Brownstein’s Response

Following up on the Journal coverage of gropegate, Newsarama posts Brownstein’s side of the story (link no longer available), including his apology.

I feigned to lift up her shirt. It was a stupid, drunken prank, of which I’m ashamed. It was something I’d never done before, nor anything I’d do since. I did not, at any point, grab, fondle, or expose her breast, nor was that ever my intention. I feel terrible for hurting Taki’s feelings. The following day, and on several occasions since, I apologized to Taki for my bad behavior. I also spoke with Ken at several points over the course of the weekend, to see if we could find a way to honorably set matters right. Unfortunately my sincere apologies have all been rejected. I continue to feel genuine regret that I hurt someone I regarded as a friend, and I hoped she would accept my repeated apology, but since that’s not the case, I want to end the speculation surrounding this incident, because it’s not fair to the industry or to the people this was being speculated about.

He also addresses the original claims of harassment and attempted blackmail, by pointing out that they don’t apply:

I have not done and would not do anything to besmirch nor harm Taki’s reputation or career in any manner. I’m the servant of a public trust who has never worked with Taki in any capacity, and am in no position to either offer or reject her work, nor am I in a position to otherwise influence anyone else in doing so. Nor would I, were I in such a position of influence.

It turns out that Soma’s witness claimed to be having an “affair” with her (his words, not mine), which might have influenced some of the decisions made. Colleen Doran [link no longer available] has more on the witness’ attitude, describing a meeting earlier this year in which he “expressed his regret that things had ‘gone so far’ and ‘gotten so out of hand’ with the reporting on the story, and that he hoped Ms. Soma would let it all go, but that he would ‘stand by her’.”

Already people are using this as an excuse to not donate to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which I think is the wrong decision. (I’m also tempted when someone says “I’m not giving them another penny until he’s fired!” to ask “and just how much did you give them last year?” Most boycotts in comics are attempted by those who rarely would be affected in the first place.) Whether or not you believe Soma or Brownstein or don’t care, the Fund’s mission is an important one that transcends any particular individual.


31 Responses to “Brownstein’s Response”

  1. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I would never use this as a reason not to donate to the Fund; the CBLDF is just too damn important.

    But I do think donors have a right to question the actions of the fund in this case. Hiring an attorney to evaluate the Fund’s position in this case is not a routine cost. I do think Brownstein should reimburse the Fund. No matter how much good he does for comics and the first amendment, he’s going to taint the fund as long as moneys were used because of his actions. Reimbursement is not an unreasonable request.

  2. Johanna Says:

    The fund did what any business should do — conducted an internal investigation and came to a conclusion that’s presumably based on more evidence than we have. It’s part of the cost of doing business these days, unfortunately.

    I’m not sure what good reimbursement would do. If Brownstein’s guilty of what Soma accused him of, then reimbursement isn’t nearly enough, and I would think badly of the Fund for accepting it, since it could be perceived as a payoff. If he’s not, than he’s been through more trouble than he deserves already, he shouldn’t have to pay anything, and offering reimbursement might be seen as a sign of guilt.

  3. Scott Hassler Says:

    “Whether or not you believe Soma or Brownstein or don’t care, the Fund’s mission is an important one that transcends any particular individual.”

    i strongly disagree. like it or not the company you keep reflects upon you. especially in the buisness world.

    how good would it look for rush limbaugh to be a phramaceutical spokesman right now?

    if this brownstein guy had any dignity he would step down and not force the fund to let him go. this IS going to affect the fund, and anyone who would make the statement that the fund is more important than 1 individual, as i would also, should demand this guy step down so as to keep the funds image unblemished.

    even if he isnt guilty of anything more than being drunk and trying to play a prank, thats not how it was received and in the world we live in it is completely unacceptable.

    i personally have never had a job in my life where i wouldnt be immediately dismissed for this kind of behavior.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Scott, you’re assuming that you know what happened and that one side of the story is correct.

    Try it the other way around: How would it look if the CBLDF didn’t stand by its employees when suspect charges were lodged by someone under the influence? Why would anyone come to them for support if they knuckled under when rumors started? If his side is true, why should Brownstein step down because someone misrepresented a situation of poor judgment into something criminal?

    I don’t know what happened, but I know that there are enough questions on every side to recommend that everyone just back away slowly, try to learn from the situation, and get on with what’s important and right. Getting out the tar and feathers isn’t helpful to anyone.

