Presidential Minister Willis Knuckles: Villain or Victim?

By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 20, 2007


Over the weekend an embarrassing photo surfaced in cyberspace showing Liberian Minister of Presidential Affairs (Willis Knuckles) in a sex act with two female participants. The photo, in which Mr. Knuckles is literally caught in a pose without his pants, has stirred a vigorous debate: Should President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf immediately dismiss Minister Knuckles or should he voluntarily tender his resignation? This scenario suggests that most people’s initial reaction to such issues is rather too simplistic; it is normal to view such matters primarily in black and white. In reality, by the time the air clears things are not as simplistic. We have had ample time to weigh in on this topic and the initial reactions have been expressed. Now, the actual question to be pondered is: Is Minister Knuckles a villain or victim in this case?

I do not advise the president of Liberia, but were she to solicit my advice, it would be simple: Do not dismiss the minister on this issue. Consequently, if the minister were to solicit my counsel, I would also advise him not to quit. Obviously, he doesn’t need my input, he has already publicly spoken on the matter; he made a very good case for himself.

This issue must not be minimized; it is a serious issue between Mr. Knuckles and his wife. It is obvious he made a vow to be committed to her “until death do us part”… If anyone has any reason to be offended or betrayed, it is Mrs. Knuckles. As matters stand, Mr. Knuckles should apologize to his wife and family for the embarrassment of his actions. To the rest of us, he owes no apologies. After all, his job evaluation should not be based on his extra-marital affairs; that is a moral matter. His job evaluation should be based on his job performance.

I know, this may sound like a radical stance, but it is an opinion that can be justified on the merit of strong arguments. First of all, it is an indisputable fact that Mr. Knuckles was caught up in a personal affair. As far as we know, the other actors were consenting adults, not minors. Secondly, the ladies involved were not acting under duress; they are not employees under the control of the minister, and this affair did not happen in the workplace --- at least contrary facts have not been established, and the burden should rest with the accuser, not the accused.

Again, to consider the question of whether Mr. Knuckles is a villain or victim in this matter, it is convincingly clear to me that he, along with the women in the photo, are the victims. Pause for a moment and think of the issue of the invasion of privacy. Who planted the camera to record Mr. Knuckles’ private actions? What was the intent of that person or those people involved? Mr. Knuckles has publicly accused Representative Edwin Snowe and his wife of masterminding this scheme.

This case may not necessarily appear to be as simplistic as it sounds. Is there any validity to the assertions made by Mr. Knuckles? Did Mr. Snowe and his wife attempt to extort political favors from Mr. Knuckles? Did they, in any way, try to manipulate him using the photo as bait? Under ordinary circumstances, these are serious legal matters to be examined, but imagine the magnitude of the case since it now apparently involves the recently dethroned Speaker of the House (Edwin Melvin Snowe). To naively dismiss these serious charges, publicly uttered by Mr. Knuckles against Representative Snowe during a recent press conference, and concentrate merely on the personal discrepancy of Mr. Knuckles turns a serious matter into a comedy. It should not be.

Matters such as these require objectivity in the dispensation of analyses. Unfortunately, most times our initial statements are based on knee-jerk reactions; most of us take sides based on political expediency. But for a moment, we need to stop and consider the fragile state of our fledging democracy. Do such actions have a tendency to undermine the efforts of the government headed by the venerable Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf? Do such actions have the propensity to drag us deeper into our emerging polarity, rather than propelling us towards the unity we so badly need?

Come on fellow citizens, let’s put on our objective-thinking caps for a moment. This is not about Mr. Knuckles. This is about the rule of law. No one has the right to record the personal actions of another person or persons and publish the results on the Internet. To do so without any recrimination is to turn our system of justice on its head. The main issue before us should not be swept under the rug for political expediency.

I must herewith reiterate that Mr. Knuckles is clearly the victim in this case. Yes, he does have some personal responsibility for his own actions and I do not intend to imply that he bears no responsibility. But now it’s time to get to the bottom of this to face the fundamental issues I have raised. Who are the major culprits that perpetrated this crime? Is it true that Mr. Knuckles has resisted temptation to criminal manipulation? If so, not only is he a victim, but an honorable man as well. How many of us would have been able to resist such temptation in the name of principle?

As a nation, we owe it to ourselves to dispense justice fairly without political considerations. We have long called for a cessation of the culture of impunity. Now we have a chance to demonstrate our resolve --- we must not allow this case to be trivialized.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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