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Aziz Ansari: I’m “a better person” since sexual misconduct scandal

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Aziz Ansari has commented on the controversial first-person account by an anonymous woman who accused Ansari of trying to pressure her having sex with him after the two went on a date. It was the first time he’s spoken publicly about the allegation since the story first broke a year ago.

Ansari reflected on the incident and the news cycle that followed it during a pop-up comedy set he performed Monday night in New York. The appearance was part of Ansari’s ongoing “new material” tour, during which he’s been performing similar pop-up sets and making informal appearances at comedy clubs around the country.

According to Vulture, Ansari said during his Monday-night show that he’d needed time to process the incident, which portrayed him as ignoring signals that his date was uncomfortable and pressuring her to participate in escalating physical intimacy, including sex. “[A]fter a year,” Ansari reportedly said, “how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person.”

He also reportedly said that he was thankful that the tone of the conversation around the incident, which raised a number of issues related to the fraught gender dynamics of a bad date, had been enlightening for many people. Per Vulture:

Ansari recalled a conversation in which a friend told him it made him rethink every date he’s been on: “If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing.”

Ansari’s willingness to be open, honest, and reflective about the experience struck many people on social media as refreshing.

But others were skeptical — or at least slow to accept his views on the subject.

Part of the reason for the skepticism is that many accounts of Ansari’s recent appearances have described his new material as skewering progressive politics and progressive callout culture. In October, Eren Orbey wrote about one of Ansari’s sets for the New Yorker, characterizing it as marked by “suspicion about wokeness and its excesses”:

Without ever mentioning the #MeToo movement—or his own experience as one of its most disputed casualties—Ansari decries the destructive performativity of Internet activism and the fickle, ever-changing standards of political correctness … zealous and performative leftists who can’t seem to resist competing with one another in what Ansari calls “Progressive Candy Crush.”

This wariness toward Ansari’s comeback tour places him in a category with fellow comedian Louis C.K., who has also received critical pushback for his recent public appearances. C.K., who in 2017 admitted to sexual misconduct against numerous women, has been the subject of intense public backlash and scrutiny as he attempts to begin touring again. Writing about C.K. as well as Ansari recently, Vox’s Anna North noted, “Before they were publicly accused, these men wrestled with thorny questions of identity and power in ways that, while not always satisfying, were usually thought-provoking. After the allegations, they began parroting tired complaints about political correctness.”

Though C.K. seems to have walked back some of his offensive humor in response to outrage over jokes he made on one stage about survivors of the Parkland school shooting, he hasn’t actually apologized for it, nor has he spoken frankly about his misconduct since his initial apology in 2017.

Similarly, Ansari has, until now, been mostly silent on the issue of his own conduct following his initial 2018 statement, in which he asserted that he believed his interactions with the woman in question had been fully consensual.

“It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned,” Ansari said at the time. “I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”

If his thoughts on the subject from Monday night are any indication, Ansari wants to give the impression once more that he’s taken the public’s feedback to heart.

The tone of his comedy in the wake of the scandal, however, might prove to be the most compelling test of whether or not he’s truly sincere.

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Vox Sentences: The pope will listen to survivors

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Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what’s happening in the world. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

The Vatican prepares to talk about the sexual abuse of minors; Australia is hit with a cyberattack.


“The Protection of Minors in the Church”


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  • The Vatican prepared Monday for a Thursday meeting called “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” which will address the long and destructive history of sexual abuse of children by officials of the church. Pope Francis and presidents from international bishops’ conferences will gather for four days to meet with abuse survivors and increase transparency. [NYT / Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo]
  • Boston Archbishop Seán O’Malley, one of the few Americans who advise Pope Francis, says the church still lacks a procedure for how to deal with bishops accused of abuse. And addressing those wrongs is only complicated by the fact that most of the cases still waiting for justice occurred decades ago. [Atlantic / Emma Green]
  • The Vatican took decisive action over the weekend against a cleric it had long shielded: ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The former archbishop of Washington became the highest-ranking American cardinal to be defrocked after he was found guilty of abusing minors. McCarrick was made cardinal in 2001, despite the church knowing of accusations against him. [Vox / Amanda Sakuma]
  • On the same day the summit starts, an explosive new book by a French journalist will be released, alleging that the Catholic Church is “one of the biggest gay communities in the world.” In the Closet of the Vatican could be the first reliable account of gay members of the clergy, which has some members of the church worried it could distract from the meeting’s goal: addressing the abuse of minors. [CNN / Daniel Burke]
  • Gay Catholic priests have long been terrified to come out, fearing repercussions from the church, which almost always controls a priest’s housing, health insurance, and retirement pension. The Times spoke to two dozen anonymously, who said the environment is only getting worse, with homosexuality increasingly being blamed for clergy abuse of young boys. [NYT / Elizabeth Dias]
  • Relations between the Vatican and US church leaders like O’Malley on abuse cases are becoming more and more tense. O’Malley was excluded from organizing this week’s summit on sex abuse, despite his top position on the commission for the protection of minors. The Vatican thinks American leadership is going too far — even in the practice of publishing accused clergy members’ names. [WSJ / Francis X. Rocca]

Australia reckons with a cyberattack

  • An unidentified foreign government is likely responsible for a hack of Australia’s major political parties and its parliament’s computer network, according to a statement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday. [NYT / Jamie Tarabay]
  • The Australian government was already investigating an attack on the parliament that occurred early February when it became aware, 10 days later, that the Liberal, Labor, and National parties had also been breached. [Al Jazeera]
  • Australia’s federal elections are coming up in May, but Morrison assured the country there had not been any electoral interference — even as the Australian Cyber Security Centre admitted it did not know what information had been stolen. [BBC News]
  • “A sophisticated state actor” is the culprit, according to Morrison, and many policy experts are pointing to China or Russia. The attack draws attention to the potential meddling (by at least one of those countries) in the 2016 US elections, and how this could be repeated. [TechCrunch / Jon Russell]
  • It’s also possible the responsible organization tried to mimic China to encourage Australian and foreign officials to point fingers. China has denied any role in the attack. [The Verge / Jon Porter]

Miscellaneous

  • Past presidents like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington have earned their place on national monuments — but history has shown that no president was a perfect leader. [NBC News / Ethan Sacks]
  • Public records about the Interior Department could be harder to access if a new rule the department has proposed is adopted. Under the rule, Interior would have more control over what information goes public and could limit how many documents one individual or an organization may view per month. [NPR / Nate Hegyi]
  • President Trump is expected to heighten support for Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela on Monday. Pressure for President Nicolás Maduro to step down is mounting from the US, which has targeted sanctions against Venezuela’s valuable oil industry. [CNN / Jeremy Diamond]
  • Only one of the current Democratic presidential hopefuls is a heterosexual white man. Others may declare, but they all could have trouble accessing in-demand campaign talent and media attention — not to mention widespread support — as women and other minority candidates appeal to voters. [Politico / Bill Scher]
  • Millions of Nigerians were disappointed on Saturday when a last-minute decision delayed national presidential elections. Without an absentee voting system, many Nigerian citizens who had traveled or planned to travel to their home districts had to change plans when they found out they wouldn’t be voting. Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is seeking his second consecutive term. [NYT/ Dionne Searcey and Emmanuel Akinwotu]

Verbatim

“What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” [Excerpt from God Help the Child by Toni Morrison, who turns 88 years old today]


Watch this: American segregation, mapped at day and night

We work in diverse places. We live in segregated ones. [YouTube / Alvin Chang]


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