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Cohen: A columnist's rush to judgment

  • Writer and director Woody Allen and wife Soon-Yi Previn attend a screening of “To Rome With Love,” in 2012. (FRANCOIS MORI / Associated Press)

The defenestration of Woody Allen started on Feb. 2 with a column in The New York Times by Nicholas Kristof. He began by saying all the right things — that allegations against Allen of sexually molesting the 7-year-old daughter of his one-time companion Mia Farrow had never been proved and that Allen “should be presumed innocent.” Then Kristof threw Allen out the window.

Waiting below was a mob of people who felt as Kristof did: There must be something to the allegation. Left unsaid in the Kristof column, but figuring mightily in public opinion, was the perception of Allen as odd, asocial and creepy because he had carried on an affair with another of Farrow’s adopted daughters (whom he later married) and took nude pictures of her. Here, in short, was a man supposedly capable of doing what he was accused of. Case closed.

Not quite. Allen has responded to the Kristof column in a New York Times article of his own. It is not dispositive but it is persuasive. Allen notes that he has never been charged with sexual molestation, that he passed a lie detector test soon after the alleged event (21 years ago) and that he attributes the accusation to his messy breakup with Farrow.

I am not here today to settle the matter. I have no idea what happened, but neither does Ronan Farrow, the biological child of Farrow and Allen, and soon to be a MSNBC television host, who has gone after Allen with the Twitter version of an ax. Ronan Farrow’s sincerity is not in doubt. But he was not present when the alleged crime took place, and he was a mere 4 at the time.

I am here, though, to take the New York Times to task. It published Kristof’s column, which was, a fair reading would conclude, an indictment of Allen. Kristof unloaded the terms “traumatized,” “belatedly diagnosed” and “post-traumatic stress disorder” in reference to Dylan — if they exist, so must the causes of them. He acknowledged that he is a friend of Mia and Ronan Farrow, and it was through them that he was contacted by Dylan, now 28. Kristof said he reached out to Allen, who declined to comment on the record.

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