If you’re looking for a clue that Mel Tucker didn’t actually embrace the program rape survivor or advocate Brenda Tracy puts on at college campuses all over the country, look no further than his response to being called out in public for his behavior.
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USA Today’s Kenny Jacoby, who initially broke the story that Tracy filed a Title IX complaint for sexual harassment against Tucker in December, reported today that Tucker had allegedly made false, and misleading statements to Michigan State University’s outside investigator, Rebecca Leitman Veidlinger.
In addition to making an inaccurate statement about where he was at the time he made a call to Tracy, which Tucker admits involved him masturbating and which ultimately led Tracy to file the Title IX complaint, Tucker claimed that he, and Tracy had been in a romantic relationship, which Tracy denies. According to USA Today, after that call, Tucker, and Tracy did not speak to each other for months.
Meanwhile, their assistants were planning Tracy’s third visit to campus — an in-person training with coaches and players scheduled for July 25.
Tucker canceled that training three days before, the investigation report shows. When Tracy spoke to him by phone on Aug. 2 seeking to find out why, she would tell the investigator in her interview that Tucker insinuated he would harm her career if she spoke about his conduct. He never rescheduled her visit, and they never spoke again.
In a public statement denying any wrongdoing, Tucker denied canceling Tracy’s upcoming presentation, claiming that he “never canceled any presentation.” Tucker went on to blame the postponement of the presentation on personnel and scheduling issues, saying Tracy “chose to file her complaint instead of proceeding with the training.”
But according to Jacoby, Tucker told Veidlinger something entirely different.
When Veidlinger asked in his March interview if he had a role in canceling Tracy’s visit, Tucker said, “Yes, absolutely I did,” the report shows, and that he did not recall any discussions about rescheduling Tracy for January. Such timing would not make sense, he added, because most of his new players would not yet be on campus.
But perhaps the most jaw-dropping reporting in Jacoby’s piece comes from the revelation that Tucker not only blamed Tracy for gossiping about his marriage, and allegedly telling others that his relationship with his wife was “on the rocks,” but also claimed that ESPN’s Paula Lavigne, who frequently covers sexual assault in college football, was “investigating how Tracy ‘goes about her business’ by claiming to be a rape survivor.” Lavigne, however, told USA Today “Neither the organization nor Tracy is or has been the target of any investigative reporting.”
What makes all of Tucker’s claims so hard to swallow is that, for some time, he presented himself to Tracy as a supporter of her cause, as one of the rare men who “got it” when it came to sexual assault and misconduct. That he truly understood why so many women don’t report sexual assault, Namely, that they fear they won’t be believed.
Yet when Tucker found himself among the accused, he restored to the same tactics that keep so many women quiet to begin with. He called her a liar, suggested that she had ulterior motives, and claimed that she made false allegations in order to gain a big payday. And anyway, even if her claims are true, the whole thing was consensual because they were in a relationship. And anyway, he intimates, where’s the proof she’s even a rape survivor in the first place?
Sounds awfully familiar.
It’s the same playbook powerful men use every time they are accused of sexual misconduct. The accuser is a liar, probably crazy. Who knows why she’s accusing him of sexual misconduct? But she’s definitely after money. Or scorned. Or just jealous of another woman in his life. The faces and names change, but the allegations against the accuser are always the same. It would be laughable if so many young men didn’t buy it hook, line, and sinker. And it fundamentally affects the way too many in our society view sexual assault. The reason the #MeToo movement was so groundbreaking was not that so many women made allegations against powerful men, but that so many people believed thew women. And even that was largely because they came forward in large groups against the same man.
A lone woman going up against a powerful famous man knows what she’s in for. Being dragged online by total strangers who declare her to be a liar, despite knowing almost nothing about what actually happened. Probably threats to her safety. Possibly having to leave her home Definitely having her name dragged through the mud. And that’s before we even get to the mental toll coming forward takes on the victim.
If there’s one man who pretended to be an agent for change, a supporter of #BelieveWomen, but resorted to the same old tropes the minute he was the one in the crosshairs, it’s Mel Tucker. And shame on him.