Writing in the New York Times, Charlie Savage observes about one of the lawsuits against Donald Trump: “Because those cases are civil, Mr. Trump could choose not to attend the trials, just as he shunned an earlier lawsuit by Ms. Carroll, in which a jury found him guilty of sexual abuse.”
That is, of course, not true: Donald Trump, as of this writing, has not been found guilty of anything.
The sentence was afterward amended—without any acknowledgment of the error—to “liable for sexual abuse.” References to the original formulation remain online, and one may assume that they will remain there forever. The distinction is important for a few reasons: First is the obvious one, that journalists should try to represent facts accurately; second is the necessity of preserving the unique legal status of a criminal conviction in a time when progressives are attempting to strip Americans of their civil rights when they have not been convicted of—or even charged with—any crime; third, related to the second, is the emergence of what amounts in effect to a new quasi-legal standard in our public life: “credibly accused.”
Last week, I mentioned this Slate piece in which Abigail Esman argued that Americans should have their civil rights suspended based not on a criminal conviction or even an indictment but on … strangely, she never gets around to suggesting a standard of evidence, not because there isn’t one—there is!—but because it is one that she and others of her stripe would not like to acknowledge in public: She believes Americans should be penalized, up to and including the forfeiture of their legal rights, based on the say-so of the right sort of person, presumably people such as herself. The headline over her essay reads, “SCOTUS Is Really Considering if Domestic Abusers Should Be Allowed Guns,” and she writes: