Response to slander

Posted on by

[Below is my response. To view letters of support from others, hover over “Response to slander” tab above and scroll down. Thank you.]

Dear Friends,

This is a difficult letter to write, but the attacks against me from two women over the past 21 months compel me to publish a true account of events. I also include a link to letters of support written by friends, colleagues, and neighbors, some who have also been affected by this on-going barrage of slander and aggression.

In July of 2018, Heather Pearson began a slanderous attack on me that was so absurd I simply ignored it. Over a year-and-half later, her attack continues and has, unfortunately, been believed by some people. Jessica Fears has joined Heather in this effort, and their behavior has had demonstrably negative consequences on me, my partner Kathy Byrnes, several of our female friends, Bold Iowa’s work, and the Iowa climate movement as a whole.

I’m writing to provide background on what has happened and to inform you that I’ve asked Heather and Jessica, through legal counsel, to immediately cease their slanderous social media postings and emails, and to retract earlier statements.

Here is a small sampling from the many falsehoods Heather and Jessica have posted on social media. We have screen shots to document these and many more.

Heather on Facebook, April 22, 2019: “[Ed] has abused many

women and he has burned a lot of bridges with his self-serving ways. Once a politician, always a politician. Instead of working on getting re-elected he works on getting donations to fund his activist lifestyle rather than actually organizing to build power.”

Heather on Facebook, April 22, 2019: “When I called him out on his inappropriate behavior he retaliated by calling my employer and trying to get me fired … luckily my org thinks he’s a joke, too.”

Heather on Facebook, June 19, 2019: “It’s really disappointing how many people that I know who still support a predator in our progressive movement space.” (She mentions me by name later in the post and goes on to say): “He’s a narcissist, a misogynist, a predator, and he makes our movement space unsafe for women.”

Heather on Facebook, July 15, 2019: “Ed Fallon makes our progressive movement space unsafe for women. His toxic actions are more for self-promotion than anything else. He is accountable to no one.”

Jessica on Facebook, February 4, 2020: “He has continued to touch me after being asked not to on multiple occasions. And while I was on a climate march he invited another woman and I to shower with him. What do you call that behavior? Predatory.”

Heather on Facebook, February 4, 2020, responding to a female friend who was defending me: “The whole point is to call out Ed’s unethical behavior, but you obviously missed that and prefer to keep perpetuating rape culture.”

Jessica on Facebook, February 4, 2020: “[Ed] is a molester. That is what it’s called when you touch people unwontedly [sic] and continue doing it after you’ve been told to stop. Molestation.”

Jessica on Facebook, February 4, 2020: “[Ed] placed his hands on my thighs and lower back several times after being instructed not to touch me at all. And he sexually abused one of my best friends.”

In an email to a Miriam Kashia on June 20, 2019, Heather wrote: “I just wanted to give you the heads up that the Sierra Club is doing an official investigation into Ed Fallon’s inappropriate behavior. In an effort to protect volunteers from his predatory behavior, he will be asked not to be in any Sierra Club space. I have 14 people who are sharing their experiences, and I was wondering if you have witnessed any yucky behavior from him and if so would you be willing to give a statement. You can remain anonymous.”

Finally, when Heather first started accusing me, Christine Nobiss talked with her and told me that Heather claimed I had hit on every woman at a party in Washington, DC. Christine confirmed then, and reconfirmed with me recently, that she and two other women at the party stated clearly that I had not hit on them. This is yet another example of Heather lying.

Heather and Jessica’s campaign of slander has caused Bold Iowa to lose financial support. It also has hurt our relationships with allies. For example:

On October 17, 2019, John Baimus wrote this “review” on Bold Iowa’s Facebook page: “Ed Fallon is a sexual predator.” That is one of several slanderous “reviews” intended to discredit me and Bold Iowa.

Here’s an email I received from the editor of a news publication I frequently write for on November 25, 2019: “I need to hit the pause button on publishing your posts until I learn more about what is going on with this Sierra Club complaint/investigation.”

On December 11, 2019, I invited the Northwest Iowa Group of the Sierra Club to co-sponsor the February, 1, 2020 Climate Crisis Parade. I received this response from a Sierra Club leader in western Iowa: I just messaged our Ex-Com Chair. She said to go for it!” A couple days later, I received a phone call from the head of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, insisting that we remove the NW group as a Parade sponsor due to ongoing concerns raised by Heather.

