Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Republican 2008 Candidates And Sins Of The Father (Monday's First Hour)

Hi everyone. We kick it off tonight with some sobering statistics: one in ten adult men report being sexually abused as a child and for women the numbers are one in five. This news intros us into the 5,000th preview for the upcoming Sins of the Father special. But first we deal with the political with a piece from Bill Schneider. It seems about 10 republicans have an interest in the 2008 nomination, but really, it's all about McCain and Giuliani. And Giuliani appears to be kicking McCain's butt. This is what he gets for connecting himself to the troops surge. Now McCain is starting to represent the failure in Iraq, whereas Giuliani is still riding the coattails of 9-11. Isn't it sad that a major terrorist attack might have been one of the best things to happen to him? I still don't get the whole leadership thing with him and 9-11. Anyway, libertarian Ron Paul is also throwing his hat in the ring and war critic Chuck Hagel is thinking about it. I don't know much about him, which is probably why I like him the best.

To talk about all this we're joined by GOP strategist Rich Galen. Rich points out that unlike the Clinton campaign reacting to Obama, the McCain campaign seems to have made a decision to basically ignore Giuliani. Hmm, so far that's not working out for him. Anderson wonders how much of Giuliani's lead has to do with name recognition. Rich says that the public has him frozen on 9-11 and the "extraordinary leadership" he demonstrated. Um, not me. Were we watching the same thing? He then brings up Arnold Schwarzenegger, noting that they have similar social agendas. Anderson also points out that Bill Frist is urging Fred Thompson to run. Ugh. No more actors please. Although really, I guess they're all actors. And all the world is a stage. Sigh.

Transitioning now to Anderson giving us a disclaimer that what we're about to see is not for children. And he ain't kidding. So okay, I try to make these reviews entertaining for you guys; maybe even a little funny, but tonight I find myself backed into a corner. Making the traumatic recounting of sexual abuse funny? Yeah...not really possible. This was also hard to blog in the technical sense, so basically what you're getting here is a straight run through. The Sins of the Father special is a mix of pictures and interviews, performed both in a sit down setting and on location with trademark empathetic Anderson Cooper throughout. This is of course the story of Thomas Roberts, CNN Headline News anchor. Thomas grew up in Maryland and enjoyed a good childhood, but when he was in the seventh grade his parents separated and then the next year they divorced. This hit Thomas hard and hurt his grades, preventing him from getting into the Catholic school Calvert Hall. Religion was a big deal to Thomas and getting rejected by Calvert was devastating because it was his dream to go to that school. Then in a weird twist of fate, one day at church he fainted and this caught the attention of Jerome Toohey, the chaplain at Calvert Hall. Thomas would come to know him as Father Jeff.

To the delight of Thomas and his family, Father Jeff helped him get into Calvert and at the urging of his mother, Thomas also went to Father Jeff for mentoring. At this point Thomas was just a lost kid, so he unburdened his soul to Father Jeff, letting him know he had no one to turn to. Father Jeff then suggested that Thomas sleep at his house. Uh, danger Will Robinson! Danger! Anderson asks Thomas's mom if she thought that was a red flag. Sadly, she did not. That poor woman now has to live with that for the rest of her life. The first night Thomas stayed over he was very upset and actually stayed in Father Jeff's room and that's when it started. Father Jeff actually kissed and licked his ear. Um, ...ew. Thomas, being a scared kid, kept quiet about it because he feared being kicked out of school.

With each session, Father Jeff took his molestation of Thomas a little further, using his hand to masturbate him and kissing him. Thomas then breaks my heart a little because he can't recount any further, "This is -- I don't want to -- this is really too painful." I'm actually a little relieved. The abuse and secrecy ate at Thomas, eventually culminating in a suicide attempt in which he took a bunch of his mother's pain killers. Luckily his sister Patsy caught him and was able to save him with Ipecac. Following the suicide attempt Thomas got counseling, but the abuse continued and he kept it a secret from everyone-documenting it in his journal in code. The abuse didn't stop until Thomas graduated high school. Father Jeff even came to his graduation party and we see the jerk in home movies. Thomas went off to college thinking he was the only one Father Jeff had ever hurt.

However, when Thomas was a junior in college he found out that he was not Father Jeff's only victim. Thomas didn't want to believe it and in fact even defended Father Jeff because to believe it would be an admission that it happened to himself. The other person in question was Michael Goles, a boy struggling with his sexuality in a conservative household. So another lost soul fed to Father Jeff. Like Thomas, Michael trusted Father Jeff and even kind of liked the initial attention. But this turned to groping and then at age 19, Father Jeff forced himself on Michael. For the next four years Michael blocked it out and then at 23 he told his brother. At this point Michael came forward and the community completely turned their backs. "Editorials were written in support of Father Jeff. Fundraisers were held to help pay his legal fees, and vigils were organized to pray for the alleged justice against the holy man." This pretty much makes me want to throw up. And if all that wasn't bad enough, Michael's case was thrown out because too much time had passed. Understandably, Michael then kind of freaked out, fleeing to New Mexico and self destructing on drugs and alcohol. Anderson asks Thomas if he thought he should have come forward in support of Michael, but Thomas says at that point he couldn't even process that idea.

In 2004 Thomas finally broke his silence and sought professional counseling. Then with the therapy and support from his family he reported the crimes to the archdiocese. And he also called Michael to say he believed him. Michael isn't angry. He understands the denial Thomas was going through. The men have decided not to discuss the abuse. In November 2005 Thomas's case went to court and Anderson asks what it was like to see Father Jeff. Thomas replies that he literally had to stop dead in his tracks to regain his courage. And he did. He also lent some support to Michael, who had about five minutes to decide whether or not he wanted his complaint incorporated into the plea deal-the only way Father Jeff would agree to plead guilty. Michael freaked a bit, but Thomas told him to, "Flip the switch. Get back in your body," and he did. Ultimately Michael decided to give up pressing further charges, but he requested to speak at the sentencing hearing. That same day Father Jeff asked to speak with Thomas and his family and Thomas took the opportunity to lay out how much damage he did to a lost teenage boy. For his part, Father Jeff said he was sorry, but didn't look remorseful. Thomas's mom told him, "you're going to burn in hell." Gotta love the mother.

Okay, 360 cut this weird, so the rest of the special and second hour will be up some time tomorrow. Put your thoughts in the comments. The moderator remains on, but I'll release them ASAP. Normally I'm not really into specials like this (I'm a hard news girl), but this was well done and if it helps even one person come forward, it was worth it. Seeing as though this is one of CNN's own, I'm skipping the grade tonight.

Screencap by jld1119.


Blogger Arachnae said...

Now McCain is starting to represent the failure in Iraq, whereas Giuliani is still riding the coattails of 9-11. Isn't it sad that a major terrorist attack might have been one of the best things to happen to him?

You echo something I've said for years - 9/11 was the luckiest day of George Bush's life. Not so hot for the rest of us tho'. Sigh.

5:40 AM  

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