And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Rupert Myers, a barrister and journalist, was not caught in adultery, and if he had been I daresay most people wouldn’t particularly have cared. Instead he has been caught in: well what exactly?
A couple of years ago he met a young Australian journalist after chatting on Twitter. She was called Kate Leaver. They went for a drink. She told him that she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship. She just wanted to be friends with him. Two weeks later they went to a pub in “Fitzrovia” for another drink. She again said that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, couldn’t they just be mates?
According to her he tried this line:
“I’ve got enough mates, I’d rather fuck you.”
Unsurprisingly this conversational gambit created more ice than it melted, and Ms Leaver decided to leave. He left too and just outside the pub he (to use her words) “forced himself” on her.
This is ambiguous. Only Leaver and Myers know exactly what happened, and because it took place two years ago even they have probably forgotten some of the detail. But she explained a bit more on a Radio 5 Live interview with Emma Barnett:
“He took that opportunity to ignore what I said, grabbed me and forced himself into a kissing situation and touching me inappropriately. … just on my body where I was not comfortable having his hands.”
She agreed with her interviewer that his hands were “wandering.”
It still remains a little opaque. What is a “kissing situation”? Did he actually kiss her? Pretty much any touching would be inappropriate on her account, so – as is usually the case with that ghastly word “inappropriate” – it is still not quite as clear as it might be.
“I fairly swiftly extricated myself from the situation, I was fairly pleased it happened in public. .. I think in his mind he thought I would succumb to that kind of advance. I jumped in a .. black cab and went home.”
He has apologised. Initially it was one of those half-apologies starting with “if” which can sometimes make things worse, and it referred to his “sub-optimal behaviour,” which ensured that the hole he was in got just a little deeper. I think an unreserved apology came eventually, but too late to do much good, and it’s still not entirely clear that he accepts Leaver’s account in full. He has not, however, denied it so I think we must accept that he is not the victim of a groundless accusation.
All this happened about two years ago. Leaver decided that the time had come to “name and shame” him after the Weinstein allegations surfaced:
“I felt inspired by the #MeToo campaign and its momentum, and considered this to be a kind of microcosom of the Harvey Weinstein situation in the sense that we’ve got a relatively powerful man getting away without consequences for his actions for quite a long time.”
It may well be that Myers is a bit of a cad. Apparently he’s married, and unless she’s a very forgiving woman, or they have a very unconventional marriage, I expect his wife thinks he is. He has few defenders beyond Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, and even he calls him “a tosser and a loser who isn’t very good at dating,” which is a fairly lukewarm endorsement as these things go. And I’m afraid, even though I’m temperamentally disposed towards sympathising with anyone who is the object of a twittermob, I think there are others who deserve more sympathy than Mt Myers.
And yet, because there is almost always an “and yet.”
He has now lost his post as political correspondent for GQ, and severely blotted his copybook when it comes to the rest of his modest but worthy enough journalistic career. There is no suggestion that his legal career – so far a quiet and unpretentious one – will be destroyed. Those on the left have gloated over another Conservative caught in a sex scandal, although on a Beaufort scale of sex scandals this one barely reaches Force 2 (“Wind felt on face, leaves rustle.”), and those to his right have been even more delighted because conservative conservatives tend to despise what they see as the wishy-washy spinelessness of liberal conservatives. He wrote a very good piece on Milo Yiannopolous last year, which may account for a small part of the gloating schadenfreude that has been evident since his denunciation, although a tendency to talk in a slightly holier than thou tone about his support for feminist values probably accounts for a lot more. It was pointed out with some glee that less than a week ago Myers was tweeting that he was “Equal parts heart-broken & inspired by everyone who has said #metoo today.” I doubt whether that still reflects his view of the #MeToo hashtag.
Some have called for Myers to be hounded out of journalism altogether. The charge was led by Emily Reynolds, a freelance journalist and writer whose website carries a quote from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown describing her as an “impressive young activist”:
I very much hope that Commissioning Editors won’t listen to her. “Stories about him” that Emily Reynolds has “heard over the years” cannot possibly be a reason for drumming him out of his chosen profession. He has clearly behaved wrongly towards Leaver, although exactly what he has done wrong is rather murky. He has apologised, although exactly what for is uncertain. But she has not complained to the police. He is entitled to be treated as innocent of any crime and there is no reason why – if his writing is up to scratch – editors should not continue to publish it.
Mr Myers is no Harvey Weinstein. The comparison is absurd: he is, or was, a freelance journalist, and without meaning to run down GQ magazine, its freelance political correspondent is not a towering figure in the world of journalism. There is no suggestion, even from Leaver, that he promised her any career advancement in exchange for sexual favours, hardly surprisingly since he was in no position to offer any; just as importantly, there is no suggestion, even from her, that her career has suffered as a result of her turning him down. He has behaved badly in his private life, he has been exposed as a cad and a hypocrite but if faults of that sort justify disqualifying a writer from publication we would have to transport a great deal of literature, and still more journalism, into landfill sites.
Mr Myers will no doubt be licking his wounds for weeks and months to come. Should he eventually try to resume his journalistic career, those private faults now laid out so humiliatingly for the public to gloat over ought not to stand in his way. The work of cads, bounders, tossers, and even that of complete shits, can sometimes be as worth as publishing as that of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.