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Stop Lumping Aziz Ansari in With the Bad Men of #MeToo

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/NewscomA recent New York Times headline asks, “Should Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. talk about accusations onstage?” The implication is that Ansari, like Louis C.K. and the other famous men who faced sexual misconduct allegations, has some responsibility to address them.

But Ansari’s situation is not analogous to Louis C.K.’s. Louis C.K. was accused of unexpectedly masturbating in front of women in the midst of what they presumed were non-sexual situations. Ansari was accused of having a bad date. That the 35-year-old comedian continues to find his name on lists alongside Louis C.K. and some of the other MeTooed men is a clear example of the otherwise praiseworthy movement’s penchant for going too far.

To recap, the accusations—if they can even be called such—against Ansari were published by babe.net, a disreputable gossip site that self-admittedly traffics in “petty celebrity drama,” according to a previous version of its About page. An anonymous woman, “Grace,” said that she drank wine with Ansari at his apartment and that they engaged in some sexual contact. She was uncomfortable with what happened—Ansari wanted her to go further than she wanted to—but she didn’t communicate that very well, and then she left. That’s it.

Most reasonable pundits who weighed in on the issue agreed that Ansari’s behavior did not meet any definition of sexual assault (not that this necessarily would have saved him had he been a student accused of Title IX violations on a university campus). The article was lazy, sloppy gossip.

Still, Ansari is dogged by it. In addition to The New York Times, Deadline published a story last month: “Aziz Ansari Announces First Tour Dates Since Contested Sexual Misconduct Accusations.” The word “contested” is doing entirely too much work there.

MeToo has been a long-overdue reckoning, but the movement has made some missteps. Continuing to pretend that Ansari is under some obligation to make things right is one of them.