Opinion

Op-Ed: 'Sesame Street' and the media a case study in bias

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Opinion,Op-Eds

When the Catholic Church faced allegations of child molestation, the media went into a feeding frenzy. The same was true when allegations surfaced against Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. Heads rolled, investigations were launched and the media reported it all.

Now Kevin Clash, the puppeteer famous as the Elmo character on "Sesame Street," stands accused of the same activities that plagued the Vatican and Penn State. The media silence is deafening.

Four men have come forward so far to claim Clash had sex with them when they were under the age of consent.

Clash resigned, and civil lawsuits have since been filed. But aside from quick mentions as new accusers came forward, there's been no sustained media pressure for answers from Clash or the company that produces "Sesame Street," the Sesame Workshop.

Penn State deserved all of the grief it got for its complicity in the Sandusky case. Many who were involved face criminal investigations, and the school faces huge civil liabilities for its inaction in stopping this monster. The same holds for the Catholic dioceses that are now paying out billions to victims.

The Sesame Workshop has escaped scrutiny completely. The allegations against Clash were brought to their attention in June. The Sesame Workshop said it launched an investigation at the time and found the allegations to be unsubstantiated.

The Sesame Workshop's "clearance" of Clash was made when just one accuser was known. Had that accuser not gone public, there's a good chance the other three would have stayed silent. The Penn State charges going public inspired many others to come forward, as accusers felt safety in numbers.

I understand this all too well. Earlier this year, I was blindsided by decades-old allegations against a trusted older relative of molesting a member of my family. When that victim came forward, another family member came forward with the same story. The incidents all transpired before I was born, and the statute of limitations has passed, but the accused was confronted this year and admitted all. I'd have never suspected or believed any of it until it came to be.

It is not unusual for youthful victims to wait years before coming forward.

That's what makes the Sesame Workshop's actions so disturbing. Why is it accepted that a company facing potential liability investigated accusations of this nature itself, and then cleared itself? Remember, the company didn't fire or suspend Clash; he resigned. And only when more accusers came forward, after he had been cleared by the Sesame Workshop. Where's the media on this?

Could it have to do with "Sesame Street" appearing on public television, and government funding for PBS being a longtime target for conservatives, that the media minimized these allegations? Could it be that political correctness caused the lack of interest, since Clash is a gay man?

One thing is certain: This scandal is being treated very differently from the Catholic Church's and Penn State's scandals were.

Sexual activity with a child isn't something someone tries because they have nothing else to do. The perpetrator has to be attracted to children in the first place. And those who engage in molestation are unlikely to have done it only once.

Events in my family have shown me how difficult breaking the silence is, but once it's broken, it emboldens others with the courage they need to do the same. As a fourth accuser comes forward against Clash, the media's relative lack of interest in this case is a disturbing incidence of bias. If we can't even count on them to treat something this universally condemned in an unbiased fashion, how can we trust them with anything?

Derek Hunter is a freelance writer and a radio host on Baltimore's WBAL.

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