Sarsour defends herself, claims that accusations that she covered up sexual harassment were false

I’m flying out very soon to continue the Coyne India Tour in Pune, but wanted to post this link before I left.

Yesterday I reported that Linda Sarsour was accused of covering up sexual harassment of a female worker in her office several hears ago. BuzzFeed has now published an article defending Sarsour (and interviewing some of the principals) called “Women’s March planner says A report that she ignored sex harassment is ‘character assassination.” Scanning it quickly, all I can say is that she uncategorically denies the coverup, as do some people who worked with her, and it all seems to come down to a “she said/she said” situation.

In Sarsour’s favor, in one blatant case of another Muslim man who commited sexual harassment (note: but not on her watch), she did call it out:

Sarsour said she has no problem calling out fellow Arabs or Muslims for sexual harassment, noting a Facebook post she wrote in June 2013 amid allegations by a dozen women against a senior official with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC. Sarsour threatened to cancel her speech at the ADC convention unless the group made a commitment to “investigating this to the fullest extent of the law.”

Do read the BuzzFeed article and the ones from my link raising the accusation, and make your own judgment. Feel free to use the comments below to discuss it.


  1. Davide Spinello
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Believe the survivor.

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      It seems to me that Linda’s positionality is problematic as she internalized misogyny by otherizing a survivor therefore perpetrating the performative white supremacist patriarcal systems that in the first place creates the dichotomy victim/victimiser through oppressive dynamics that ultimately deny the humanity of the oppressed.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Well said.

  2. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The accusations are false? So, she admits she’s exactly like Roy Moore then!

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Yes, next thing you know they make exceptions for their friends (of course with a follow up apology.)

    • Craw
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      We don’t like her politics so it’s okay to flippantly dismiss this?

      Is Sarsour is being truthful or is she being smeared. I can’t tell for sure from what I’ve read so far, but on balance I lean towards this being a smear.

      The burden of proof of course lies with her accuser, and the accuser of Seif, and it surely has not been met.

      • Davide Spinello
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        You are right, and in fact what you say should apply to everyone in a civilized society.

        In this case I am just just parroting the intersectional postmodernists that now have to decide what to do with their “believe the survivor” (aka screw you due process) mantra.

        • Craw
          Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          Yes, and I liked your comment at 10:11 as a nice bit of satire. I was disagreeing with Mr Phelps’s comment, which I see as flippantly dismissive.

          • Ken Phelps
            Posted December 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

            It was. The spectacle of Sarsour crying character assassination is just too rich.

            • Paul Davies
              Posted December 20, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

              But you risk making her case for her.

      • Dragon
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        “Is Sarsour is being truthful or is she being smeared.”
        You framed the statement as two sides of the same thing. If Sarsour is truthful, she is being smeared.
        If Sarsour is not truthful, it isn’t a smear.

        Compare: Is Donald Trump being truthful or are the media lying?

        • Craw
          Posted December 20, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I misspoke.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Why not just ask the appropriate question. Why doesn’t the Arab American Association of New York have an office within it’s structure to properly investigate sexual harassment and at least have officials to report sexual harassment to besides each other and the boss? Without this you have nothing and you can harass all you want.

    • Craw
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Well that’s one appropriate question, but it’s not one relevant to whether Sarsour is being traduced.

      Here’s what I see as the strongest points in her favour:

      – the contemporaneous signed documents. These prove the case was investigated and a decision taken.

      – the consistent stories from witnesses contacted independently, now

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        That is just nonsense. So you are saying the sexual harassment is not even the point of interest in this. It now is about shaming the person who lets it happen. Such a waste of time this is. We are only interested in the celebrity.

        • Craw
          Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          Huh? Your phrasing — “the person who lets it happen” *assumes* Sarsour’s guilt. That’s exactly the point of contention.
          It frankly feels like you refuse to even entertain the possibility she might be in the right.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted December 20, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

            How will you ever know sir if there is no system in place to report it and to investigate it. You think like all these other people that you can come to scientific conclusion by discussing it to death? This is not evidence, it is a joke.

            • Craw
              Posted December 20, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

              Right. That’s why I agree that’s an issue, going forward. But putting a process in place going forward won’t tell us what happened in 2009. And what we are discussing — Sarsour as victim or Sarsour as enabler — is about what happened in 2009.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted December 20, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

                It is the only issue. If you do not have a proper system in place you have nothing. All you are doing is mob justice. It might be fun entertainment but it is nothing but opinion and very subjective opinion at that. You are just doing headline chasing. If we are not willing to discuss sexual harassment from a position of knowledge and full understanding we are just taking polls. Anyone can do that.

          • Posted December 20, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

            Sarsour has shown little in regards in differentiating misogyny within faith so far, at the time of this “abuse” was she any better at it. You yourself IIRC pointed out to me sometime ago in a post, it’s all about her and her ambition.
            I take this abuse claim to be a threat to her rise and when it was made, to her status, a powerful motivator of deception, manipulation.
            In this case as we say down here, i wouldn’t put it past her, that is to say, she is quite capable to ignore, brush off anything likely to get in her way.
            Female on female competition can be destructive like any male on male and on a bad day it doesn’t take much.
            So who knows, but the weight tilting against her is tethering on a fine edge and i can’t say i don’t like it.

  4. Paul Davies
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I wonder if the people who don’t believe Sarsour on this issue are mostly the ones who don’t like her anyway.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Or, to put it another way, I wonder if the people who believe Sarsour on this issue are mostly the ones who like her anyway.

