WaPo's Applebaum defends her defense of child rapist

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Yesterday, Anne Applebaum was one of two -- two! -- Washington Post columnists who argued for leniency for child rapist Roman Polanski. Applebaum's argued that Polanski shouldn't be imprisoned because he has suffered enough -- he's had to pay lawyers' fees, and was unable to pick up an Oscar he won for fear he'd be taken for jail. No, really -- that was Applebaum's argument:

He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar.

That's just dumb. People who commit crimes do not pay their debts to society when they write checks to their lawyers. And saying that someone has paid for the crime of child rape by being unable to receive an Oscar may be the single most clueless thing ever written by a Washington Post columnist.

Anyway, Applebaum's defense of Polanski drew some well-deserved ridicule, here and elsewhere.

Well, today, Applebaum responded. And, as Paul Campos points out at Lawyers, Guns and Money, she responds by saying, basically, that the Polanski case isn't "straightforward and simple" because Polanski's victim -- a 13-year-old child -- had asked her mother for permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi.

Applebaum doesn't bother to explain why a 13-year-old child asking her mother for permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi in any way gets a grown man off the hook for subsequently drugging and raping the child. She just assumes we'll understand. But, in any case, Campos points out that Applebaum got it wrong; the victim didn't ask her mother if she could be photographed in a jacuzzi. So Applebaum's defense of Polanski is not only strange and bizarre, it is factually inaccurate as well.

Applebaum also defends herself from criticism that she should have disclosed the fact that her husband, a Polish government official, is currently lobbying for Polanski's freedom. Applebaum writes that at the time she wrote the original blog post, she "had no idea that the Polish government would or could lobby for Polanski's release, as I am in Budapest and my husband is in Africa."

I actually find that reasonably compelling. Unfortunately, that isn't Applebaum's only defense of her lack of disclosure. Applebaum:

For the record, I will note that I mentioned my husband's job in a column as recently as last week, and that when he first entered the Polish government three years ago I wrote a column about that too. I have to assume that the bloggers who have leapt upon this as some kind of secret revelation are simply unfamiliar with my writing.

This is nonsense. If a conflict exists, it isn't sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance -- she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.

Finally, she's misstating the nature of what she mocks as the "secret revelation." The criticism wasn't that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It's that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?

Applebaum concludes:

The implication, in any case, that I am a spokesman for my husband -- while not quite as offensive as the implication that my daughter should be raped -- is offensive nevertheless.

That's a pretty poor attempt to play the victim. Does Anne Applebaum expect us to believe that she doesn't think it would be newsworthy if, say, a United States Senator casts a vote that would benefit her spouse's business, without disclosing the interest?

There's a clear difference between saying someone is incapable of thinking independently and is merely a puppet of their spouse, and saying someone should disclose conflicts of interest that arise from their spouse's work. The former would, indeed, be offensive. The latter is what people were actually saying.

UPDATE: Applebaum also includes this priceless line:

Of course, there were some very legitimate disagreements, including two excellent ones from my colleagues Gene Robinson and Richard Cohen, and I take some of their points.

Note that the only legitimate disagreements Applebaum can bring herself to refer to came from her Washington Post colleagues. Note also that she doesn't actually tell us what those disagreements were. Or which of their "points" she "takes." It's a secret. And, finally, note that neither Robinson nor Cohen actually mention her in any way, and that Cohen agrees with her that Polanski should not be jailed.

The Washington Post
Anne Applebaum
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