HLN’s Ashleigh Banfield, who made headlines in 2016 for her emotional reading of the Stanford rape survivor’s letter, has taken on the woman who accused Aziz Ansari of misconduct during a 2017 sexual encounter. The anonymous woman, known only as Grace, accused Ansari of being sexually aggressive after a date and coercing her into oral sex while ignoring “clear non-verbal clues.” These accusations launched a firestorm of controversy with some debating whether the accusations amounted to actual sexual misconduct or simply a very bad date.
During Monday night’s Crime & Justice episode, Banfield read a scathing open letter to Ansari’s accuser while stating that she was speaking out not only as a victim of sexual misconduct but also as someone who’s had some bad dates as well. And she agreed, “They stink.” However, Banfield felt it important to differentiate the difference between a bad date and something much worse:
“Let’s take a moment to reflect on what you claim was the ‘worst night of your life.’ You had a bad date. Your date got overly amorous. After protesting his moves, you did not get up and leave. You continued to engage in the sexual encounter. By your own clear description, this wasn’t a rape, nor was it a sexual assault. Your sexual encounter was ‘unpleasant’ at best. It did not send you to the police. It did not affect your workplace … or your ability to get a job.
“So what exactly is your beef? That you had a bad date with Aziz Ansari? Is that what victimized you to the point of seeking a public conviction? And a career-ending sentence against him? Is that truly what you thought he deserved for your night out?”
Banfield told Grace that she simply should have simply gone home and warned her friends away from Ansari due to “an unpleasant sexual experience.” And on behalf of the #MeToo movement, Banfield worries that accusations like those lodged by Grace will chisel away at the hard work of those who are working to improve workplace environments for women everywhere:
“[W]hat you have done, in my opinion, is appalling. You have chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades, a movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I, too, have struggled through at times over the last 30 years.”
Following Grace’s accusations over the weekend, Ansari issued a statement, in which he described himself as “surprised and concerned” about the woman’s negative perceptions of their encounter. He also voiced support for the #MeToo movement, which he said was “necessary and long overdue.”
In addition to Banfield, The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan and the New York Times’ Bari Weiss also issued sharp rebukes to the piece by Grace. You can read the full transcript of Banfield’s open letter below, courtesy of HLN:
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HLN HOST:
DEAR GRACE… (NOT YOUR REAL NAME).
I’M SORRY YOU HAD A BAD DATE… I’VE HAD A FEW MYSELF.
I’M SURE IT MUST REALLY BE WEIGHING ON YOU.
IT’S HARD BEING A VICTIM… VERY PAINFUL… JUST ASK ANYONE WHO’S BEEN ON THAT END OF CRIME AND JUSTICE.
I COVER THEM EVERY DAY.
ITS NO PICNIC.
BUT LET’S TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT ON WHAT YOU CLAIM WAS THE “WORST NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. ”
YOU HAD A BAD DATE.
YOUR DATE GOT OVERLY AMOROUS…
AFTER PROTESTING HIS MOVES, YOU DID NOT GET UP AND LEAVE.
YOU CONTINUED TO ENGAGE IN THE SEXUAL ENCOUNTER.
BY YOUR OWN CLEAR DESCRIPTION, THIS WASN’T A RAPE, NOR WAS IT A SEXUAL ASSAULT.
YOUR SEXUAL ENCOUNTER WAS “UNPLEASANT” AT BEST.
IT DID NOT SEND YOU TO THE POLICE.
IT DID NOT AFFECT YOUR WORKPLACE … OR YOUR ABILITY TO GET A JOB.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR BEEF?
THAT YOU HAD A BAD DATE WITH AZIZ ANSARI?
IS THAT WHAT VICTIMIZED YOU TO THE POINT OF SEEKING A PUBLIC CONVICTION… AND A CAREER ENDING SENTENCE AGAINST HIM?
IS THAT TRULY WHAT YOU THOUGHT HE DESERVED FOR YOUR NIGHT OUT?
