I’ve avoiding writing about this. Perhaps the smart thing would be to continue to not do so? But I’ve never claimed to be all that smart, so here I go.
First, I want to establish a few things. Number one is that I am NOT in any way shape or form, some type of Chris Hardwick fanboy. I have come to know that he was considered a major celebrity in so-called geek/nerd culture, which I am semi-part of, due to my lifelong love of comic-books and science fiction, but if you’d asked me about him before this controversy what I thought of him I’d have answered honestly that I had no real opinion at all. I’ve watched him host various shows over the years, starting back when he co-hosted the MTV dating show Singled Out (which I watched for his co-host Jenny McCarthy, not him), and have been watching him on The Talking Dead, ever since I got into The Walking Dead a few years ago. And he does a fine job as a host, but that’s all I could say. It’s not like he’s spectacular at it or anything, he’s just there. And other that I knew nothing about him, I never followed him online, new nothing of his personal life, etc. So my point is that I have no instinctual need or desire to defend him, or to even hope that he’s not guilty of anything. This isn’t like, for example, when the news about Billy Cosby broke. As I’ve written about before, Cosby was a life-long role model to me, so I did not want to believe he was a serial rapist, but the numerous accusations from such varied woman just made it hard to believe anything else.
And second, I want to support the #MeToo movement. I support the ideals of it. Women who have been victimized, by sexual assault or harassment, should feel free to come forward. Powerful men in Hollywood (and many other industries) have been getting away with crap for far too long, and that needs to end. So whether it’s Harvey Weinstein or Louis C.K., I say expose them all and let’s get them out of the business.
HOWEVER…does this mean that we’re just supposed to automatically believe every single accusation that any woman makes against any man?
For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, here’s the summery of this controversy. Years ago Chris Hardwick dated a woman named Chloe Dykstra, for about three years. The only thing they both agree about this relationship is that at the end she cheated on him with another man. She claims that she confessed to Chris and he begged her to stay with him, while he said he dumped her. This was four years ago. And on June 14th of this year, Chloe wrote a post on Medium in which she detailed a list of sexual and emotional abuse that she said Chris subjected her to do during their relationship. If you haven’t already, I encourage you read it:
Despite her lack of actually naming Chris, the details she provided were enough that anyone who wanted to could figure out that she was talking about him, due to the public nature of their relationship. Public reaction was rather swift. The very next day, The Nerdist, a popular website (which I’d never heard of), which Chris had founded but was no longer actively involved in, eliminated all mention of him from their site.
Chris then released his own statement, denying the accusations, which you can read here:
Again, I had no personal stake in any of this, so I didn’t comment on it, I was just following the story like everyone else. But this one started feeling weird to me. First, I’m just going to say, I’m not a fan of the way she wrote the piece, not saying his name, but going out of her way to give so many personal details that anyone could figure out it was him. That just felt wrong. Yes, I understand that many woman don’t feel comfortable coming forward to name their abusers, but if you’re going to do it, then go ahead and do it. This way of not directly saying his name feels like she was trying to give herself a way out. Like “hey, I never said it was him!” And then there was this post:
“I quietly posted an article today, unlisted on Medium.” It’s like she’s almost trying act like she never expected anybody to read it, or to respond. Again, come on, you knew what your were doing. So if you mean it, say it, and stand by it.
Anyway, at this point it was a classic She Said/He Said situation. And the general consensus from the websites I read, to all the posts I’d seen from friends and followers on my Facebook and Twitter, was: she’s telling the truth, and he’s a scumbag. In the Court of Public Opinion, he was found Guilty on All Charges. Case closed.
Some of the reactions were downright nuts to me. One person on a message board that I lurked on wrote that Chris’s denial “has all the earmarks of an abuser. Narcissistic egoism. Complete lack of empathy for a person who is clearly suffering from something, even if he is certain he is in no way involved. Complete inability to accept even an iota of responsibility that he might have somehow hurt her or wasn’t perfect in the relationship. Its almost stereotypical.”
Did that bolded part stand out to you too? He’s attacking Chris for “lack of empathy.” Apparently, even if these accusations are totally false, Chris should be sympathetic towards Chloe. Because she must be going through something really bad in order to be making these false accusations towards him?!?
Yeah, no. Maybe I’m a weirdo, but if someone publicly falsely accused me of horrible crimes, I’m pretty sure that concern for their well-being would not be high on my list of priorities.
But this goes back to something I’ve posted before, when I asked how I should react if I were ever accused of rape?
“Apparently, if you don’t say anything YOU’RE GUILTY. And if you defend yourself YOU’RE GUILTY. Call your accuser a liar and you’re “blaming the victim.” Try to suggest anything about her motives for lying, say anything about her background, and you’re a monster. Meanwhile, your background gets scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb.”
And that’s exactly what seemed to be happening here. No matter what Chris said to defend himself, it’s just taken as more “proof” of his guilt. He’s a “narcissist” because he’s “not taken any responsibility” for the bad relationship (well, neither has she), or admitting that he wasn’t perfect. Except, well, he did say “Our three year relationship was not perfect—we were ultimately not a good match and argued—even shouted at each other—” but what more should he say, under these circumstances where she painting him as a monster for basically the entire three years?