On February 10, 2020, in response to an invitation for someone to appear on my talk show to discuss climate change and animal agriculture, I received this message: “Ed — I have concerns with being associated with your radio program due to controversy that you face regarding sexual assault accusations …”

The amount of damage done and the list of outright lies and slanderous comments from Heather and Jessica could occupy many more pages. It is unfortunate that some people have chosen to believe them without question. People who know me, including women I’ve worked with and lived with as roommates, have written letters of support to vouch that the truth is the opposite of what Heather and Jessica allege. 

Here is a summary of what I believe initiated the attack from Heather. In the fall of 2016, Heather became a volunteer with Bold Iowa. As I have done with many, many newcomers to political activism over the years, I offered her advice and opportunities for leadership, and I encouraged her in her work.

In March of 2017, I traveled to Washington, DC, with three Indigenous Iowa organizers for the Native Nations Rise March. Heather and three of her friends also attended. Heather had rented a hotel room and invited me to share it with her group. I declined as I preferred to stay with the people I had traveled with.

After one night with my travel companions, that arrangement proved uncomfortable, so I accepted Heather’s offer to stay at the hotel. At first, she said I could share a double bed with the one man who had made the trip with her group. But when he decided at the last minute to stay somewhere else, she said I would be sharing a bed with her. The other two women in the group (one of them was Jessica Fears), would share the other double bed.

I was wary, so before accepting, I very clearly and explicitly stated that I wanted to be certain that Heather’s offer had nothing to do with sex, and that the offer was strictly a sleeping arrangement. She assured me that was the case.

At some point during the night I woke, lying on my back, to find Heather’s head on my chest. She then began to perform oral sex on me and I immediately pulled her off. I had made no sexual advances toward her, and had been very clear in establishing that there was no sexual intent behind her offer. I rolled over, and eventually went back to sleep.

In the morning, Heather told me that Jessica asked if I had assaulted her. Heather assured me that she had told Jessica that the incident was entirely her fault. She apologized, and we agreed not to mention the incident to anyone. Besides, I was embarrassed that I had made such a poor decision to find myself in a situation where such a violation could even occur. I was concerned for her as well, given that she is a married woman.

Then, in July of 2018, Heather called me and was upset about what had happened a year-and-a-half earlier. She wanted me to agree that the incident was consensual, and suggested that I had “laid hands on her.” I told her that was not the case, that she was trying to rewrite history, and that the only possibility I could imagine was that I could have done something in my sleep that she construed as “laying hands on her.” I reminded her that I had been very clear that sharing a bed was not an invitation to sexual activity, and that I had immediately pulled her off me when she began to perform oral sex.

After that call, Heather began to tell numerous people that what had happened between us was consensual. In short order, that rewrite of history evolved into an even bigger lie — that the incident was not consensual on her part, and that I was somehow a predator and even a rapist.

In retrospect, I realize it was a huge mistake to accept Heather’s invitation to share a bed in a hotel room, even with two other people present. I’m aware that, when men occupy positions of leadership and where there is a real or perceived power imbalance, the potential exists to take advantage of that position to inappropriately engage with women. Leaders in progressive movements, especially men, should be held to a high standard of respect, dignity, and equality. When we do not live up to that standard, when men take credit for women’s work, or when men treat women with less respect than men or receive higher pay for the same work, that should be called out.

I have tried to live with the highest level of integrity regarding my relationships with women, yet I don’t doubt there have been times when I said or did something that was dumb, out of line, or inappropriate. But other than the wrongs I committed in my first marriage (which I wrote about candidly in Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim, my memoir from the Great March for Climate Action — yes, I’m perfectly willing to own my shortcomings), I am not guilty of any of the accusations thrown at me by Heather and Jessica. I’ve never committed an act of sexual aggression toward any woman, nor have I ever been made aware of any act that could remotely lead to that conclusion.

Beyond the harm that Heather has caused to me, my partner Kathy, some of our friends, Bold Iowa, and Iowa’s climate movement generally, her behavior is terribly irresponsible and a disservice to the #MeToo movement.

With all these considerations in mind, I felt I had no choice but to retain attorney Sheila Knoploh-Odole to demand Heather and Jessica immediately cease and desist from their slanderous attacks, and retract previous statements that continue to be both harmful and untrue.

I didn’t want to have to take these steps, or to tell this tale so publicly, but I felt there was no other way if I’m to clear my name and reputation, and to continue my work. I am grateful for the support of my attorney Sheila Knoploh-Odole, my partner Kathy Byrnes, the numerous letters from female friends, colleagues, and neighbors, and all who have supported me through these difficult months. Please feel free to share this information widely.

Thank you,

Ed Fallon