LET ME BE COMPLETELY CLEAR. IF YOU WERE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED… YOU SHOULD GO TO THE POLICE.
IF YOU WERE SEXUALLY HARASSED, AND YOUR BAD DATE, BECAUSE OF HIS ACTIONS, MITIGATED YOUR ABILITY TO DO YOUR JOB … YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY SPEAK UP…
BECAUSE THAT’S HAPPENED TO #METOO … AND IT STINKS.
BUT IF YOU JUST HAD AN UNPLEASANT SEXUAL EXPERIENCE … YOU SHOULD’VE GONE HOME … AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO AVOID HIM.
GO AHEAD AND TELL THE DATE HIMSELF… THAT MAYBE HE’S NOT AS GOOD A LOVER AS HE THINKS.
AND WITHOUT QUESTION, DON’T GO ON A SECOND DATE… CERTAINLY, DON’T MARRY THAT MAN.
BUT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE IS APPALLING.
YOU WENT TO THE PRESS WITH YOUR STORY OF A BAD DATE… AND YOU HAVE POTENTIALLY DESTROYED THIS MAN’S CAREER OVER IT… JUST AFTER HE RECEIVED AN AWARD FOR WHICH HE WAS WORTHY.
AND NOW HERE’S WHERE I’M GOING TO CLAIM VICTIM.
YOU HAVE CHISELED AWAY AT A MOVEMENT THAT I, ALONG WITH ALL MY SISTERS IN THE WORKPLACE, HAVE BEEN DREAMING OF FOR DECADES… A MOVEMENT THAT HAS FINALLY CHANGED AN OVER SEXED PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT THAT I, TOO, HAVE STRUGGLED THROUGH AT TIMES OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS.
IF YOU’RE LUCKY .. THRE’S A GOOD CHANCE YOU WONT EXPERIENCE THE TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT THE REST OF US HAVE ENDURED.
AND THAT’S BECAUSE OF THE REMARKABLE PROGRESS MADE AGAINST THE HARVEY WEINSTEIN’S AND KEVIN SPACEY’S OF THE WORLD.
THE #METOO MOVEMENT HAS RIGHTED MANY WRONGS…AND ITS MADE YOUR CAREER PATH MUCH SMOOTHER … LIKELY A LONG ONE …RIGHT … YOU’RE 23?.
WHAT A GIFT…
YET YOU LOOKED THAT GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH … AND CHISELED AWAY AT THAT POWERFUL MOVEMENT WITH YOUR PUBLIC ACCUSATION.
I’LL REPEAT THIS .. CAUSE ITS IMPORTANT…
IF YOU WERE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED… GO TO THE POLICE.
IF YOU WERE SEXUALLY HARASSED.. JEOPARDIZING YOUR WORK … SPEAK UP .. OUT LOUD.
BUT … BY YOUR DESCRIPTIONS .. THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED …
YOU HAD AN UNPLEASANT DATE ..AND YOU DIDN’T LEAVE.
THAT’S ON YOU …
AND ALL THE GAINS THAT HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED .. ON YOUR BEHALF AND MINE …. ARE COMPROMISED BY ALLEGATIONS THAT ARE RECKLESS AND HOLLOW.
I CAN’T NAME YOU PUBLICLY AND SENTENCE YOU TO A SIMILAR CAREER HIT ….BECAUSE YOU CHOSE TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS. LUCKY YOU.
BUT AS YOU GROW IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY CAREER… I HOPE YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU DID TO SOMEONE ELSE’S CAREER …ALL BECAUSE YOU HAD A BAD DATE…
AND I HOPE THE NEXT TIME YOU GO ON A BAD DATE… YOU STAND UP SOONER, SMOOTH OUT YOUR DRESS AND JUST BLOODY WELL LEAVE…!
BECAUSE THE ONLY SENTENCE A GUY LIKE THAT DESERVES IS A BAD CASE OF BLUE BALLS …. NOT A HOLLYWOOD BLACKBALL…
(Via Crime & Justice with Ashleigh Banfield on HLN)