The Masseuse’s Tale: True or False?

On the morning of that terrible day in October 1991 when Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Clarence Thomas’s alleged sexual harassment of her, the story seemed compelling and believable; how could someone have made up a detailed story like this, and then go before the whole country to tell the lie? However, by the end of that long day and evening, after Thomas and many other witnesses had testified, Hill’s story appeared unbelievable, and it did seem that she had made it up. Perhaps the masseuse in Portland, Oregon has made up this entire story about Gore.

The National Enquirer says that the woman has asked for $1 million to tell her story in more detail. That makes her look like a golddigger. The problem with that idea is that the alleged incident took place almost four years ago, and she’s only asking for money now. Consider the sequence of events, as told in the Washington Post. In October-November 2006, the woman remained silent about the alleged incident which took place in October. In December 2006, her attorney claimed the attack had taken place, but the woman then changed her mind and declined to make a formal complaint. Then two years later, in January 2009, she herself went to the police and gave them the extraordinarily detailed account that we’ve quoted in previous entries. But the police dropped the case for lack of evidence, even though they did not speak to the woman’s friends or to hotel employees to seek corroboration of her story. And now in June 2010 she wants to tell her tale to the National Enquirer.

So there has been a progress, from (1) not wanting to speak about it at all; to (2) having her lawyer speak about it but then getting cold feet and declining to press charges; to (3) telling the police the whole story, and the police dropped the case; to (4) seeking to sell her story to the Enquirer. The financial part is only the last of four stages, progressing from complete silence (caused, she now says, by fear), to an abortive move to tell the story, to boldness in telling the story, to trying to be paid for telling the story. This doesn’t mean that her story is true, but it does indicate that money was not the motive for her telling the story in the first place.

Another thing. The woman is now 54 years old, meaning that at the time of the alleged incident she was about 51, not a spring chicken. I’m not saying it was impossible that the then 59 year old Gore would be carried away by uncontrollable lust for (or uncontrollable lust for power over) a 51 year old masseuse, especially as, in today’s world, 50 is almost what 30 used to be, but it does put a further question mark over her story.

- end of initial entry -

Ferg writes:

This woman’s story does not ring true with me, although I would be happy if it were true. The details sound fake to me as do Gore’s supposed statements and attitudes. And her rational for not slapping his face and walking out sounds the least likely of all. As though she were trying to come up with a plausible sounding explanation for why she did not leave. Sitting on the bed with him? Come on! The massage parlor that I used to frequent had signs on all the walls, “Any suggestive word or deed or improper contact would result in immediate cessation of the massage, and the requirement that you leave the premises.” Police would be called if you failed to comply. No ifs, ands or buts about it. If she was such a pro at doing this in hotels then she would have had a procedure for informing all clients of these limits and that she would leave the moment someone, anyone, crossed any of the lines. Up front, on the phone first, then in person when she arrived. Maybe a consent form to read and sign. If she didn’t do this, she was not much of a pro in my experience.

David B. writes:

This is how a liberal hero explains allegations of bad behavior. He uses “friends” who give his story to a sympathetic journalist, Howard Kurtz. Kurtz writes:

“According to a source friendly with the Gores, Al Gore confirmed he received a therapeutic massage in his hotel room that night, and likely from the therapist making the accusation. But, the source said, Gore remembers getting a massage without incident and the therapist leaving on good terms.”

Gore admits the massage did happen.

LA replies:

But the fact that the massage happened in no way supports the allegations.

Dean E. writes:

Women have made these things up before so it’s wise to be wary in “he said/she said” situations. The tale is so elaborate that if it is a wholesale concoction a good investigator would be able to find the fakery by following up on details such as her claim that she sought medical treatment for a leg injured trying to get out from under the crazed sex-poodle. Reading comments on other sites you see that perceptions of the masseuse’s credibility are heavily influenced by existing pro or anti Gore bias. With my own anti-Gore bias I read through the report with slack-jawed credulity, I admit, because it sounds exactly as I imagined Gore to be under the phony mask he wears in public. And she wrote it rather well, in an idiosyncratic, confiding voice, with colorful details, emotional engagement, and acute perception in describing Gore’s character.

So if this is a complete cock-up then I’m a credulous sucker because I bought it, and still do, in spite of the million dollar price she put on her tale for the Enquirer, though it does count against her credibility and make her look like a gold digger. Ironically, she addresses that very thing in the report, stating,

I decided I was not interested in making any money from this case. I did not want to be labeled a gold-digger like women in this case are often labeled…. I only want justice and having this ugly thing come out of the shadows and into the light where it cannot continue anymore. And for this man to be stopped from what he has been doing, which should have been done a long time ago. I know that I’m not the first woman to be assaulted by him. My guts told me that when I was struggling in the room with him, and I stand by it today. I hope the others will feel brave enough to come forward in spite of his public stature and army of lawyers. I even wonder who he may have already paid off to shut them up. I believe if someone had spoken up before this would not have happened to me. And I feel I must speak up to prevent, if I can, some other woman going through what I went through, or worse. He should not get a free pass because of his position.

