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Junot Díaz denies misconduct allegations; his accusers respond

Junot Díaz denies misconduct allegations; his accusers respond
The author Junot Díaz, shown in 2007, is accused of forcibly kissing another writer and of being verbally abusive to other women. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Junot Díaz, the author accused of forcibly kissing another writer and of being verbally abusive to several other women, has denied the allegations against him in a interview with the Boston Globe published over the weekend.

Díaz, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," told the newspaper that he did not kiss Zinzi Clemmons, whose debut novel, "What We Lose," was released to critical acclaim last year.

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"I did not kiss anyone," the Globe quoted Díaz as saying. "I did not forcibly kiss Zinzi Clemmons. I did not kiss Zinzi Clemmons. It didn’t happen." Díaz was accompanied by a lawyer for the interview.

Before Clemmons’ accusation, as #metoo stories circulated this spring, Díaz published an essay in the New Yorker about being a victim of sexual assault himself. It he revealed that when he was a child, he had been raped by an adult.

Clemmons, who lives in Los Angeles and teaches at Occidental College, posted her allegation on Twitter in May, writing, "I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I'm far from the only one he's done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore. I told several people this story at the time, I have emails he sent me afterward (*barf*). This happened and I have receipts."

Díaz initially responded to Clemmons' accusations with an apologetic statement that read, "I take responsibility for my past. That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries."

Díaz told the Globe that he regretted his initial statement responding to Clemmons' accusations, which did not include a denial of the alleged assault.

"[D]efinitely, that statement is the worst thing I’ve written, the worst thing I’ve put my name to," he said. "Boy, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to rewrite the damn thing."

Díaz addressed the lack of a denial in his statement, saying, "I didn’t feel like anyone would listen to me. I felt like people had already moved on to the punishment phase."

On Twitter on Sunday, Clemmons criticized Stephanie Ebbert, one of the Boston Globe reporters who wrote the story about Díaz, calling her "unprofessional and clearly biased."

Clemmons is not the only woman to accuse Díaz of inappropriate behavior. Alisa Rivera, a Los Angeles woman, wrote an essay in the Rumpus about meeting Díaz for lunch in a Santa Monica cafe. She told the Boston Globe, “Unfortunately, with #MeToo, the standard seems to be, ‘Well it’s not as bad as Harvey Weinstein, so therefore it’s not something we should do anything about.’ I think we should have a bigger conversation about abuse of power.”

Díaz's employer, MIT, declined to discipline him based on the allegations of misconduct. The university launched an investigation into his behavior, but said it had "not found or received information that would lead us to take any action to restrict Professor Díaz in his role as an MIT faculty member."

The Boston Review also declined to remove Díaz from his role as fiction editor for the literary magazine. Editors in chief Deborah Chasman and Joshua Cohen explained their decision in an open letter. Three of the publication’s poetry editors, Timothy Donnelly, Stefania Heim and B.K. Fischer, stepped down from their roles in protest of the magazine's failure to remove Díaz.

After the Boston Globe story was published, Rivera, who maintains that Díaz had assaulted her in Santa Monica, tweeted, "I'm learning that justice is a process, not an event."

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