All too often, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault wait years to come forward, if they come forward at all. One of the biggest reasons this happens is that all too often, they fear that no one will believe them. We’ve gotten far too many reminders for comfort of this in recent years. When women who claimed to have suffered at the hands of the likes of Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Roy Moore, and others have finally spoken up, we’ve heard critics say that they’re simply out to take famous men down.
We got a lovely example of this on Friday. Urban Meyer, the head football coach at Ohio State, may be fighting for his job amid reports that he knew one of his assistants was beating his wife and swept it under the rug. According to one prominent religious right podcaster and minister, however, the effort to expose him amounts to–wait for it–an attack on masculinity.
Less than a month before the start of the season, Ohio State was turned upside down when Courtney Smith, ex-wife of longtime Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith, told longtime college football reporter Brett McMurphy that a number of people close to Meyer were almost certainly aware of a 2015 allegation of domestic violence against her husband. She also told Stadium, a multiplatform sports network, that she is certain Meyer knew. Watch here.
Smith was fired in July for violating a protective order barring him from any contact with his ex-wife, and Meyer claimed at Big Ten Media Days that he didn’t know about the 2015 incident. Amid a firestorm of criticism, Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave pending investigation.
However, there is already speculation that Meyer has coached his last game at Ohio State. That didn’t sit well with one of the loudest voices on the religious right, Dave Daubenmire.
While Daubenmire isn’t a household name among news junkies, religious right watchers like yours truly know him very well. He has long claimed to have forced the ACLU to drop a lawsuit it filed against him for mixing prayer with his coaching at London High School near Columbus in 1999. In truth, however, the ACLU and the school district reached a settlement which required school officials to report any religious intimidation to the school board and the ACLU. Additionally, he lost a libel suit he filed against several parents for speaking out against him.
But that hasn’t stopped him from gaining a decent-sized following among hardcore fundies. He has a daily podcast, “Pass the Salt,” which attracts a fairly large audience even though it starts at 7 a.m. Eastern every weekday.
His reach has been cut down severely in recent weeks, in part because he’s had his posting privileges restricted on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. He claims they oppose preaching the Gospel. In truth, it’s due to things like what he said in a May broadcast, when he claimed the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was an attempt to promote racial mixing. No, this isn’t snark. Watch here, via People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch.
But apparently Daubenmire is a slow learner, judging by what he said on Friday morning. He claimed that the scandal at Ohio State wasn’t about domestic violence, but about “feminazis” driven by a “Jezebel spirit.” To Daubenmire’s mind, this whole thing is being trumped up by forces at Ohio State who “hate football” and “hate masculinity,” and see a golden opportunity to bring down “that focal center of masculinity.”
Daubenmire claimed that the powers that be in Columbus are tripping all over themselves to “appease the Jezebel spirit.” As proof, he cited numerous incidents of domestic between 2012 and 2015 documented by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, for which Smith was never charged.
It has since emerged that McMurphy’s initial report about Smith’s domestic violence on July 23 was edited on numerous occasions without issuing a correction or a retraction–a pretty serious breach of journalistic ethics, on the face of it. But that doesn’t make Daubenmire’s screed any less degrading.
How’s that, you ask? Well, it seems that Daubenmire forgot about an earlier incident, in 2009, when Smith was an intern on Meyer’s staff at Florida. Smith grabbed Courtney, who was pregnant at the time, by her T-shirt and shoved her against a wall. Courtney claims that one of Meyer’s longtime confidants, Hiram de Fries, and former head coach Earle Bruce–Smith’s grandfather–urged her to drop the charges for the sake of her husband’s coaching future.
Has it occurred to Daubenmire that Courtney kept quiet in subsequent skirmishes out of fear of being held responsible for wrecking her husband’s career? This is exactly the kind of thing victims think about when they debate whether to come forward–whether they will be dragged through the mud for speaking out. And what makes it particularly outrageous is that a guy who is supposedly a minister thinks it is even remotely acceptable to kick domestic violence victims in the teeth and several other places.
Daubenmire coached high school football in Ohio for over 35 years. Even allowing for the generational differences, the thought this guy had any kind of influence over young men sends a chill down my spine. After all, the claim that speaking out about domestic violence was an attack on men is a big reason why we’ve taken so long to get a handle on it.
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