As noted before, there’s also the significant difference in the way they each say that the relationship ended, after her admitted cheating (which she only claims was a “a kiss”).
HER: He begged me not to leave him, even told me he was planning to propose; despite stating previously he had no intention to marry me. I knew this all stemmed from his fear of being alone (He actually got engaged very shortly after I left him) so luckily I remained strong in my resolve to leave him, despite my only desire for three years being that he loved me the way I loved him.
HIM: “When we were living together, I found out that Chloe had cheated on me, and I ended the relationship. For several weeks after we broke up, she asked to get back together with me and even told me she wanted to have kids with me, ‘build a life’ with me and told me that I was ‘the one,’ but I did not want to be with someone who was unfaithful.”
Well, then Chris released a series of text messages between him and Chloe, which you can read here:
TL;DR the texts confirm that he indeed ended the relationship, and that she begged him to take her back, but he appeared to ignore her texts, which she eventually accepted after a couple of days. But then seven months later she reached out to him again, wanting to re-establish some kind of contact, which he again ignored.
Okay, so we now have some proof that she did lie about that aspect of the relationship in her post on Medium. That is a fact. But many still defended her, pointing out that many abused women try to stay in relationships or get back with their abusers. And that is certainly true. But then why did she not admit to that in her post?
See, this is the problem I have with this sort of thing. In any other case, when one person accuses another of a crime, and it’s just two people’s word against each other, you go over each statement to see who sounds more credible. And if one person’s statement is shown to contain a falsehood, that’s usually a sign that they’re not being truthful overall. Yet when it comes to rape and abuse, some people think the woman’s statement should be immediately taken as gospel, and any inconsistences are irrelevant. While the man is just guilty, and nothing he can say will change that.
But here’s another thing. Since this #MeToo movement has began, when a woman does come out and make accusation against a man, this usually leads to other women coming forward with their own stories about that man. Well, so far that has not happened here. Quite the opposite in fact, as three of Chris’ ex girlfriend’s, Jacinda Barrett, Janet Varney, and Andrea Savage, have all defended him, saying he did not act the way Chloe describes he acted during their relationships with him. I thought Savage, in particular, had a great response as she stresses her support for the #MeToo:
““I feel like we’re suddenly in this environment where people are able to publicly name and accuse you of things, but then nobody else is allowed to give their experience with that person and defend their character.” If you’re a woman and you say something like this, you’re not supportive of women and against the MeToo movement. If you’re a man, forget it, you can’t say anything. I feel like the MeToo movement is so important, and it’s such a fragile platform on social media and the Internet for women whose voices are not being heard and literally, have no where else to turn. I feel like as much as we’re calling on men to take responsibility, women need to, as well, to protect this channel because it is powerful. When you say something, it has serious repercussions.”
Jacinda’s post was also quite poignant, in my opinion.
I’d also note that Chris’s wife, Lydia Hearst, and her mother Patty Heart, have both spoken in defense of him, but I know most folks will just dismiss them as being biased. But with the 3 exes, they’d certainly have no reason to lie for him now. And, yes, of course, I know that just because he didn’t abuse them, it doesn’t mean he didn’t abuse Chloe. But from my observation, most abusers do tend to be continuous abusers. Perhaps Chris is that rare one, who was normal in all of his relationships until he started dating Chloe, in which case he suddenly turned into a monster for three years, and then he went back to normal afterward?
Or maybe, just maybe, this is one of those RARE OCCASIONS, that estimated TWO to TEN PERCENT of rape/abuse allegations that are false?
Well, after almost two months, AMC decided to reinstate Chris as host of The Talking Dead, I’m actually watching the first new episode of the season as I type this. That decision has not been popular with everyone, including one executive producer and several staff members of the show who have quit, and that’s a shame. But they have the right to their opinions, and if they believe he is an abuser, I don’t blame them for choosing to not work with him, just like I don’t blame any fans of the show who refuse to watch anymore.
But for me, I believe that based on what has been revealed so far, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I presume that he is innocent, until I’m shown something to make me believe otherwise. Speaking of which:
So again, just like in her original article, she’s claiming she has actual proof. Proof which she is choosing not to share, unless he sues her. Well, that’s a great little trap. I believe she knows damn well that if he did sue her, that would just make him even more guilty in the eyes of those who already think he is. People already accused him of “blaming the victim” just by denying he accusations, if he sued her then he’d really be a monster. And what would he have to gain? A lawsuit and trial would just spread the accusations, drawing more attention to it. And, as we see, no matter the outcome, those who’ve made their mind up will still think he’s guilty? So what’s he got to gain? He certainly doesn’t need her money, of which I doubt she has much of. And yet I see on her timeline that many people are saying that the fact that he hasn’t sued her is proof that he must be guilty.
I’m sorry, but the combination of her sly way of writing about him, making it abundantly clear that it couldn’t be anybody but him that he’s talking about, but not naming, and claiming she has proof but refusing to share it, just further makes me doubt her story. If she has such definitive proof to back up her accusations, now’s the time to share it.
Just my opinion.