sexual behavior with Farrow, including putting his head in her lap, disappearing with Farrow for 15 to 20 minute intervals, and finding Farrow with no underwear. Stephens neglects to mention that Allen refused to take a polygraph test. Stephens neglects to mention that a judge ruled that “we will probably never know what occurred on August 4, 1992...[but] Mr. Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was grossly inappropriate and...measures must be taken to protect her.” Stephens neglects to mention that Allen hired private investigators to “dig up dirt” on the police, according to an anonymous Connecticut State Police investigator. Stephens neglects to mention that a Connecticut state’s attorney claimed to have “probable cause” to prosecute but did not file charges.

But like so much unfounded speculation which fills the pit of the NYT op-ed section, Bret Stephens’s story is credible because Bret Stephens says so:

Most parents know that young children are imaginative and suggestible and innocently prone to making things up. The misuse of children’s memories by ambitious prosecutors against day-care center operators in the 1980s led to some of the worst miscarriages of justice in recent U.S. history. You don’t have to doubt Farrow’s honesty to doubt her version of events.

Nor have we learned anything else about Allen in the intervening years that might add to suspicions of guilt. He married Soon-Yi and has been with her ever since. Nobody else has come forward in 25 years with a fresh accusation of assault against him.

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If Bret Stephens’s argument is that we’re not to rely on feelings alone, then Bret Stephens needs to provide more evidence other than Bret Stephens’s own feelings: children are imaginative, parents can be manipulative, all criminals must be repeat offenders–none of which are fact-based statements. At times the fast-and-loose logic flies completely off the rails:

If Allen is in fact a pedophile, he appears to have acted on his evil fantasies exactly once. Compare that to Larry Nassar’s 265 identified victims.

Holding anyone to a Larry Nassar standard as an argument for his innocence is lazy, speculative, and stupid, and a New York Times journalist should know better than that.

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It should not bear repeating that Farrow’s is not a #MeToo era allegation; she has been talking about her sexual abuse by Woody Allen since she was in first grade. Stephens compares hers to Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia story, which is sloppy: in Farrow’s case, the accuser has written the story; she has attached her name; the case had been investigated, and a judge has ruled on the matter. What would Farrow possibly have to gain from retelling this story for twenty-five years?

And thanks to op-eds like these, Farrow woke up yesterday and had to do it all over again.

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