Another day, another hostage video with celebrities apologizing for no reason. In this case, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, the married former co-stars of That 70’s Show, apologized for standing by a friend with a character letter written to a judge before that friend was sentenced for rape.
Late last week, actor Danny Masterson received a 30-year-to-life sentence for raping two women some 20 years ago. Masterson is best known for co-starring with Kutcher and Kunis in That 70’s Show, which aired on Fox from 1998 to 2006. In 2016, Masterson and Kutcher reunited for The Ranch, a Netflix comedy. Masterson left that show the following year when news of the rape investigation broke.
Masterson has maintained his innocence throughout the six-year scandal. He says the sex was consensual. No physical evidence was presented. Masterson was convicted largely on the testimony of the victims. There was a third woman, a former girlfriend, who accused Masterson of rape. The jury split 8 to 4 on that one, and Masterson was not convicted.
Knowing all this, let me be as clear as I can…. If Masterson were my friend, I would have no problem writing a character letter on his behalf.
If I were Masterson’s friend, here is what I’d think…. First, I have a problem with the court allowing Masterson to be prosecuted for three women at once. That’s as prejudicial as it gets. Each case should stand on its own merit without the piling-on effect. Three women accused the defendant of the same thing is not evidence. Second, there was no physical evidence of the rape or that the women were drugged prior to the rape. Third, Masterson says he’s innocent. Fourth, this #MeToo era has resulted in a pile of injustice unseen since the McCarthy era. Fifth, the guy has been a friend for 25 years.
Listen, even if they have done something terrible, there is nothing wrong with standing by family and friends. In fact, I would go so far as to declare that an honorable act. You don’t gain anything standing by someone like that. There’s no upside. Only downside. All it does is complicate your life. It is easiest to write them off, delete them, and go on like they don’t exist. Good people don’t write off human beings.
What’s more, by all accounts, the letter Kutcher and Kunis wrote in no way questioned the verdict or undermined the victims. They don’t know what happened, so they stuck to what they do know. Nowhere in the letter does it say something like, “The guy we knew would never do something like this.” They only told the truth about a friend who says he’s innocent.
Where is the harm in telling the truth?
Where is the harm in standing by someone, even if that person did something unspeakable?
This isn’t the Roman Polanski situation where someone admitted to drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl and fled justice and accountability. That sack of evil I’d write off in a heartbeat. This is a very different, very complicated case that puts the friends of the convicted in an impossible position. What if you abandon the guy, and he offs himself in prison? What if he’s found not guilty on appeal? When you’re his friend, you do what Kutcher and Kunis did: you thread the needle of standing by him with the truth and without questioning the victims.
I also don’t blame them for doing the hostage video. If you watch closely, they only explain how these character letters work. And it’s a miscarriage of justice the letter went public. Not only is it unfair to Kunis and Kutcher, but it will scare people off from doing the same in the future.
Masterson was found guilty of raping two women. Unless the conviction’s reversed on appeal, like every convicted rapist, he deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. And I’m no fan of Kutcher and Kunis. If you look at their social media accounts, they spend a grotesque amount of time showing off how generous, noble, and righteous they are. I just don’t want to live in a culture where we toxify a harmless act of grace.