When the news story first broke that Al Gore had been accused of assault by a masseuse who says she visited his room in Portland's Hotel Lucia in 2006, I thought there almost certainly wasn't anything to the allegation, because rich and famous men such as Al Gore are frequent targets for allegations of this kind.
So, despite my natural interest in the case after over 20 years of work on the global warming issue, I didn't even bother to read the police report. That is, until I read this Steve Duin column from the Portland Oregonian (excerpt):
Her story feels painfully cinematic and over-rehearsed. She three times ducked the opportunity to follow up with Portland police investigators, then tried to micromanage the Portland Tribune's attempt to report the sexual assault. And, according to the executive editor of the National Enquirer, she demanded $1 million for her side of the lurid tale.There's more to the Duin piece; I suggest reading the whole thing.
Yet for all that, I tend to believe Portland's red-headed masseuse and her accusations about Al Gore. Though she does carry on in the 67-page play-by-play she finally dumped on police detectives in 2009, there's the ring of truth in the breathless narrative about a politician coming on like Bill Clinton to a woman who has no interest in being Monica Lewinski...
...When Gore berates her for refusing to massage those famous lower abdominals, the masseuse says she replies "in a softer, terrified, calming tone, 'No impropriety was inferred, sir.'"
But she soon realized, "much to my horror, that I was in the perfect storm: ... in a room with someone who was Teflon-coated in terms of his credibility and celebrity." And someone, no less, demanding a happy ending!
"My mind was now reeling from this absolute betrayal."
You might think an experienced masseuse would be a little less shocked when clients bring great expectations to hands-on sessions that commence at 10:30 p.m.
But this one -- "I felt like Bambi in the headlights" -- can't get over her outrage that Gore tried to take savage advantage of her. In his alleged clumsy gropings and demands for sex, he is an "unpredictable predator," "the Energizer Bunny," a "crazed sex poodle," and one of those "scary, without-a-conscience, spoiled, out-of-control-fraternity-boys-at-a-kegger type of persons with a perverse sense of entitlement."
Her anger eventually comes through in ways that are both understandable and believable. What he says carries more weight than what she says. And living in Portland, among "the Birkenstock Tribe," she's going to be made to feel like "the ultimate traitor" when she calls Gore out for coming on to her with chocolates, condoms and karaoke.
Lewinsky relished the publicity, at least in the beginning. The masseuse, now 54, is a far wiser woman. She was not eager to feed our insatiable appetite for this stuff. "I did not immediately call the police," she says, "as I deeply feared being made into a public spectacle and my work reputation being destroyed." ...
After reading this I read the full Portland police report, and my response was very close to Duin's. The accuser seemed far more credible than I expected. She's very detailed about what she alleges she was thinking and it just sounds believable.
On the other hand, we haven't heard Al Gore's side of story. It seems odd that he hasn't had his lawyers issue a brief but categorical denial, but if he is innocent he may figure the story will go away, and that it will go away faster if he doesn't comment. It's also true that Gore presumably has known he's been a prime target for false allegations of this sort since he lost his Secret Service protection and become very wealthy. So for all we know, perhaps he has been protecting his reputation all along by some means, such as by secretly running a recording device when in circumstances in which he-said, she-said issues could arise.
I know if I was a man in Gore's position, I would never be alone in my room with a woman I did not know well, however innocent the reason, without at least running an audio recorder. And if that occurred to me, a person who is not rich and is not a man, it very likely occurred to Gore.