In an interview with the Boston Globe, writer Junot Díaz addressed the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by several writers in the spring, claiming he was “distressed,” “confused,” “shocked,” and “panicked” by the accusations.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I was, like, ‘Yo, this doesn’t sound like anything that’s in my life, anything that’s me.’”
In May, author Zinzi Clemons alleged in a series of tweets that at a workshop when she was a young writer, Díaz “forcibly kiss[ed]” her. “I’m far from the only one he’s done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore,” she wrote. Three other authors, Carmen Maria Machado, Monica Byrne, and Alisa Valdes, came forward to accuse Díaz of verbal abuse, of “bullying and misogyny,” as Machado put it, and, in Valdes’s case, of convincing her to have sex with him she was a young writer.
Díaz—who, prior to the accusations, wrote a piece for the New Yorker detailing being raped as an eight-year-old, and how that set him up to “hurt” other people—told the Boston Globe he was not a sexual abuser. “There is a line between being a bad boyfriend and having a lot of regret, and predatory behavior,” he said. In June, Díaz was cleared by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he teaches, in a misconduct investigation. The Pulitzer Prize Board launched its own investigation in May.
Díaz, who spoke to the Globe with his lawyer present, denied kissing Clemmons. He also distanced himself from a statement he put out shortly after the accusations came out against him, where he claimed, “I take responsibility for my past,” and that “We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.”
“I’ve written a lot of crap in my life. One does when one’s a writer,” he said. “But, definitely, that statement is the worst thing I’ve written, the worst thing I’ve put my name to. Boy, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to rewrite the damn thing.”
Still, the Globe points out that Díaz’s accusers still believe the author should be held accountable for misogyny. “Unfortunately, with #MeToo, the standard seems to be, ‘Well, it’s not as bad as Harvey Weinstein, so therefore it’s not something we should do anything about,’” Alisa Rivera, who wrote in The Rumpus that Díaz sexually harassed and bullied her when she was a young writer, told the Globe. “I think we should have a bigger conversation about abuse of power.”