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Hirota, Scott at odds after FoHo controversy about ASSU Exec slate composition

Incumbent ASSU Execs criticize journalistic ethics of FoHo report

JULIA INGRAM/The Stanford Daily

In an email to students on the night of April 10 — the first day of the two-day Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) election period — campus newsletter the Fountain Hopper (FoHo) wrote that ASSU Executive candidate Kimiko Hirota ’20 allegedly “warned” her opponent Erica Scott ’20 that Hirota’s friends “might go public” with claims of relationship abuse against Scott’s original running mate.

While Scott and her former running mate — who has been granted anonymity out of respect for his personal privacy in this matter — have affirmed the FoHo’s account, Hirota says she stands by her April 13 Daily op-ed, in which she denied the FoHo’s allegations.

“The claim that I or my friends would go public with allegations of emotional abuse against Erica Scott’s former ASSU Executive running-mate is untrue,” she wrote.  

The FoHo has drawn further criticism from incumbent ASSU executives Shanta Katipamula ’19 and graduate student Rosie Nelson, as well as the incoming ASSU Executives Scott and Isaiah Drummond ’20.

The FoHo’s editor, Ross Ewald ’20, did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

Election results published Saturday revealed that Scott — who tapped former campaign manager Drummond to replace her original running mate — won the ASSU Executive race by a margin of less than 0.5 percent.

Slate disputes

Scott said that the FoHo reached out to her slate for comment prior to publication, and that she and Drummond mostly provided off-the-record “confirmation and/or context” to the newsletter’s inquiries about the composition of her slate.

“What the FoHo wrote is true from my perspective,” Scott told The Daily. “I met with Kimiko twice in the lead-up to finalizing our slates, and she did try to convince me to not run with [the former running mate].”

Scott continued, “There was an implication that others would come forward with the story if I were to run with him, and that there would be no promises, essentially, that the race would stay non-personal.”

The former running mate confirmed to The Daily that Hirota’s alleged reference to publicizing the claims of relationship abuse were the reason for his dropping out.

Scott and Drummond pushed back against the statement in Hirota’s op-ed that the claim that she or her friends would publicize allegations of emotionally abusive behavior was “untrue.”

“From our conversations, I think a reasonable person could’ve come away with the impression that things would be made public,” Scott said, also referencing “some language that was relatively explicit” about friends of Hirota coming forward.

“‘I wouldn’t want your name to be tainted if you run for higher office in 20 years,’” Scott recalled Hirota saying.

In an interview with The Daily, Hirota recalled making a similar comment, and apologized for such. But she maintained that the intention was not to persuade Scott.

“I think I did say something similar to that and it’s very obvious to me now that that could be—imply that I was going to go public,” Hirota said. “I apologize for saying that and I did not mean … it was going to come out like that. But I thought it was important that she knew this guy was abusive to me in a relationship.”

Hirota denied that the conversations were intended to change the composition of Scott’s slate. Instead, she said, she sought to provide Scott with information about the allegedly abusive behavior of her former running mate.

“I’m really sad that it came across to Erica like I was trying to pressure her,” Hirota told The Daily. “I told her, ‘I’m not going to judge you if you keep running with him; I just felt like you needed to know these things because we were friends.’”

Hirota said she told Scott that while Hirota’s close friends might “see [Scott] differently or think of her differently” for her ties to the running mate choice, so few people at Stanford knew about the nature of their relationship that “it wouldn’t really be a big part of the election.”

She denied that she stated or implied that she or her friends would go forward with allegations of abusive behavior against the former running mate.

“I don’t know if by me just sharing what I shared with her was enough for her to think that I was trying to get him off the ticket but that was never my intention,” she said. “I’m sorry if that was how it ended up coming across her.”

FoHo criticism

In an April 12 Facebook post, incumbent ASSU Executives Shanta Katipamula ’19 and Ph.D candidate Rosie Nelson criticized the FoHo’s report for making public the details of Hirota’s alleged relationship abuse.

“Over the past few days we’ve heard concerns from a number of students about a FoHo piece that outed a student survivor of relationship abuse against their wishes,” they wrote in a joint statement. “We want to be very clear in stating that this type of reporting should have no place in our campus discourse. The ASSU believes in empowering survivors and that survivors should be given the opportunity to share or not share their stories on their own timeline. Anything less than this is unacceptable to us.”

Members of both leading slates further criticized the Fountain Hopper’s decision to publish details of Hirota’s personal life.

The newsletter’s editor, Ross Ewald ’20, did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment on this matter.

“I find it deeply disturbing that running for student government would involve such deeply personal attacks,” Hirota wrote in her Daily op-ed. “I am appalled by the anonymous allegations published by the FoHo that I would threaten to disclose the details of a personal relationship to win a student office. I strongly denied these allegations to the FoHo when they interviewed me, and they mischaracterized my response.“

Echoing Scott’s statement in the original FoHo report, Scott and Drummond reiterated that they hoped the details of candidates’ personal lives would not be an influencing factor in the election.

“I don’t think either of us wanted personal life to play a role at all in this campaign; we don’t think it should,” Scott said of herself and Drummond. “We’ve tried really, really hard to double down on our policy positions [and] make this race exclusively about policy, because we firmly believe that’s what it should be about. And we sincerely hope that the voting public was able to pay attention to policy as well.”

Hirota said that Ewald had apologized to her after the issue’s publication for the impact of the piece. Ewald also apologized, Hirota said, for not requesting Hirota’s comment on allegations about the extent of her contributions to community center funding activism, and that she plagiarized the content of an earlier op-ed she wrote on Martin Luther King, Jr.

In a text message to Hirota, Ewald wrote, “I wanted to reach out in the aftermath of last night’s story; I understand it must have been incredibly painful and that you’re probably incredibly upset with me — which is utterly valid, given the circumstances.”

The FoHo allegations — raised just hours after the official ASSU voting period opened — capped an election marked by controversy, with Hirota falling under other criticism just days earlier after Stanford College Republicans’ publication of an anti-Semitic tweet she wrote. Hirota publicly apologized for the tweet in a Daily op-ed.  

Contact Charlie Curnin at ccurnin ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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