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Knight facing unfair claims in Senate District 26 race

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

John Knight is not Roy Moore.

It’s a shame that such a thing needs to be said, but apparently, it does. A letter drawing comparisons between Knight and Moore, and asking that the Alabama Democratic Party withdraw its support for Knight in the Senate District 26 race, was mailed out to media outlets recently.

The letter, sent by former Alabama State University employee Jacqueline Weatherly, notes that Knight was one of the named parties in a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by Weatherly and two other ASU employees.

And this week, a mailer claiming Knight was found guilty of sexual harassment was sent to voters.

Both the letter and mailer lean heavily on the current climate in which women across the country are speaking about their mistreatment at the hands of powerful men. It also leans heavily on the current climate in Alabama, where Democrats and some Republicans are calling on Moore to step aside over allegations that he assaulted two women in the late-1970s and pursued numerous teenagers when he was in his 30s.

“While Roy Moore faces allegations of misconduct, Knight’s situation is most egregious because our allegations have been proven to be facts,” Weatherly writes.

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This is the worst kind of politics.

Because it relies on a kernel of truth, draws unfair parallels, and then dares anyone who knows better to speak up and risk being accused of shaming a victim.

Well, I do know better.

And I’m not afraid to say that this smear job of Knight is flat wrong.

It misleads voters. And it makes it easier for others to take this same shady path.

Here’s the bottom line: Knight was a named party in a racial and sexual harassment lawsuit against ASU, but the judge in the case specifically ruled that Knight committed no acts of harassment. Instead, the racial and sexual harassment that ended up costing the university — and by default, taxpayers — millions of dollars was committed by a female supervisor.

Knight remained part of the lawsuit because, as ASU’s chief executive officer, he was a supervisor and was at least partly responsible for a breakdown in the reporting structure and for an environment that led to the three women being verbally abused and later fired.

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Is that bad?

Of course it is.

But it wasn’t enough to simply say that in a campaign mailer, I guess. Instead, it had to cross the line and bend the truth until it broke.

And why is such a thing happening in a lowly state senate special election that Knight is likely to win easily?

Because feuds die hard within the Alabama Democratic Party.

The mailer sent out this week was paid for by the Jackson Street Political Action Committee. A two-second search of the Secretary of State’s website tells me that PAC was set up by Lonnie Washington, former attorney for Montgomery Probate Judge Steven Reed, and the PAC treasurer is Irva Reed.

You don’t have to be Matlock to figure this thing out: It’s the latest shots fired in the never-ending war between Knight and longtime Alabama Democratic Conference chairman Joe Reed.

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If you ever wondered why the Democrats in Alabama can’t get ahead, it’s nonsense like this.

Two smart, savvy guys wasting their time — and a boatload of money — fighting each other.

It shouldn’t be this way. Mainly because it’s wrong.

In today’s climate, slapping the sexual harassment tag on someone doesn’t just end their political career. It could screw up their entire lives.

That’s why such things shouldn’t be toyed with. Not to mention, the women who have suffered abuse have a hard enough time getting people to believe them without false accusations making it more difficult.

I understand wanting to win an election, and I know that all is supposed to be fair in politics. But being fair doesn’t make this right.

In fact, what’s been done to Knight is just wrong.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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