A CERA employee with some humanity https://t.co/VgjwPhpUVz http://t.co/2Q9s8efQBxtwitter is unfortunately not a good medium for a detailed discussion of the issues, so i wanted to give a fuller response here.
— Robyn Malcolm (@robynmalcolm) November 19, 2014
i really do understand the desire to support a friend who is going through difficult times. from the twitter exchange, it appears that she knows mr sutton well and considers him a good friend. i know it must be difficult to watch your friend go through something like this in such a public way. and i'm sure it's difficult to see people saying some very negative things about him.
supporting a friend who has done something wrong is not an easy business. but i don't think you do your friend any favours by dismissing what he has done or by ignoring the complainant in this case and her suffering. sure, make the point that your friend is generally a wonderful person who has achieved some very important things for the community, but also acknowledge that in this instance he stuffed up.
the best example of this would be owen pallett's facebook statement on hearing of the allegations against his friend jian ghomeshi (for details of that case, see my post here):
At no point here will I ever give my friend Jian’s version of the truth more creedence than the version of the truth offered up by three women. Anonymity does not mean these women do not exist....
...Jian Ghomeshi is my friend, and Jian Ghomeshi beats women. How our friendship will continue remains to be seen.
now i'm not for a minute implying that mr sutton's actions were at the level of mr ghomeshi's. however, that doesn't mean that mr sutton's actions should be dismissed, ignored or in any way treated as not important. of course other people do worse things, that's not the point. the things that mr sutton constituted serious misconduct, they were not trivial matters. i don't believe you can do a friend any favours by embedding a view that he has been unfairly treated when there is no evidence that this is the case. in fact the whole "look over there, that thing is so much worse" is the richard dawkins "dear muslima" defence, one which he has since apologised for.
ms malcolm has known mr sutton for 20 years. but what if she had known the complainant for 20 years? what if she had watched the complainant go through the harrowing process of the investigation, sat by her while the complainant suffered through that press conference & the resulting aftermath? would ms malcolm's response have been the same? mr sutton is struggling but he is the one who has behaved wrongly in this case. that doesn't make him a terrible person overall, he's not some kind of monster. but he is in the wrong and that can not and should not be overlooked. the impact of his behaviour can not and should not be overlooked.
the best way to support a friend who has done something wrong is not enabling a view that his wrongness isn't so very bad. rather, it would be to say to the person: "what you did here is not ok. you are still my friend and i still really do care for you and will stand by you. but you need to change this particular behaviour because it isn't acceptable". that's my opinion anyway, for what it's worth.
[EDIT: i did want to say that i am a fan of robyn malcolm's, not so much of her acting as i haven't watched any of her shows, but of her political activism. i love how she stood up and made her voice heard on the union dispute with peter jackson, & i have also admired her stance on other issues. the fact that i deeply disagree with her on this issue doesn't change that.]