Written By | Nick Romano
HLN host Ashleigh Banfield used a portion of her segment on “Crime & Justice” to call out the anonymous woman who accused Aziz Ansari of sexual misconduct. Banfield referred to the claims published in a story on Babe.net as “reckless” and chiseling “away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades.”
“Dear Grace (not your real name),” Banfield began, using the woman’s pseudonym from the story. “I’m sorry that you had a bad date. I have had a few myself. They stink.” She later added, “But let’s take a moment to reflect on what you claim was the ‘worst night of your life.’”
In the Babe.net story, Grace, described only as a 23-year-old Brooklyn photographer, said she went on a date with Ansari after meeting him at an Emmys afterparty in September 2017. They allegedly went back to his apartment where several sexual acts occurred, including oral sex. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested,” she said. “I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”
She recalled saying no multiple times to Ansari’s sexual advances, but the 34-year-old Master of None star apparently repeatedly tried to initiate intercourse.
Ansari responded to the claims in the days following his award win at the Golden Globes ceremony.
“In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date,” the actor said in a statement. “We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual. The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. 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. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said. I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
“You had a bad date,” Banfield said of Grace. “Your date got overly amorous. After protesting his moves, you did not get up and leave right away. You continued to engage in the sexual encounter. By your own clear description, this was not a rape, nor was it a sexual assault.” (In the story, the woman said, “I was debating if this was an awkward sexual experience or sexual assault. And that’s why I confronted so many of my friends and listened to what they had to say, because I wanted validation that it was actually bad.”)
“By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant. It did not send you to the police, it did not affect your workplace, or your ability to get a job,” Banfield continued. “So I have to ask you, what exactly was your beef? That you had a bad date with Aziz Ansari? Is that what victimized you to the point of seeking a public conviction and a career-ending sentence against him? Is that truly what you thought he deserved for your night out?”
The host clarified that this woman should go to the police if she had been sexually assaulted and she should speak out if she was sexually harassed. “But what you have done, in my opinion, is appalling,” Banfield added. “You went to the press with a story of a bad date and you have potentially destroyed this man’s career over it — right after he received an award for which he was privy. And here is where I am going to claim victim. You have chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades, a movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I, too, have struggled through at times over the last 30 years in broadcasting.”
She continued to berate the anonymous woman, saying, “You’re 23. What a gift. Yet you look that gift horse in the mouth and chiseled away at that powerful movement with your public accusation.” She added, “You had an unpleasant date. And you did not leave. That is on you. And all the gains that have been achieved on your behalf and mine are now being compromised by the allegations that you threw out there, and I’m gonna call them reckless and hollow.”
Banfield concluded her remarks by saying “the only sentence” a man like Ansari “deserves is a bad case of blue balls, not a Hollywood blackball.”