Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sounded off on Democrats in an interview published this week, calling presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a “total hypocrite” for wanting the presumption of innocence for himself but not male college students accused of sexual assault on campus.
DeVos spoke to my former Washington Examiner colleague Eddie Scarry and explained how the anti-gender discrimination law known as Title IX and due process was not something she thought would become the legacy-defining issue of her tenure.
“By the time I was confirmed, that was certainly high on the list,” DeVos told Scarry. “But very honestly, when I was first approached for the job, I certainly was not aware of all of the issues facing higher education” on that particular subject.
DeVos was referring to the Obama administration’s infamous 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter that introduced substantive, drastic changes to the way schools adjudicate sexual assault and sexual harassment claims on college campuses. The 2011 DCL told schools to use a lower burden of proof (50% plus a feather) to determine guilt. Statements and a 2014 Q&A from the Obama administration made it clear that schools needed to find more students responsible. The previous administration also discouraged cross-examination, claiming it could re-traumatize victims.
The result was predictable, as schools rushed to find accused students responsible no matter the evidence, leading to hundreds of lawsuits from wrongly accused students who were denied a chance to defend themselves.
“It wasn’t so much the letter itself,” DeVos said of the DCL. “It was the implications of what the letter actually resulted in, and, you know, at the beginning of this process, sitting with a number of groups of individuals, of survivors who told their stories, of those who were falsely accused who told their stories, and then with college administrations and chief legal counsel and those who were charged with actually running these processes, it was heart-wrenching to hear some of the stories that I heard.”
DeVos said that she had listening sessions with affected parties, including victims and wrongfully accused students. After one of these sessions, DeVos told Scarry, “I just had to have some quiet and space just to sort of think through and reflect on what I heard.”
“It was hard. It was very difficult,” she added.
When Biden was accused this year of sexually assaulting a woman back in the early 1990s, he abandoned the “believe women” mantra, saying that claims should be heard, but investigated. His new statement was a far cry different than his previous claim: “You’ve got to start out with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.”
DeVos called Biden a “total hypocrite” over the change. It amounted to him wanting a separate standard for himself than he wanted for others.
“Reading the statement, I thought he could not possibly have written that himself because he can’t possibly believe what he actually released given where he was in that moment in time,” DeVos said. “A total hypocrite. Right? I mean, he was asking for what the rule has actually guaranteed for everyone, the presumption of innocence, at a time when he wanted something totally different for a 19- or 20-year-old college student. So, it’s a total hypocritical position for him to take, and I was, frankly, disgusted.”
DeVos also took a shot at the Obama administration and the way it handled education issues, such as Title IX.
“Surprising to me was when coming in just how evident it was that the previous administration had been, not only on this issue, but a host of issues, just on an epic power trip,” she said, “and were trying to inculcate every piece of their view of how culture should be into every policy of that department.”
She added that the Obama administration “clearly laid the groundwork for the #BelieveAllWomen movement,” she said, adding, “and I think you can draw a direct line from that to the whole Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, and I don’t think that was a mistake. I think that was intentional.”
As to criticism that the new Title IX rules eviscerate undefined “survivor’s rights,” DeVos was clear.
“We do need to ensure that individuals are heard and that guilt is not presumed, but [Democrats] are trying to have it both ways,” she told Scarry. “And Joe Biden is chief among them.”
“I mean, you hear a number of people say that, well, I might believe Tara Reade, but, you know, I hate President Trump — essentially, I hate President Trump so much that I’ll look the other way. Well, what kind of an example does that set for the rising generation?” she added.
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