So let’s just see if any more man-handled masseuses or groped chambermaids pop up with more lurid, sex-crazed poodle tales. And if her report turns out to be a total lie then I promise to print out her report and eat it, raw, right here on VFR. Well, not raw, no. I’ll boil it first.

Paul K. writes:

Ferg doubts the massage therapist’s story because she did not react to Gore’s advances in a logical manner. In highly stressful situations people often do not react logically, but instead do things that they later find hard to explain to themselves, much less to others. The book “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales gives examples of such inexplicable behavior, such as a hiker who nearly freezes to death while lost in a national park, afraid to make a fire because “it’s against the rules.” The masseuse was focused on her routine of organizing her equipment and folding up her bed as she would do under normal circumstances; trying to follow a normal pattern in an abnormal situation is typical stress-induced behavior. In my opinion, the strange account the woman gives of her own behavior lends her story credibility, because if she were making it up she would have made it sound more logical. As Mark Twain said, “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”

I am not saying that I’m certain the woman’s story is true, but nothing about the way she tells it inclines me to doubt it. It is very typical of other victims’ accounts I have read.

Also, she told a friend about the incident shortly after it happened. Contemporaneous statements are called prior consistent statements, and are considered to add weight to evidence. As you recall, during the Anita Hill testimony it was claimed that Hill had told a friend, Susan Hoerchner,that she had been harassed at the office, and this was considered to add great weight to her claim. However, Hoerchner placed her conversations at a time when Hill was not yet working for Thomas.

June 27

David B. writes:

I used to write you about the opinions of my college history professor, Dr. M, now deceased. It was he who told me: “Anything Tom Delay and those conservatives are for, I’m against.” You used this quote in an article published by Front Page. Dr. M’s reason for supporting any position the Democratic party took was “I’m a party man.”

He told me of his first encounter with Al Gore. It was in 1984 when Gore made his first race for the U.S. Senate. It was a meeting of local Democrats. Dr. M wanted to see Al Gore as a Great Liberal Statesman. Instead, all Al talked about was “who can raise money for me.” It was “money, money, where can I get money.”

Dr. M was a little disillusioned. However, another time he met Al Gore, Dr. M found him to be very charming. Gore knew everybody’s name.

As for the current allegations, no honest DA would file charges on just the accuser’s word. Even if true, there isn’t enough evidence. From what I have seen, there is no DNA or evidence of physical assault.

June 27

Dean E. writes:

I’m away for a day and return to find the masseuse’s tale buried under a blizzard of great new posts. You’ve been busy. I don’t know if it would be worthwhile adding further comments to that entry, but if you want to add this, here goes:

For those readers who think I and others have been too credulous about the Masseuse’s Tale, well, check this out: actual video of the incident, and with another amazing revelation—Al Gore speaks Chinese.

Kidding aside, it is amazing what they can do with computer animation. And when you watch the thing, even as crude (and hilarious) a simulation as it is, it seems to give the event a concrete reality that reinforces the idea that it actually happened. It’s a terrible thing to be unjustly accused, so if she’s making it up it would be wrong to treat it as a joking matter. Which is what I’m doing in that comment. On second thought, don’t post it. Hmm. I could just delete this email, but I’ll send it along to show you why I don’t comment more often, because this is usually what happens. I’ll take the time to write something and by the time it’s done, or even halfway done, I’ll think it over and start to see another aspect of the matter and ask myself (I think it was some Jewish moralist who formulated it?): “Is this true? Is this necessary to say? Is it good?” Something like that. And usually I end up trashing the thing. Your ability to roll out one well-thought-out post after another is impressive, and an ongoing delight to me and your readers. So if I am content to sit in the audience and watch Paganini play you may understand why I am not too often eager to join him onstage.

Good Sunday morning to you.

Ferg writes:

Paul K. writes:

The book “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales gives examples of such inexplicable behavior, such as a hiker who nearly freezes to death while lost in a national park, afraid to make a fire because “it’s against the rules.”

I finished reading “Deep Survival” for the second time a few months ago. I have corresponded a bit with Larry Gonzales and spoken with him on the phone. While I understand the comparison Paul K. is trying to make, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t think the masseuse’s supposed behavior is like that of the people who were in the denial that can come with the shock of finding yourself in a survival situation. To me it doesn’t sound as though she is failing to deal logically with a stressful situation, but rather she is trying to make up an interesting and tense sounding story. I wish it were otherwise, but that is the way I hear it.

LA replies:

Why do you wish it were otherwise?

Ferg replies:

Oh, just being partisan and taking comfort in Gore’s discomfort. Not a very Christian sentiment I guess, now that I state it. So I retract that wish.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 25, 2010 11:59 PM | Send

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