    (And if you think the Fund’s image has always been unblemished, you clearly don’t remember when Gary Groth was prominently associated with them and all the hoo-hah THAT caused.)

  5. Scott Hassler Says:

    i dont know of the gary groth thing but i think ive heard whispers of it. ill google into it.

    as far as his side of the story? maybe i need to reread it but it seems to me like he is saying “yeah i was drunk i did it and im sorry.”

    thats not good enough. thats not good enough by a long stretch in my book.

  6. Johanna Says:

    That’s not what he said. He said he was drunk, and he was teasing her, but that it didn’t go as far as she alleges it did. See above, where he says he didn’t grab or fondle her.

    You should also read Colleen’s post, where Soma’s witness appears to be backing away.

  7. Scott Hassler Says:

    “I feigned to lift up her shirt. It was a stupid, drunken prank, of which I’m ashamed.”

    that is sexual harrassment in my book. teasing or not, it meets the criteria.

  8. Bob Says:

    I’m going to have to go with Scott here. Never mind “two sides to every story”, the behaviour that Brownstein himself describes is pretty unacceptable. Add in the dual factors that he has every reason to downplay what he did and he’s describing actions that took place while he was drunk (and I can tell you stories about drunks behaving badly and downplaying or denying the behaviour later so well that you’d think they managed to convince themselves) there’s a good chance what he did was worse, but even if his description is objectively accurate he deserves some punishment. I don’t see any mention that he was at all reprimanded by the CBLDF for his admitted actions.

  9. Bob Says:

    Just to quickly add, I didn’t read every article about the incident all the way through, so if there was mention of the CBLDF reprimanding him let me know.

  10. David Oakes Says:

    It’s so obvious! Every rapist denies their actions, so every man who denies commiting rape must be a rapist!

    Is lifting up someone’s shirt without their [*] permission a bad thing? Sure. Is it a hanging offense? Not at all. This whole thing should have ended with “Hey, I am sorry I grabbed your shirt, can you please forgive me?”/”Apology accepted, but don’t ever let it happen again.” But it didn’t. And as long as there is an Internet, it never will.

    [*] – The use of the gender neutral pronoun is quite intentional. If he had pulled up a guy’s shirt without permission it would still be battery, and it should still be just as socially unacceptable. But I can guarantee that no one would have given a damn. And “He was asking for it” would be a perfectly acceptable defense. Just ask any teenaged geek who has been pantsed in the lunchroom.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Scott, you’re too dogmatic for my comfort. I’ve done worse to a guy at a con as flirting (I kissed him unexpectedly), and because he was quite pleased with it, everything was cool. If I’d misjudged him (misread his signals), we would have both been embarrassed, and if he’d pressed the matter, I would have apologized profusely. I’m getting the impression that if our genders had been reversed, you’d be calling me almost a rapist next.

    I bring that up to show that context matters, and sitting around judging those we don’t know is a fun sport but bad karma. Chill out.

    Bob, the CBLDF has been very professional through this whole thing, and so I suspect we won’t hear anything about internal discipline, if any. It’s not our business and exposing such matters would make things worse for them.

  12. Bob Says:

    I don’t think it would be unprofessional for the CBLDF to reveal any disiplinary measure that Brownstein may have incurred for the actions he’s admitted to, especially since he’s a “servant of a public trust”. When a sports league punishes a player for improper conduct on or off the field, the length of the suspension and any fines are reported to the press. On the rare occasion politicians are held accountable for ethical violations it’s a matter of public record. I see this the same way. So if, for example, the CBLDF decides Brownstein can’t attend any conventions on the CBLDF dime for the next two years, that should be announced.

  13. Johanna Says:

    I don’t think elected politicians and charity employees are directly comparable, Bob. The CBLDF has apparently said what it intends to say, and I applaud their discretion.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I know that posting anonymously is lame but I have pretty good reason. Taki and I live in the same town and know each other.

    Taki has used her looks and flirtation in an attempt to advance her career for years. Many people in Minneapolis have thought she’s a tad crazy, and wants a career very badly.

    Find pictures of her with pros, if she’s not sitting on their laps, they’re sitting on hers…by invitation.

