On June 8, nine days before Utah Democrats were scheduled to select its next chair, one candidate announced his withdrawal from the race.
He’d been the target of allegations of “unwanted and inappropriate sexual conduct” vaguely outlined in a letter dated May 25, sent to the party’s executive committee and leaked to news media outlets. It was signed by six Democrats prominent in party circles.
Despite its lack of any corroborating evidence, the silence of signers and suspicious timing of release, the letter has produced a virtual avalanche of outrage across social media channels. The former candidate has been relentlessly and personally vilified, the original charges often conflated to felony status. Due process intended to protect the civil rights of both accused and accusers has been unabashedly mocked. Even supporters of the former candidate have been targeted.
One of the more disturbing social media comments was this:
"The awesome thing about this happening online, is now we know who WILL NOT be trusted with issues of sexual misconduct in the future. Has anyone started a list? Add (a former chair) and (a former state senator), please."
The writer echoes a dangerous period in which a bully (Joseph McCarthy) was allowed to create a climate of intimidation and fear based on rumor and innuendo.
As Democrats gather to select a new chair, I am hopeful they’ll join me in condemning what I consider to be similarly despicable behavior right here in Utah.
Bill Keshlear, former director of communication, Utah Democratic Party
Salt Lake City