Nevius: The entirety of Foppoli: deny, deny, deny, resign
Watching the slow motion train wreckage of the Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli sex abuse scandal has been eerily fascinating. Finally, last Friday, in a moment that has taken you so long, Foppoli announced his resignation.
Of course, the accusations were not without evidence. There was a constant drumbeat of accusers as one woman after another bravely stepped forward to call for Foppoli.
Ultimately there were nine accusers, most of whom made full disclosure, were registered with reporters and gave their full names. In 2017, an email was sent to then-mayor Debora Fudge by a victim, detailing sexual misconduct. And, most importantly, there was an official police report on an incident in Florida.
Foppoli gave all indications that he was going to try to just point this out. He denied everything. He wanted to make it into a story that he / she said. And she says. And she says. And she says.
What’s confusing is what he imagined his endgame to be? Did he really think it was going to explode? It has become national news. I got a call last week from a Los Angeles Times reporter working on the scandal.
Foppoli’s reputation is destroyed. There has been no uprising by supporters claiming he has been unfairly accused. And, if anything, his attempts at cover up made him look even more like a sleazeball.
When Windsor City Council member Esther Lemus refused to back him and instead called for his resignation, a Foppoli associate told The Press Democrat that Foppoli had a salacious video of Lemus.
Anyone can guess what they thought releasing a video would accomplish. Lemus not only bowed to the pressure, she stepped in to inform police about the video threat and added that Foppoli assaulted her in 2020. Good job, Dominic.
As low and cynical as it is, you can see what Foppoli’s strategy is in all of this. It can be summed up in two words: prove it. You say it happened. I say no.
This is why it was very interesting to learn that former reality TV personality Farrah Abraham filed a police report accusing Foppoli of sexual violence in Florida. The complaint was filed on April 2, but only recently came to light.
In important evidence, Abraham’s attorney Spencer Kuvin told reporters Abraham had physical and digital evidence, including photographs, of the meeting with Foppoli that was turned over to police.
Oh-oh, pictures. It was apparently too much for even Foppoli. The San Francisco Chronicle said “hours after” reporters emailed him questions about the Florida case, Foppoli announced his resignation.
Now, on the one hand, it could be seen as just a scandal in a small town. Being mayor of Windsor is largely ceremonial – although Foppoli was so thrilled with the job that he sometimes wore a scarf with ‘MAYOR’ printed on it. He was not a senator. Or governor.
And although it took way too long, he was ousted. His victims have not only been able to see him get his bounty, but they can also have legal remedies to invoke if they wish.
So in the end, it worked out. The system is working.
The #MeToo movement started in 2006. It became an international symbol in 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted “me too” in support of the other victims of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Over the years since, there have been a number of kudos for taking those #MeToo moments seriously. That the days when we don’t listen to an accuser, or believe their story, are over.
Except that they are not.
Remarkably, a #NotMetoo movement has emerged. Faced with complaints of sexual misconduct, some powerful men pull a Foppoli – deny it all and try to get out of it.
Former President Donald Trump may have started it all. We have seen checks signed to porn artist Stormy Daniels, several lawsuits alleging sexual assault, and an audiotape where he brags about inappropriate sexual behavior.
He simply denies it. And so far it has worked for him.
In fact, it worked so well that the approach spread. As a recent New Yorker article put it, “What counts as an end-of-career scandal has been redefined.”
In New York City, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has been accused by 10 women of inappropriate behavior, including touching, hugging and forced kissing one of them. The women came forward, most of which allowed the use of their names and gave detailed descriptions of what happened.
In response, as the Atlantic put it, “Cuomo tries the Trump defense.”
He denied everything and said he was not going to resign because he was elected by the people of New York.
When the charges are laid, Cuomo says he had no idea he was presenting himself like this. And that he now realizes that “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.”
Yes, but governor, it is not you who decides what is “misinterpreted”. One of her accusers, a 25-year-old employee named Charlotte Bennett, said she was “terrified” and she believed Cuomo “was betting on my silence and my fear” to get away with it.
We’ll see if he does.
But wait, there is more.
In Florida, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz is suspected of sex trafficking and possible sex with a minor. Despite payment records and two associates – one a former girlfriend – cooperating with authorities, Gaetz goes with general denial.
Never happened. I don’t know what you are talking about.
It’s disheartening, especially at a time when we were supposed to empower victims. We tell them their story is important, but don’t follow them.
There is, however, a silver lining. One group that has not let these denials stand is the media. Reporters keep Cuomo’s allegations alive. Gaetz continues to ask questions.
And in the long run, it may not turn out well for them. There is evidence, there is anger, and the victims seem sympathetic and reasonable.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but in a perfect world, I know what I’m rooting for.
Hope they get Foppoli’d.
CW Nevius is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at [email protected] com.
You can send letters to the editor for [email protected]