By Erin Woo
A month after Stanford College Republicans (SCR) President John Rice-Cameron ’20 filed and subsequently dropped battery charges against Melinda Hernandez ’21, Hernandez posted a song to SoundCloud disputing SCR’s allegations that she assaulted Rice-Cameron at a “Change My Mind” tabling event in White Plaza.
In the song, titled “Testimony,” Hernandez argues that SCR’s table inviting dialogue on — and professing SCR’s support of — Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was aimed at “entertainment” instead of “spark[ing] a conversation.”
Hernandez also raps about “what they did to [her] name” by painting her as a “violent, unhinged leftist [who] can’t be tamed,” referencing Facebook posts in which SCR referred to the events at the “Change My Mind” table as “acts of leftist violence at Stanford” and called Hernandez “violent and unhinged.”
“John Rice-Cameron and the rest of SCR made me out to seem like a violent, irrational liberal when in reality, the conversation that we were having wasn’t even about politics,” Hernandez wrote to The Daily.
According to Stanford University Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bill Larson, Rice-Cameron told authorities that Hernandez “shoved him in the chest with her hand during a verbal disagreement.” Hernandez and other witnesses denied that the contact was forceful, arguing that she merely touched Rice-Cameron on the chest after he refused to stop filming her without her consent.
Although Rice-Cameron filed battery charges against Hernandez, he dropped the charges less than a week later, asking instead that Hernandez “do her part and acknowledge that her behavior was completely inappropriate.” In her song, Hernandez declines to apologize, saying “there’s just too many lies; I can never justify what you symbolize.”
“What was a small push was made to be a brutal attack,” Hernandez wrote in a public Instagram post announcing the release of her song. “Republicans across the country sat behind their computers and called me a thug, a violent leftist, a delusional liberal, etc. I’ve sat in silence the past few weeks, unable to clear my name because I had no legal representation.”
Her lack of legal representation caused Hernandez to wait to post “Testimony,” which she wrote a few days after the tabling event. She also cited the media scrutiny of the event, writing to The Daily that she “decided to play it safe and not say anything” until she could be sure that Rice-Cameron would not press charges.
In public Instagram and Facebook posts, Hernandez posted screenshots of headlines from Fox News and other outlets.
“With all the news it made, I think [Rice-Cameron] did this for the fame,” Hernandez raps in her song, adding that “now [he] want[s] to talk about civility: fake fragility, just for publicity.”
Hernandez characterizes Rice-Cameron — referred to in the song by his initials “JRC” — as looking “proud” after calling the police at the tabling event. She also speculates that Rice-Cameron’s mother Susan Rice, a former Obama national security advisor and United Nations ambassador, would agree that Rice-Cameron sought fame in his case. Rice recently insinuated on Twitter that she was considering a run to unseat Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The other SCR member named in the song is Ben Esposito ’21, who appeared on The Ingraham Angle two days after the alleged assault and told host Laura Ingraham that Hernandez “hit [Rice-Cameron] and pushed him back” because “she was upset at John for filming her ripping these flyers.”
In her song, Hernandez addresses Esposito directly in a spoken coda.
“Ben, you know you’re lying on that Fox News interview,” she says. “I did not tear down any posters, and I did not hit anyone. Fuck is you talking about.”
In a statement to The Daily, Esposito wrote that he bears “no ill will towards Melinda.”
“I refused to release her name on national TV when asked,” he added. “But what I said was the truth and has been confirmed by multiple witnesses.”
Video footage leaked to The Daily by an SCR member shows Annie Zheng ’20 tearing off two event posters and running away; however, there is no video evidence to support Esposito’s allegation that Hernandez also “ripp[ed] those flyers.”
In an email to The Daily, Hernandez noted that Esposito was not present at the time of the altercation between her and Rice-Cameron.
“The SCR member who went on Fox News for an interview was not at the tabling event at the time of the incident, and so I knew they were more proud of the news coverage than concerned about the truth,” Hernandez wrote.
Rice-Cameron did not respond to requests for comment.
Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.