      • Craw
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Is that actually put another way? Doesn’t that confuse the burden of proof? I’m not inclined to believe something just because Sarsour tells me it’s true, but surely it’s up to accusers to present evidence. If Sarsour is accused of being the real killer of Nicole Simpson I can surely dismiss that without reference to Sarsour’s own credibility.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 20, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          I was commenting about a general trait of human nature. That people tend to be biased by whether or not they like a person.

          But to answer you in kind, evidence has been presented regarding this issue. Whether the evidence is good, bad, or should be deemed sufficient for any given purpose is questionable, without doubt. But there is evidence. Unless of course by evidence you mean sufficient, beyond a reasonable doubt evidence. I personally don’t need that level of evidence in order to have a conversation about this “scandal” of the kind we were invited to by the OP.

          Regarding your last, I agree with your statement, but I don’t know what point you are trying to make or how it is relevant. The scenario bears no resemblance to the actual one in question. In any scenario in which it is actually possible for Sarsour, or anyone, to have been involved in then her / their own credibility is definitely a relevant factor.

    • nicky
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Well, Ms Sarsour is defending Saud, about the most misogynistic, ‘patriarchal’ and reactionary extant regime there is.
      What are the odds? By her support of misogyny and ‘patriarchy’ she is hardly credible in this case.
      Of course, a serious investigation would be in order, but what are the chances of that?

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I’m not usually one to quote Christopher Hitchens out of the blue, but he had the classic riposte to this one:

    I can’t assassinate your character- your character committed suicide a long time ago.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Sarsour’s response is problematic:

    – She pulls out a false conspiracy theory. The alleged victim stands by the claims.

    – She claims that she investigated “alleged harassment” but also that it was “nothing about touching or groping” but “makes me feel uncomfortable”.

    And of course, while it says nothing about Sarsour, the article is similarly problematic. Poisons the well on the source article, but again the alleged victim stands by the claims.

    • Craw
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      So it’s sufficient that the alleged victim stands by the claims? I guess Bill Clinton is a rapist by that standard. We dismiss all other evidence by that standard.

      And what conspiracy theory, much less how do you know it’s false? She says she investigated in 2009. She has documents and non-anonymous witnesses to back her up.

      Maybe she’s lying, maybe there is stuff we don’t know, but you cannot just dismiss her evidence.

  7. Paul Davies
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    It certainly seems likely that Sarsour, whatever we think of her, has been falsely accused on this occasion. And “yes maybe, but what about …” is always an ungracious response in this kind of situation and suggests prejudice.

    If people can’t tell the difference between what they want to be true and what is likely to be true given the evidence, they might as well sign up to one of the many Creationist websites available. 😉

    • darrelle
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      I have not researched this incident to any great extent but from what I have read, including the article linked to in the OP, I haven’t yet reached a “certainly seems likely” level of assuredness either way about this accusation against Sarsour.

      I assure you I am not being anything but straightforwardly curious when I ask, could you explain a bit about what information has convinced you that Sarsour certainly seems to have been falsely accused?

      • Paul Davies
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t (and didn’t) say I was convinced that Sarsour has been falsely accused; I said it seems likely, which is much less categorical. I’d go for 75:25, if I had to quantify it. This is just the impression I get from reading the various conflicting accounts on offer. I have a particular dislike for Sarsour so I’m pretty sure I’m not being biased in her favour. Of course, nobody can know the truth with certainty except for the people involved and perhaps not even them.

      • Craw
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        To me it’s the written evidence from 2009 proving there was an investigation and action taken. That seems to contradict what the accuser says.

        • Paul Davies
          Posted December 20, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I agree. Also, the alleged sexual harassment is pretty extreme and yet there seems very little support from her colleagues. Generally, people in a workplace are aware of individuals who sexually harass (from what I’ve gleaned from other cases). It is not impossible that she’s his single victim and all transgressions were in private, but is is unlikely.

  8. eric
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    That counter-example doesn’t impress me. We see both conservatives and liberals very often being tribal on this issue; is it any sort of stretch at all to think Sarsour might be a bit tribal about when she calls out harassment? An accusation within her organization? Defend! Within someone else’s? Believe the victim!

    And to respond to Craw’s argument about considering all innocent unless proven guilty (I’m paraphrasing); I fully agree that that’s the standard a criminal court should take. But I disagree that it’s the standard I have to take in my personal opinion. I think it’s perfectly fine for someone to opine that they think OJ is guilty. Opining that Sarsour’s organization permitted this is is similar. Opining that Kozinski (to pick a mainstream liberal who I like) is guilty is also analogous. And I will opine that he is.

    I think it’s rational to say more highly punitive responses should require higher confidence assessments of guilt. But if we believe that, we need to rationally accept the flip side of it too: low or non-punitive responses should not be required to have a high confidence assessment backing them up. The “punishment” to Sarsour of eric the random internet posting guy saying he thinks Sarsour’s organization harbored a harasser is insignificant. So I don’t think I need to meet much in the way of confidence to say it. Now, put me on a civil jury where someone is suing her organization for damages, and I will raise my bar. Put me on a criminal jury where she could potentially go to jail, and I’ll raise my bar even higher. And I find that sort of context-relevant assessment of what type of evidence is needed to give an opinion to be far more rational than any attempted one-evidential-requirement-size-fits-all solution.

    • Craw
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      That’s not actually what I said. I said that the burden of proof falls on the accuser. That’s simply a case that the burden for any particular claim falls on the person making it. I don’t have to disprove vaccines cause autism, the vaxxers have to prove it does.

      • eric
        Posted December 21, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        I accuse Sarsour’s organization of doing nothing about the sexual assault described in this story. But my accusation will amount to nothing – no legal case, no criminal case, not even much of an informal social impact. So do you think I must assemble of body of proof before opining thus, or not? What burden of proof do I need to meet before expressing this accusation, and why do I need to meet it?

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