It's hard to overstate just how bizarre and salacious the allegations made by a Portland, Oregon massage therapist against Vice President Al Gore really are. The unnamed woman gave a lengthy and explicit statement to police in 2006 about an incident of sexual assault by a client. In January 2009, she gave another police statement claiming her assailant was Al Gore. On Wednesday, the National Enquirer reported both statements. Confirmation that Gore was in fact in Portland at the time of the incident, and the context of his recent split with his wife, have caused Drudge Report and others to focus on the story. But many observers are urging extreme skepticism. Here's what to make of it all.
- The Allegations Talking Points Memo's Justin Elliott goes point-by-point. Here are some of the passages he pulls out of the accuser's 73-page report:
he further insisted and acted angry, becoming verbally sharp and loud." She asked him to clarify what he wanted, and "he grabbed my right hand hard, shoved it down under the sheet to his pubic hair area, my fingers brushing against his penis and firmly planted my hand on his pubic crest region and said to me, 'There' in a very sharp, loud, angry sounding tone. ... He angrily raged in accusatory and threatening confrontational he bellowed at me. Just scared the shit out of me.
And he came over to where I was while I was trying to pack up and then he wrapped me in an inescapable embrace as I turned around, giving me this "come hither" look deep into my eyes and caressed my back and buttocks and breasts. I squirmed to try and get out of his grasp, telling him to stop, don't, several times and I finally told him and said, You're being a crazed sex poodle, hoping that he'd realize how weird he was being yet he persisted. He was much stronger than me, bigger than me and insistent.
[H]e turned to me and he immediately flipped me flat on my back and threw his whole body face down over atop me, pinning me down and outweighing me by quite a bit. Get off me, you big lummox! I loudly yelled protested to him and I struggled with my whole body to shove him as hard as I could to roll him off me and get out from underneath him and I using my whole left leg and stuff and that's where I strained all the muscles but I didn't realize it at the time. Um, he just giggled and acted like I was only teasing him and I had to physically struggle and wrench around to throw him off my body so I could · stop being squashed and breathe again.
- How Police Handled This The Associated Press reports, "A lawyer for the woman contacted the police in late 2006 ... The woman, according to the report, canceled appointments with detectives on Dec. 21 and 26. Her lawyer canceled a Jan. 4 meeting and said the matter would be handled civilly. The woman 'refuses to cooperate with the investigation or even report a crime,' the report states. In January 2009, the case was reopened. Detectives interviewed the woman but determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations. ... Detective Mary Wheat, a Portland police spokeswoman, said the woman contacted detectives this month and asked for a copy of her statement. The woman, according to Detective Wheat, said she planned to take her case to the news media."
- Local Paper Investigated, Dropped It Politico's Andy Barr writes, "The Portland Tribune had done reporting on the complaint earlier but declined to publish a story. Mark Garber, the Portland Tribune's editor-in-chief, based the decision on the fact that 'the woman was not willing to talk on the record or press charges,' adding that 'the paper considered the time lapse between the incident and when the paper received the police report,' the Oregonian reported. It quoted Garber as saying that 'in the end, we decided not to proceed with a story that we could not document.'"
- I Hate Al Gore, But This Is Probably Bogus Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey, listing all the reasons he hates Al Gore, concedes, "The story looks very suspicious, for a couple of reasons ... As much as I dislike Al Gore politically, this looks like a smear job."
- Will It Get Big Media Coverage? The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder wonders, "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. 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."
- Will Make or Break National Enquirer Wonkette's Ken Layne writes, "If there’s nothing to this, the Enquirer has lost all the hard-won Journamalism Credibility it got for busting the John Edwards thing open when nobody else would go after it. Remember that 'Obama banged some lady somewhere a few years ago' story that the Enquirer backed off from, a few months ago, after trying to get another John Edwards-style scoop? Two of those in a row will probably mean we don’t have to check the Enquirer anymore."