    Does this mean that she deserves to be fondled or touched? Absolutely NOT. She deserves legal recourse. However, when she gets legal recourse, the real truth of Taki’s character will come out and it will not be the outcome that many people expect. She should NOT be touched, but if anyone is going to find themselves in a drunken hot tub situation and among confusing flirtatious advances…it would be Taki Soma.

    The jokes we’ve been making about Taki Soma’s character for years have all of a sudden become poor taste…a bit like talking about plane crashes post 9-11.

    We’ve always known that Taki would have a comics career, but that it would have nothing to do with her drawing skills.

    Minneapolis

  15. Scott Hassler Says:

    funny, johanna, what you bring up with your situation is another interesting aspect of society. it is much more acceptable for a woman to do what you did to a man because a man is supposed to be a slut and thereby automatically “into it”, ya know, cuz all we care about is sex.

    to the anon, assuming you are being truthful, which i have no idea if you are or not, it makes no difference. there are men doing hard time in prison for “having sex” with scantily clad drunk flirtatious women. rape is rape, assault is assault, harassment is harrassment.

    i must say though, i find hiding your identity and slinging mud like you are to be lame as lame can get. if you want the world to know what a hussy taki is, have the balls to sign your name.

    i have made some statements on this board that i know some people havent been comfy with, but i sign my real name along with a link to my blog where i can be contacted personally. every statement ive made here and elsewhere comes with my personal accountability behind it.

    “Is lifting up someone’s shirt without their [*] permission a bad thing? Sure. Is it a hanging offense? Not at all. This whole thing should have ended with “Hey, I am sorry I grabbed your shirt, can you please forgive me?”/”Apology accepted,”

    —apparently the victim disagrees with you as no apology has been accepted.

  16. Dave Says:

    “I don’t think it would be unprofessional for the CBLDF to reveal any disiplinary measure that Brownstein may have incurred for the actions he’s admitted to[.]”

    Employment laws dictate otherwise, and the Fund is legally obligated to maintain the confidentiality of any disciplinary actions taken against Brownstein.

  17. Don MacPherson Says:

    I work as a courts/crime reporter for a daily newspaper (in Canada, not the U.S.), and I’ll tell you this: I would not have been able to report Charles Brownstein’s name. If no charges are filed in court, that’s the ball game, essentially. If I did report a suspect’s name before s/he was charged (save for rare, specific circumstances), I’d be opening myself and the organization that employs me to legal liability. End of story.

    It’s unfortunate that this story came to light the way it did. I think it will discourage people from reporting serious incidents of sexual harassment or assault in the industry (and it happens, just as it does in every other facet of society).

    I think the discussion to which this situation gives rise is ethical standards of online journalists. I’ve heard blogging proclaimed as the next big step in journalism, and I agree that it’s an important development in the profession. But snarky comments and snappy (but inaccurate) headlines do not constitute journalism.

    For example, one article posted in regard to the Brownstein matter was entitled “The Tit Grab Heard ‘Round the World” (if memory serves). There’s a problem with that headline: it assumes a tit was grabbed. It’s an assumption based on one side of a complex and fragile story.

    The ethics of online journalism is an overwhelming issue that’s obviously massively larger than the online comics community, and I doubt that any kind of real accreditation process or standards committee will ever arise, given the global nature of the Internet.

    But at the very least, it’s something we should all consider when gleaning our information of new sources.

    Don

  18. Anonymous Says:

    “rape is rape, assault is assault, harassment is harrassment.”

    This seems to imply that women do not posess the ability to be manipulative. Often times this POV coming from a man is actually demeaning toward women…protectionist…assertive. Rape IS rape but accusations of rape is not rape. Spot the difference?

    “i must say though, i find hiding your identity and slinging mud like you are to be lame as lame can get….i have made some statements ”

    I absolutely agree with you that it’s incredibly lame, but let’s not compare each other as you don’t really seem to have anything to lose.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Also Scott…

    The build up in all of this has created a very hostile environment for anyone who isn’t rallying behind Taki. There has been some dissent after Charles was named, from people who know his character, but very little is heard from people who know Taki’s character.

    She has been held up through this as a symbol of female bravery in a male dominated comic book industry. There is a patriotism to it and those who think this blind faith is misguided are being ridiculed.

    I hope that Taki gets legal justice as this publicity is not just what-so-ever.

