The Silicon Valley YWCA returned a $4,500 donation from attorney James McManis over comments he made that downplayed Brock Turner’s sexual assault of Chanel Miller after a campus party at Stanford in 2016.
McManis offered the cash gift to support the non-profit’s annual “Inspire Luncheon,” which took place on Oct. 30 and featured Dolores Huerta and Christine Blasey Ford, who made a rare public appearance to accept the YWCA’s Empowerment Award. An email sent out before the event featured a long list of sponsors that included the McManis Faulkner law firm.
That didn’t sit well with some of the attendees—Stanford law professor Michele Dauber among them—who balked at the optics of a victim-blaming attorney getting credit for chipping in for an event honoring women and survivors.
McManis was one of the most prominent defenders of Aaron Persky, the judge recalled from the bench in 2018 because of the brief sentence he gave Turner two years earlier. Dauber, who led the campaign to oust the jurist, has been an outspoken critic of McManis ever since he made comments that disputed settled facts of the case against Turner and cast doubt on Miller’s claim of victimhood.
Among other offensive remarks during the campaign, McManis told a Vogue correspondent that Miller “was not attacked” and “had been drinking before she arrived at the fraternity party.” He also claimed that the impact statement she read in court was penned by someone else, though he acknowledged that he hadn’t “independently verified” the allegation.
YWCA Silicon Valley Executive Director Tanis Crosby said the decision to return the several-thousand-dollar donation to last week’s event owed to statements like those.
“We appreciate all that the firm has done for us in the past,” she told Fly. “Unfortunately, they’ve taken some positions that are deeply at odds with the values of the YWCA. They’ve cast aspersions about a client of the YWCA and, to be clear, we believe and support survivors. Full stop.”
Dauber echoed Crosby’s sentiment: “There is no way that McManis should be allowed to ‘pinkwash’ his reputation by donating to the YWCA, an organization that serves survivors—including Miller herself.”
McManis did not return a request for comment.