Melissa Fazli — whose accusation of sexual misappropriateness (not illegality, not even misconduct) against CA-39 candidate Gil Cisneros has been the lifeline of Young Kim’s campaign in that district — has withdrawn those accusations after a meeting they held with Cisneros’s former top rival for the nomination Andy Thorburn and Democratic activist Mirvette Judeh. As OJB concluded at the time, the exchange between them seems to have been a misunderstanding over the political, as opposed to sexual, meaning of the phrase “what will you do for me?” — at a time when Fazli’s endorsement could have been critical to Cisneros’s candidacy and it was clearly an endorsement, rather than a fling , that was on Cisneros’s mind.
I don’t doubt Fazli’s sincerity in her interpretation of what was said to her, nor her courage in bringing it forward if that’s what she believed — all I can say is that sometimes it pays to check with a few more people prior to making an incendiary accusation without the a sufficiently compelling factual foundation to back it up. (The contrast between what Fazli said happened, and the factual allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez against Brett Kavanaugh, could not be more stark.) There are worse things that can be said about someone that they’re perhaps a bit too innocent to recognize the difference between a sexual proposition and a political one — and even if she was mistaken it testifies to Fazli’s character that she had the spine to bring it up if she believed it was wrong.
But now there has to be a reckoning — and we need apologies from House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan, whose PAC has unleashed vicious and distorted attacks on Cisneros, and Cisneros’s opponent Young Kim. who has stood silently ready to benefit from them.
Republicans have been getting hammered this year over sexual scandals — wait, let’s not call them “sexual,” but “sexual violence and assault” scandals — from Donald Trump to Brett Kavanaugh and beyond. Polling and voting results have shown that it has been killing them particularly among suburban women — that is, women in districts like CA-39, which centers on Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Diamond Bar, and Chino Hills. So Fazli’s accusations have been like manna from heaven for them. But let’s be very clear what those accusations are — and what the Republican campaign twisted them into.
Fazli said that Cisneros tried to invite himself into her hotel room at the state party convention (true) ,she believed seeking sex (not true, it was to talk to her about an endorsement), and that when she asked him for a campaign contribution his answer was that he conditioned such a contribution on either her giving him sexual access or spying for him (not true at all).
In its widely distributed ads in support of the Young Kim campaign , Paul Ryan’s PAC interprets this with these words: as “sexually harassing a fellow California Democrat, inviting himself to her hotel room and demanding sex in exchange for campaign funds.”
It’s that last phrase that is chilling — and that has no doubt cut into Cisneros’s margin against Kim. And it is so misleading — defensible only through technical use of a legal term — as to be downright evil.
The word “demand” is carefully chosen there. In law, a “demand” is “an indication of what one will accept in exchange for an offer.” If Cisneros said “I will donate to your campaign if you endorse me, he was in that limited technical sense issuing a “demand” — but it was not a “you do this OR ELSE” kind of a demand, it was a “you do X and in return I will do Y” kind of demand, something that was entirely benign.
Paul Ryan — with Young Kim’s complicity — cunningly made this sound like “an attempt to extort sex from her — in other words, “sexual assault.”
Get it? Sex was supposedly part of the “demand” in a quid pro quo bargain — and therefore (some repulsive political advertiser realized) they could technically accuse Cisneros of “demanding sex.”
You know, “demanding sex” — like putting a knife to someone’s throat and demanding sex from them. That’s what they were (with some evident success!) implying to suburban voters.
All I can say to that is:
GOD DAMN THEM FOR THAT!
Sexual assault is serious enough a crime that one should NEVER make an accusation of it against someone by playing WORD GAMES.
By saying that Cisneros “demanded sex” from Fazli — knowing that people would not construe that phrase in its non-contractual bargaining sense, but as in “YOU GIVE ME SEX NOW!” — Paul Ryan’s team trumped up not only a #metoo accusation out of nothing, but an accusation of violent sexual assault. (That Cisneros is Mexican, and therefore this would evoke Donald Trump’s infamous claim that “Mexicans are rapists,” Paul Ryan’s team no doubt saw as just a subtle racist bonus.
And — LET’S NOT FORGET — Young Kim sat there silently in implicit approval of it all!
Here’s what has to happen now:
(1) Paul Ryan’s team has to fire whoever in his PAC came up with and approved the disgusting “he demanded sex from her” assertion.
(2) They must IMMEDIATELY cancel all ads making this vile and bogus claim.
(3) They should run ads retracting and apologizing for that claim.
(4) Young Kim has to apologize for sitting idly by while someone was defamed in one of the worst possible ways just so she could win an election by their lying to voters.
Young Kim’s campaign office’s phone number is 562-448-3003. You can call her and ask her if she will apologize and demand that the PAC cancel the vile and bogus ads it has been running to help her. You can also ask her to do this on Twitter: @YoungKimCD39. (And if you’d like to ask her if she believes the women accusing Brett Kavanaugh, given the standard used in accepting Fazli’s accusations of actors that at their worse were magnitudes less serious, please do that too.)
[Cisneros’s press release appears in the first comment below.]