Trigger warning: sexual assault
TYT Politics reporter Jordan Chariton recently released a piece in which he attempted to address “rumors” about himself involving allegations of sexual assault and abuse. He is pre-emptively releasing this statement in anticipation of becoming yet another in the long line of men who have used their power and influence to sexually abuse and harass others, and he flatly denies that the allegations are true. In his statement he mentions “a group…with a vendetta against me for unrelated reasons…have been plotting to try and ‘take me down.’”
I am a member of the group of which he is speaking. Let me begin to tell this story.
Earlier this year I accepted a position working with Truth Against the Machine as a journalist covering local stories in the Chicago area. I was excited for the site’s focus on local stories as well as their journalism-as-activism attitude. Most of all, I was excited to be working with Chariton.
It’s no secret that I was once a huge fan and supporter of The Young Turks and their related programs. One of my favorites was TYT Politics, which was put on the map my investigative reporter Jordan Chariton and his coverage of the NoDAPL protests, the Flint water crisis, and the 2016 presidential primaries and general election.
Truth Against the Machine was Chariton’s new pet project, started to mobilize independent journalists across the country to cover the types of stories that he wished he could cover, but couldn’t as he is just one man. I was fully on board.
Chariton is a well-known journalist in the independent/progressive media world, and I had been a fan for some time. So I settled into my new position and began writing stories.
There were a few red flags, but it was easy for me to write them off as natural kinks that would be ironed out as we grew. Truth was, after all, a startup. These red flags included things like poor website design and subpar journalism from some of my colleagues (though not all, of course). Nothing to be too concerned about.
Truth hired a new editor in chief, Sam Oser, and I loved her attitude and work ethic. I began editing as opposed to writing, managing journalists from all over the country and publishing their stories. I loved it.
But then I heard something that disturbed me through a mutual friend of mine and Chariton’s. A former Truth Against the Machine journalist, someone with whom I was vaguely familiar but did not personally know, had quit not because of differences with the organization or our mission, nor from the quality of her work, but because of something that had happened between her and Jordan.
I heard this all within the past several weeks, after Harvey Weinstein. I was ready to listen.
Eventually, after much going back and forth between associates, I heard this woman’s story. It made me sick to my stomach.
Chariton’s version of events seems like the delusions of a man so arrogant and so convinced of his own rightness that he cannot even consider the possibility that he did something wrong. Whether this was intentional or not, he mischaracterizes this woman’s feelings about the situation they were in, outright lies about what sexual acts took place and with whom, lies about the amount of alcohol involved, and lies about receiving positive consent. He then puts a spin on the events that transpired afterwards to make himself seem like a good guy.
From speaking to this victim, who is prepared to come forward publicly, I learned that she, like many sexual assault survivors, was confused and ashamed about what happened and how she reacted to it. She did not know what to do, and buried her feelings out of a combination of shame and fear after the initial event.
None of that excuses what Chariton did. He may honestly believe that his victim did not develop negative thoughts until weeks afterward (although I doubt it), but in any case, the fact that he was not aware that she was so traumatized does not excuse his behavior then, and it especially does not excuse his behavior now.
Since Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, we as a society have apparently decided to try this radical new idea called “believing women.” That is what I chose to do, and Chariton is terrified that others will do as well when his victims come forward (and they will be coming forward).
Yes, victims. I resigned from Truth shortly after learning about this (and after an awkward telephone call from Chariton where he – without going into any specifics whatsoever – informed me not to believe everything I hear). I was far from the only one. I have been in contact with a plethora of other women, all of whom have had professional relationships with Chariton in the past, who are corroborating his disgusting, sexist, and abusive behavior.
That is the group of conspirators Chariton refers to. We discussed the matter in a private Facebook chat, planning on coming forward with these allegations publicly. Unfortunately, we trusted the wrong person and Chariton found out. That is why he published his piece – he made mentions of things that only the people in the chat know about – to get ahead of us.
It’s not going to work. The time of men using their power (and Chariton does have some; I myself looked up to him and hoped that working for him would help my career) to abuse women is over.
Progressive men can be just as abusive as conservative ones (Louis CK, Harvey Weinstein, Sylvester Stallone…) and I truly hope that Chariton’s progressive audience will stick to their values and refuse to support a man like this. Ditto for those remaining at Truth Against the Machine – they certainly know what’s going on by now, and it is time for them to put their money where their mouths are and show the world if they truly are progressives.
To all the women (and men) out there who have been abused by men with more power than you – I am so, so sorry. I have been one of those men in the past, so I take personal responsibility.
But I refuse to be one of those men, or enable those men, ever again. Working for Truth Against the Machine was great for my career. But it was no good for my values. That is why I left.
Chariton claims that those attacking him have “personal vendettas.” I do not. I have never met him and have nothing to gain from this. I am simply choosing to believe women.
I hope you’ll do the same.