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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Goldschmidt story gets worse

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Goldschmidt story gets worse


Neil Goldschmidt will never repair the damage to his reputation caused by the revelation, in 2004, that he sexually abused a teenage girl in the 1970s.

Yet Goldschmidt, the former Oregon governor, Portland mayor and head of the state’s Board of Higher Education, seems determined to burn even the tattered remnants of his dignity.

This week the news came that Goldschmidt’s victim died Jan. 16 at age 49.

In response, both Willamette Week, which broke the story back in 2004, and The Oregonian, which had been investigating allegations against Goldschmidt but didn’t publish them until after Willamette Week did, printed stories detailing the victim’s troubled life after she was abused by Goldschmidt.

The Oregonian also printed Goldschmidt’s responses to a series of questions the newspaper posed to him.

Which is where this already sordid story gets uglier still.

In his response to The Oregonian, Goldschmidt included the sorts of platitudes which, though meaningless, are the least that society expects from a person who has acknowledged doing despicable things.

He expressed sadness at the victim’s death.

He apologized for his “shameful conduct” and the “damage” he caused.

He admitted that “a lifetime of penance will not erase” the “debt of my own creation.”

Had Goldschmidt stopped there, his terribly tarnished legacy would at least include the footnote that he did apologize in a manner which, so far as anyone can know, was sincere.

But he didn’t stop there.

Goldschmidt also made a pathetic, and to us an inexplicably callous, attempt to simultaneously diminish the severity of his crimes and further besmirch his victim.

In the first paragraph of his response he refers to “the woman with whom I had an illegal sexual relationship 35 years ago.”

His victim was of course a woman when she died. But she was a teenage girl when Goldschmidt sexually abused her.

And “illegal sexual relationship” is a ridiculous euphemism for rape, the crime Goldschmidt should have been convicted of based on state law at the time. He was not convicted, however, nor even charged with any crime, because the statute of limitations had expired many years before he admitted having sex with the girl many times.

Yet as abhorrent as his use of the term “illegal sexual relationship” is, that’s actually an improvement over how Goldschmidt described his crime to The Oregonian in a 2004 interview.

He called the rape an “affair” then.

Goldschmidt isn’t finished, though, with his vain campaign to minimize his actions.

He claimed to The Oregonian that the girl was 15 when he first had sex with her, not 14, as was reported in 2004, or 13, as the victim told Margie Boule, a former columnist for the newspaper.

“The reality,” he wrote, “is that it does not matter because she simply was not old enough to consent to sex and it was my moral and legal obligation to be the responsible adult.”

You’re right, Neil: It doesn’t matter whether the girl was 13, 14 or 15. So why did you mention it? Do you think the public considers the rape of a 15-year-old not quite as awful as the rape of a 13-year-old?

The truth, it seems, is that Goldschmidt cited these discrepancies in the girl’s age because, in the midst of his ostensibly heartfelt apology, he also sought to portray his victim as a liar.

“Sadly,” he wrote, “it appears that much of her account is fabricated and I can only speculate as to her reasons.” The accusations that The Oregonian gave him, he wrote, “vary substantially from the truth.”

So let’s give Goldschmidt what he doesn’t deserve: the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s assume, although there is no proof that this is so, that his victim wasn’t absolutely accurate with every date and timeframe she related to Boule during their many interviews.

Even if this were true, it’s just as irrelevant as the question of whether the girl was 13, 14 or 15 when Goldschmidt first raped her.

He did rape her. He admits that he did. And yet he has the unbelievable gall to accuse her, posthumously, of lying about “much of her account,” as though her honest mistake about a minor detail might somehow mitigate his guilt.

It doesn’t mitigate it. Nothing can.

And frankly, we hope this disgusting and self-serving “explanation” is the last we hear from Neil Goldschmidt. We hope too that his successes as a politician will forever seem trivial compared to his failures as a person.

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