The latest on alleged sex criminal and Republican Senator Norm McAllister comes by way of this week’s Seven Days, and it ought to be an occasion for liberal schadenfreude over the fact that Republicans are still stuck with this tar baby. In the story, McAllister insists he will not resign and won’t agree to a plea deal. Republicans had been hoping he would change his tune once it became clear that his criminal case wouldn’t be resolved until sometime next year. But his tune, like Yanni’s, remains the same.
Thus, the 2016 legislative session is set to begin with a whole lot of embarrassing questions and an intense focus on the McAllister case. He might even show up for work, which would be the circus of the century. The Senate may try to expel him, which would lead to, presumably, public testimony from the likes of his former Montpelier roomies, Sen. Kevin Mullin and Rep. Tim Corcoran. It would be instructive to hear them explain, under oath, how they remained clueless about what was happening when McAllister had a teenaged “assistant” sharing his bedroom.
The schadenfreude is tempered, however, because the Seven Days article itself is kind of disturbing. It’s basically a one-sided account from McAllister’s point of view, quoting him extensively, painting him as a sympathetic figure, and providing little context or pushback.
The author is the usually reliable Mark Davis. The piece’s fatal flaw is that it hangs predominantly on an interview with McAllister and his son. They believe the Senator is completely innocent, that his accusers are lying and the prosecution has turned him into the real victim. It’s full of heart-rending details like:
McAllister recently sold a greenhouse he owned in town, and some farm equipment, to pay his attorneys, and he fears he may have to sell more land as the case continues. A friend concerned about McAllister’s mental well-being took his rifles away. So he couldn’t shoot a fox that killed most of the 100 chickens he kept for the egg money.
You can almost hear the violins playing.
Davis has McAllister “speaking… without anger,” which is interesting, because some of the stuff coming out of his mouth is awfully misogynistic.
“You’re screwed, because in this state, women are considered the Holy Grail,” McAllister told Seven Days. … “It’s great that nobody is above the law. But how does that work when you get accused of something you didn’t do? There’s a presumption that you must have because you’re a man.”
Yeah, well, there’s also the prosecution’s case, which was solid enough to prompt the arrest of a prominent citizen and earn him the immediate disdain of his legislative and political colleagues. Davis does mention said case here and there, but for the most part McAllister’s tale is unquestioned.
In the course of the story, Davis makes room for a brief homespun bio of the “fifth-generation Vermonter” and dairy farmer. He gives McAllister space to assert that he was only trying to help the women who are now accusing him of sexual assault.
Well, he did also have sex with them, over and over again, but insists there was no coercion.
It’s possible, but highly unlikely. False accusations of rape are rare. What’s much more common is a guilty man rationalizing his behavior. And on its face, even without looking at the evidence, there’s something squicky about a man initiating sex with women who are financially dependent on him. In that situation, the line between consent and coercion is almost nonexistent.
At one point, McAllister says landlords will be scared to rent to single women unless they “have witnesses.” I’d suggest a simpler solution: Don’t have sex with your tenants!
Also, don’t sleep with a vulnerable young woman you’re personally paying. There’s a word for that, even if it’s fully consensual.
Davis faced a challenge in writing the story because he had a newsworthy interview with McAllister, and his accusers “didn’t respond last week to phone messages seeking comment.” But even without their voices, the story could have been much better balanced. As it was published, it allows McAllister to plead his case with minimal rejoinder, and lay out some damaging myths about women and men and rape. It left a bad taste in my mouth.