Michael Shermer addresses controversy regarding speech

Channels Opinion Page | Letter to the Editor

On March 19 I spoke at SBCC. Later I discovered that Dr. Raeanne Napoleon—who doesn’t know me or anything about me—used the “All Campus” email system to repeat false accusations against me in which I allegedly sexually assaulted a woman a decade ago. This paper printed those accusations with quotes from Napoleon, but made no effort to contact me to ask for my opinion. As is typical of witch-hunts in which additional falsehoods are layered onto allegations, Napoleon added one of her own:

“Although the police did not bring formal charges against him, there have been many witnesses that have publicly corroborated the stories of the victims.”

What police? Where? When? I have never been investigated by the police for anything anytime anywhere. (Fact check it yourself on those sites: just search “police”.) The reason I reacted as strongly as I did is that such repeated falsehoods become “alternative facts”; e.g., over the years I have witnessed the transformation of “allegations of rape” to “known rapist” to “convicted rapist.” Convicted! I document many such falsehoods here.

I truly have no idea how to respond to these false allegations. For many people, silence=guilt, denial=guilt, explanation=guilt, and legal defense=guilt. I am not guilty, but how does one prove a negative? This is why our legal system assumes you are innocent until proven guilty. All I can say in my defense is that there’s a reason why I am still a professor at Chapman University, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a regular public speaker on campuses around the country, and my books are published by a major publishing house (despite efforts by moral crusaders to get me fired): they carefully considered the allegations and dismissed them.

For the record: I am not a sexual assaulter. I have never—and would never—treat another human being with such despicable disregard. The accusation infuriates because it goes against my very nature and everything I stand for, and because I value the truth so highly, that these allegations are false means I must stand against them here and anywhere else.

—Michael Shermer



Editor’s Note: April 26, 2018
The Channels reached out to Michael Shermer on April 12 with an invitation to submit a letter to the editor, and received this submission on April 25.