But in fact, no one seems to know much of anything, and no one in an official capacity is talking. The only people advancing this devastating and sordid tale are “a half-dozen [anonymous] people with knowledge of all or part of the story.” All or part? Which part? As in, “Heard any good gossip lately?”
A statement Friday afternoon on Witt’s behalf denied any connection between his withdrawal from the Rhodes application process and the alleged assault. Moreover, when Witt requested a formal inquiry into the allegations, he says, the university declined. “No formal complaint was filed, no written statement was taken from anyone involved, and his request . . . for a formal inquiry was denied because, he was told, there was nothing to defend against,” according to the statement.
The Times apparently didn’t know these facts, but shouldn’t it have known them before publishing the story? It’s not until the 11th paragraph that readers even learn about the half-dozen anonymous sources. Not until the 14th paragraph does the Times tell us that “many aspects of the situation remain unknown, including some details of the allegation against Witt; how he responded; how it was resolved; and whether Yale officials who handle Rhodes applications — including Richard C. Levin, the university’s president, who signed Witt’s endorsement letter — knew of the complaint.”
Translation: We don’t know anything, but we’re smearing this guy anyway.
Without any facts, it would have been easy enough to conclude that Witt withdrew his Rhodes application because he was guilty of something, as the Times implied. But this would have been an assumption based on an allegation circulated by anonymous accusers. There’s not much meat there, except the red kind, metaphorically speaking, that sends mobs in search of their pitchforks.
It also could have been possible that Witt wanted to preempt the inevitable investigation and humiliation. Whether the charge of “sexual assault,” whatever that is, was ever true is irrelevant to the immediate and substantively unfounded assault on Witt’s character.