Opinion: Accusations are not convictions

The French actor Gerard Depardieu is world-known as a lusty, usually charming pursuer of the carnal. He’s now being accused of crimes against women, some violent in nature. A star of French cinema, Depardieu is being defended by French President Emmanuel Macron. Other supporters are former French first lady Carla Bruni, actress Charlotte Rampling and Depardieu’s former partner, actress Carole Bouquet.

An accusation is not a conviction. It is common in custody battles for one parent to falsely accuse the other of child abuse. Jilted lovers are known to smear their ex-partners for revenge. Grifters make false accusations to shake “deep pockets” down for money. And some accusers are mentally unstable.

Depardieu might be guilty of serious crimes, but isn’t it early to talk about stripping away his Legion of Honor medal? Depardieu denies the charges of rape and assault and, as Macron says, he deserves a presumption of innocence until a court decides otherwise.

A group leading the war against Depardieu, called MeTooMedia, responded to Macron, “You invoked the presumption of innocence, as if innocence took precedence over presumption.”

Well, doesn’t it?

Look, serious allegations must be investigated. But until it’s established that a crime has been committed, it’s only someone’s word.

Depardieu is a big fat target who makes gross sexist remarks on the record. A character of enormous appetites, Depardieu is no Cary Grant, nor ever was.

But while rape is a violent crime, publicly saying crude things about a girl on a horse is not. A company would be well in its rights to dismiss an employee who did this, but then the perp would be jobless not incarcerated.

It’s not against the law to be a pig, which based on Depardieu’s rap sheet of filthy remarks, he may well be. Anyone who wants to boycott his movies is free to do so. Barring him from appearing in movies, however, is another matter.

Hardly a day goes by without some news report that “So-and-so has been accused of sexual harassment.” Therefore, he must step down or be blacklisted or hand someone a bag of money. And it’s alarming how many allegedly smart people fail to ask whether the individual was guilty and, if so, whether the charge involved truly serious misconduct.

When Joe Biden was running for president in 2020, a random woman accused him of grabbing her privates. What followed were urgent calls for him to leave the race, not so much from Republicans but from Democrats backing one of Biden’s competitors for the nomination.

“In an ideal world, the Democrats would not have nominated a candidate whose history included guerrilla-nuzzling women and a possible sexual assault,” Jennifer Senior wrote in The New York Times back in 2020.

All this before taking a close look at Biden’s accuser. Tara Reade had a history of knocking on the door of her landlord to ask for emotional support. She often didn’t pay her rent. She also had a thing for Vladimir Putin and eventually defected to Russia. Yet on the basis of this troubled woman’s unverified accusations, Biden’s campaign could have fallen.

It’s not just the veracity of the accusation that needs questioning; it is also the accusation itself. Biden did “nuzzle” the back of at least one woman’s head. He shouldn’t have done that, but characterizing that dated fatherly gesture as a “guerrilla” attack was hysterical.

One of the biggest raps against Depardieu, according to Le Monde, is that, on a trip to North Korea, he was heard “making explicit sexual comments in the presence of a female interpreter.” That was no reason for a wax museum in Paris to immediately remove his figure.

Accusations are not facts. How about waiting for facts?

— Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist with Creators.


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