Yale University philosophy professor Thomas Pogge has responded to a recent BuzzFeed News investigation into claims that he sexually harassed at least two students and abused his position to gain sexual advantage with other young women in his field.
In a six-page letter, published on a university blogging platform, Pogge limited his comments to allegations by one student, Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, who graduated from Yale in 2010. She said Pogge sexually harassed her and then retaliated against her by rescinding an offer of a fellowship at the foundation he leads.
"None of the alleged misconduct ever took place,” Pogge wrote.
“I doubt I will be able fully to convince many of you in this forum,” he continued. “But I can provide a substantial amount of evidence that should easily suffice to convince you to at least suspend belief until these allegations can once more be adjudicated in a proper judicial forum.”
He said Lopez Aguilar’s claims contained “various provable falsehoods and inconsistencies.” He cited avaricious lawyers and “the intensely competitive worlds of academia and university politics” as “familiar phenomena that can explain false allegations.”
The statement is Pogge’s first public response to the allegations, or on the article, which was published on Friday. BuzzFeed News had previously contacted Pogge more than a dozen times requesting comment, and also sent him a detailed letter outlining all the assertions that were likely to appear. After posting the lengthy statement on Saturday, Pogge wrote a Facebook post accusing BuzzFeed of “hiding” his response to the article.
Pogge was Lopez Aguilar’s senior thesis advisor. He offered her a postgraduate fellowship at Yale’s Global Justice Program, which he founded and directs. The summer after graduation, she accompanied him to a conference in Chile as his interpreter. During the trip, she claimed in a recent federal complaint, Pogge booked them a single hotel room to share, flirted with her, and pressed himself against her while grabbing her breast and her leg. Afterwards, he said he had never meant to offer her a paid position, and that her subsequent sexual harassment claim was an attempt to elicit money from him.
In his statement, Pogge claimed Lopez Aguilar’s assertions had already been disproven: “One version of her allegations was thoroughly investigated in quasi-judicial proceedings by a Yale committee of five faculty members and one Federal judge, who found her charges of sexual harassment to be not credible.”
The panel’s actual finding was that there was “insufficient evidence” with which “to corroborate either Ms. Lopez’s or Mr. Pogge’s differing accounts.”
Pogge also pointed to “enthusiastic emails,” which were included in the BuzzFeed News investigation, that Lopez Aguilar wrote him after the Chile trip.
Pogge derided the claim that he had “attacked” Lopez Aguilar during her senior year. That appears to be a reference to language from a public fundraising plea written by a friend of Lopez Aguilar’s. Lopez Aguilar herself did not allege inappropriate physical contact until after graduation.
Pogge also claimed to have passed a polygraph test.
Reached in her native Honduras, Lopez Aguilar said she was "perplexed by the absurdity" of Pogge's statement.
A leading expert in the field of global ethics, Pogge had strong words for what he called “trial by internet,” which “at its worst,” he wrote, “is as haphazard and unfair as stonings in Afghanistan.”
On his Facebook page, Pogge said he was making “another attempt to see” whether BuzzFeed “will allow the other side to be heard.” He did not reply to requests for further comment.
Katie Baker is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Katie J.M. Baker at email@example.com.
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