Times ‘Expert’ Says Scandals Aren’t Scandals

Accuracy in Media

Columbia University has a “director of the center for gender and sexuality law” by the name of Katherine Franke who is considered an authority on sexual matters by The New York Times. Her position seems to be that recent scandals in the news are not really scandalous, except in terms of being sensationalized and overblown by the media. She told the paper that Kevin Clash and David Petraeus were victims of a “sex panic” when they resigned from their respective positions.

The Times story written by Elizabeth Jensen and Brian Stelter is noteworthy for the claim that Clash, the man behind Elmo of “Sesame Street” fame, is merely accused of having “underage sexual relationships.” This is how the New York Times refers to homosexual pedophilia and child sexual abuse.

Franke, a lesbian law professor, believes that children “are sexual beings” and that “gay children” in particular need to learn more about “healthy sexuality.”

Strangely enough, the treatment of these scandals coincided with the appointment of a new CEO of The New York Times, Mark Thompson, who has raised eyebrows by issuing a denial that he was involved with suppressing a child sex abuse scandal while in his previous position as Director General of the BBC.

Cecil Singleton, who filed the complaint against the Elmo puppeteer, says that he was 15 years old when he engaged in “sexual encounters” with Clash, who was then in his 40s. Another accuser, who later recanted, said he was 16 when he engaged in sexual acts with Clash, then 45. Clash is now 52.

In the matter of David Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director, he is 60 years old and his mistress, Paula Broadwell, is 40. The difference of 20 years means that Broadwell is young enough to be his daughter.

Nevertheless, on her “Gender and Sexuality Law blog,” Franke said that rather than hold Petraeus accountable for “marital infidelity,” he needs to be called to account for “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity” that he carried out as a military commander in the Middle East.

Franke also made headlines when she joined a boycott of Israel, which has very liberal gay rights laws, over its treatment of Palestinians.

The Times article quoted Franke as saying that Kevin Clash “has not been convicted of a crime, but merely accused of one in a completely unsubstantiated, vague complaint.”

The complaint against Clash is anything but vague, however. It describes how Clash began communicating with Singleton in a “gay chat room” and then showered him with money and nice dinners before engaging in sexual activities over a period of several years.

Singleton’s attorney, Jeff Herman, said the suit refers to a pattern of activities. “According to our lawsuit, Kevin Clash preyed on vulnerable teenage boys, like Cecil Singleton, to satisfy his depraved sexual interests,” he said.

On his blog, Herman said, “The media investigation into this story is still in its very early stages, but I must say I am disappointed in the coverage so far.”

He explained, “From the Associated Press to the Wall Street Journal, some of the nation’s most well-respected media outlets have improperly labeled the allegations as ‘an underage relationship’ or ‘an affair with a minor.’ Whether Clash is guilty or not, the allegation that a 52-year-old man had sex with a minor is an allegation of child sexual abuse—not an underage relationship. To frame these allegations as a ‘relationship’ or an ‘affair’ is to imply that the alleged victim consented.”

He notes that “a minor cannot actually consent to have sex with an adult.”

The Associated Press story appeared in The Washington Post under the headline, “Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash accused of underage relationship, taking leave from ‘Sesame Street.”

The Wall Street Journal story appeared under the headline, “Elmo Puppeteer Kevin Clash Accused Of Affair With Minor.”

A Google search turned up dozen of references to alleged “underage” relationships involving Clash, rather than homosexual pedophilia or child abuse.

Clash has been quoted as saying that he is homosexual and that the relationship with his first accuser was legal and consensual. He “did not dispute the charges” in the Singleton case, as noted by USA Today, and instead issued a statement that “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing, and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”

PBS’s Sesame Workshop played down the serious nature of the allegations, issuing a statement which said:

“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.”

Accusing Sesame Workshop of “whitewashing pedophilia” and a “sickening” response to the scandal, J. Christian Adams commented, “Let’s deconstruct the statement. First the praise: ‘Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years.’ Really? What will PBS do when we learn that Clash’s access to children through Sesame Workshop may have resulted in abuse the same way Jerry Sandusky’s access to kids at Penn State did? Will PBS stand by Clash the same way the statement does?”

He added, “Pedophiles notoriously enter professions that give them access to children. Like a fisherman with a lure, they rely on puppets, football tickets, candy, balloons, toys and worse to attract victims. Did Clash’s ‘achievement’ of the PBS ‘mission for 28 years’ have a darker side? It seems strange that his employers would tout his good work.”

As AIM has reported, Sesame Workshop received direct government grants of $7,968,918, in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, and reported lobbying expenses of $1 million a year, in order to keep the federal dollars flowing.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at cliff.kincaid@aim.org.


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