  20. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Matt Brady at Newsarama posts an analysis piece on the Soma/Brownstein story. Of all those involved, the most blame is placed at the feet of the columnist who made inaccurate statements that cast suspicion at innocent, uninvolved men. (The Newsarama vultures promptly lay into Brady for writing the piece at all, since he’s friends with Brownstein, a connection he revealed.) […]

  21. Johanna Says:

    Don, thank you for your valuable perspective. Here’s another example: When the Newsarama piece was first posted, the headline began “Perpetrator…” A commentor pointed out that issue, and soon the headline read “Accused Perpetrator…”

    I’d be happy to hear if you have any comments on my coverage or needed improvements, either here or in email.

    Others, please keep it civil.

  22. Scott Hassler Says:

    even if brownstein were a priest and taki a pornstar it would still be harrassment and therefore unacceptable.

  23. Scott Hassler Says:

    also, taki is pretty cute, im sure theres more than one guy who tried to get some and was turned down who has sour grapes enough to bash her irresponsibly.

  24. Alex Cox Says:

    Johanna-

    Just wanted to thank you for your reasonable and level headed look at the facts through all of this.

    There is a lot of rhetoric and bile getting tossed around, and your reports have been a straightforward breath of fresh air.

    Scott-

    You keep talking about “unacceptable harrassment”. No court of law has convicted him of anything, and the only thing everyone agrees on at this point is that his hand came close to her breast while they were both drinking.

    Let’s keep this stuff in perspective.

  25. Lyle Says:

    Alex, I’m in total agreement, Johanna’s coverage of this story has been very reasoned and informative. Unfortunately, the way the coverage has developed, it’s been hard to separate this individual case from the general topic sexism in the entire industry. The coverage here has been extremely informative, thanks so much for that, Johanna.

    I’ve heard blogging proclaimed as the next big step in journalism, and I agree that it’s an important development in the profession. But snarky comments and snappy (but inaccurate) headlines do not constitute journalism.

    Don, thanks too for your perspective. I disagree with theories of blogging being the new journalism. However, a few months back Jane Hamschler had a great post a few months ago at the Huffington Post where she said that the best use for bloggers was as news analysts… that journalists spend time pursuing and verifying their stories and the opportunity for blogs is in looking at multiple reports, along with archives, to put the news into perspective.

  26. Johanna Says:

    Thanks, Lyle. It’s been enlightening in trying to keep myself from taking the easy answers, since it’s all very complicated. And you’re right, there’s the specifics and then the general situation of industry sexism, and the two are both intimately related and perhaps not as involved as people thought.

    Which leads me to Anonymous, whose comments make me uncomfortable. I don’t know Soma, but I do know that I’ve heard someone say “used her looks and flirtation in an attempt to advance her career” about almost every woman in comics. Does that make it wrong in this case? Dunno. Is it a sexist accusation? Quite often. As Scott pointed out earlier, it can come close to “she was asking for it”.

  27. James Schee Says:

    My take on the situation is that I just don’t know what happened, as I don’t know either individual (I think I may have seen Brownstein at Heroes when I joined CBLDF) and so can’t form an opinion on whom to believe from the extremely little I’ve seen.

    I do know that I will continue to support the CBLDF, as it is too important an organization.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Johanna: You’ve given me perspective. I don’t like the thought that what you say is the case, but understand how it probably is.

  29. Bosefus Says:

    I have met and spoken with Charles Brownstein on more than one occasion. I have also witnessed the way he treats those who work for the CBLDF. You all need to understand something. Brownstein is a self-centered hateful man, and he has little to no regard for women. After personally witnessing him treat co-workers like crap, I’ve often wondered why ANYONE would put up with this guy. He was condescending and offensive to me after just meeting him. The only time I’ve ever seen him behave decently is when he’s around people in the industry he wants to impress – i.e. Joe Quesada. Those who REALLY know Brownstein not only know he’s capable of something like this, but also know it’s to be expected with guys like him. I hope he is severely punished for his actions, and that Taki receives justice. It about time people saw Charles for what he really is.

  30. Johanna Says:

    That doesn’t at all match what I’ve seen when I’ve volunteered for CBLDF tables at conventions.

  31. CBLDF Staff Additions » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] and assisting in overall management.” That second one may be necessary after Brownstein burned some bridges; rumor has it that he’s no longer as welcome at some conventions as he had been, so having […]




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