Following accusations of sexual misconduct against Aziz Ansari, the media has lit up with responses from all sides. Now, HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield weighs in.
The allegations were made against comedian and actor Ansari on Babe.net, a little-known site that has blown up as a result. The New York-based photographer, using the alias Grace, describes an awkward night in his apartment during which Ansari forced unwanted sexual contact.
A text exchange between the two the following day, shared on Babe's Twitter account, suggests that Ansari misread the situation and expressed genuine regret once he knew how Grace felt.
That hasn't stopped a number of commentators from calling for the comedian to be removed from public view immediately, if not sooner. But the backlash-to-the-backlash has become even stronger.
In a piece in The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan argued there may be a racial slant, and that commentators have not come down as hard on the various white men accused of far worse crimes to date. The accusations were intended, as she sees it, "to hurt and humiliate Ansari" rather than to bring light to the topic at hand.
Likewise, Bari Weiss argued in The New York Times that Ansari shouldn't have been expected to read his date's mind, suggesting the blame should be placed on his accuser for not speaking up more forcefully.
Ansari, on his part, released a statement in direct opposition to Grace's version of events, stating emphatically that he continues to "support the movement that is happening in our culture."
The Emmy award winning star of Master Of None wore a Time's Up pin to the Golden Globes, which his accuser noted in the Babe piece really irritated her as she felt it was hypocritical.
Chipping Away At A Movement
Next up to take a shot at Ansari's accuser is HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield, formerly of CNN. Banfield argued in an impassioned monologue on Monday night that Grace is endangering the #MeToo movement by pushing her story about Ansari.
Banfield kicked things off by describing what allegedly happened between the two as little more than a "bad date," telling Grace that she's had a few herself and "they stink."
The HLN anchor then went on to tear apart Grace's version of events, telling her that it couldn't possibly have been the worst night of her life (as she describes it in the Babe piece), because "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," Banfield stated.
She went on to argue that Ansari does not deserve "a career-ending sentence" purely for the crime of a bad date, and that Grace shouldn't have sought public victimization as a result of her own bad judgement.
Banfield claimed to have been a victim of sexual misconduct herself, and suggested that, in this case, Grace should have simply removed herself from the situation.
"... what you have done ... 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," Banfield said.
The HLN host called out Grace for jeopardizing the #MeToo movement and possibly even blackballing Ansari who, in her view, only deserves "a bad case of blue balls."
Babe.net stand by Grace's account, which included descriptions of Anzari jamming his fingers in her mouth and standing behind her in a mirror miming sexual intercourse.
"We would publish this again tomorrow," editor-in-chief Joshi Hermann told CNNMoney on Monday.