After beating charges of larceny and fraud in 1987, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan famously asked, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
I thought of that phrase last week when the co-anchor of Fox’s Good Day New York, Greg Kelly, returned to work after rape charges that had been filed against him were dropped.
Ray Donovan asked his question rhetorically, but I wondered what the answer to his question was in Greg Kelly’s case. How should he go about getting his good name back?
I forgot to mention one other factor complicating this case. Mr. Kelly’s father, Ray Kelly, is the New York City Police Commissioner, leading to conflict of interest concerns. (The case was investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in an effort to remove such an obvious conflict.)
Here are the facts of the case, as summarized on Wikipedia:
“Kelly was being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office after a woman walked into the 13th Precinct on January 25, 2012, and claimed he raped her in her law office near South Street Seaport. The woman who accused Greg Kelly of raping her also claimed she became pregnant as a result of the alleged sexual assault. The accuser told police that she was passed out when Kelly allegedly sexually assaulted her on October 8, 2011, at her law firm. Kelly, through his attorneys, denied the allegation. His lawyers turned over text messages between Kelly and the woman that they believe undermined the woman’s allegation. They claimed the encounter was purely consensual. On February 7, 2012 all allegations of rape were dropped against Kelly.”
After being cleared of the rape charges last Tuesday, Mr. Kelly released this written statement:
"I am thankful that the investigation established what I’ve known all along, that I am innocent of the allegations that were waged against me….Thank you to the thousands of Good Day New York viewers who expressed positive support through social media.…And I am grateful to everyone at Fox 5, especially Rosanna Scotto, my co-host. I will always remember her kindness, and I look forward to soon resuming my post on Good Day New York next to her.”
When he returned to his co-hosting duties on Friday, he made the following on-air statement:
“Folks, thank you, it was a tough couple of weeks, obviously for a lot of people. And I’m very, very grateful for all the support I had here at Fox 5, the support from my family, friends, those I care about. And the viewers, of course, they’ve been just great. The people who watch this show and have weighed in through social media with positive remarks, thank you very much. It’s great to be back. I’m especially grateful to this lady who sits next to me every day, Rosanna Scotto. You ready to get back to work?”
I have no way of knowing what transpired between Mr. Kelly and his accuser. But based on the district attorney’s statement, I’m willing to give him the presumption of innocence.
If I were falsely accused of rape, I would want to scream from the mountaintops that I was wronged. My instinct would be to do dozens of interviews, protesting the injustice of the false charge and the damage it did to my reputation.
But Mr. Kelly’s instinct not to do that is right. He’s handled this crisis well, briefly but directly acknowledging that something happened, but quickly moving on. Time will diminish the negative impact on his reputation – he wasn’t married (there’s no scorned spouse in this case), and the investigation was dropped quickly.
The public tends to forgive scandals of sexual misconduct: As examples, Marv Albert, Bill O’Reilly, Kobe Bryant, and Ben Roethlisberger were also accused of (or committed) acts of sexual harassment, assault, or rape – and their careers have continued to thrive.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to not protest too much. Mr. Kelly’s approach is right, and is the best path toward eventually getting his good name back.
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