Mr. Stone's Massage


Hotel Lucia. Mr. Stone. A 54-year-old therapist. A "molest-proof" bra. Abdominal massage. Condoms in the "treat box." Lunges. Grasps. Kisses. Moans. Anger at the mention of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Anti-George W. Bush music in the background. The 73-page police report filed by a woman who accuses Al Gore of inappropriate sexual contact reads in two ways: a fabulist's creation of Al Gore's revenge fantasy, or a very scary incident that happened to a woman.

The narrative is pulpy and riveting and tragicomic. You half expect there to be a reference to a "torn bodice" at some point. Either the masseuse or Mr. Gore has an extremely vivid imagination, and in our system of justice, we must presume that since the police did not file charges, Gore is innocent. The more I read the report, the more I developed two incongruent points of view: the detail was too incredible to be false, or it was too convenient -- in that Gore seemed to be deliberately unburdening himself of the public wrongs he suffered through -- to be true. But then there are details like this: most people don't know that ex-vice presidents don't (usually) get Secret Service protection. The way "Gore" answered the woman's question about why there were no agents posted is exactly the answer Gore would give if John Q. Non-Massage Therapist asked him: no one cares about former VPs, and no one threatens their lives. Also: the fact that the woman was seeing a counselor for her trauma, something that police could verify and, if they found it not to be true, use to charge her with filing a false police report.

Should the press bother covering this? I can almost see the balance sheet. On the one side, you have the notion that Al Gore isn't this kind of guy. That no charges were filed. That the woman waited a long time before giving the report. That it's a he-said, she-said narrative. That a Portland newspaper had the story and decided not to run with it. On the other side, you've got the sensational details, Gore's recent separation, the long record of powerful men abusing vulnerable women, and ... the recent record of the National Enquirer. AND -- Gore's children are grown.

The AP and the New York Times have picked up on the story, writing short summaries of the police report. From here, one of two things will happen: a major news outlet will try to advance the story, thus granting implicit permission for everyone else to cover it. Or, the conservative media machine will push the story into the mainstream, aided and abetted by a media critic who backs into the story by writing about whether people are covering it.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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