From a Washington Post chat with Tom Shales today (thanks to several readers):
Dunn Loring, Va.: Just wondered if you’ve noticed your habit of apologizing for media figues? For example, Polanski rapes and sodomizes a drugged 13-year-old and you write a flattering article that falsely understates his crime; Letterman jokes about the statutory rape of the teenage daughter of a conservative politician and you call the joke inartfully phrased but otherwise fine; Letterman admits to affairs with subordinate employees and you state it’s alright because he’s just a media personality. Do you ever condemn anything done on TV unless it’s done by a conservative?
Tom Shales: Hello, Dunn Loring, I didn’t want to sign off without trying to answer your question. I didn’t realize I had written a column defending Roman Polanski and minimized his crime – are you sure it was me? I mean, I? There is, apparently, more to this crime than it would seem, and it may sound like a hollow defense, but in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.Do I ever condemn anything done on TV unless it’s done by a conservative? Honestly – I don’t think you could build a very strong case against me on that particular charge. I’d have to go back and read dozens and dozens of columns from the past several years – UGH! You can do that if you want. But remember, I am a critic, I don’t have to be “fair and balanced” and critize every faction equally. I swear to you I do not do it on ideological or political grounds, not consciously. I would hate to be that predictable. Thanks for dropping by…….
I’m sure it was you, Tom Shales. Evidently you need the citation, so here it is, from a column of yours dated June 9, 2008:
Polanski, diminutive director of “Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and other creepy classics, did indeed have sexual intercourse with Samantha Gailey, who was 13 at the time, back in 1977. He was never charged with rape but with “unlawful intercourse.”
It took about three weeks and half a dozen e-mails to the ombudsman (then Deborah Howell), but the Post finally ran a correction, which you can see at the tippy-top of the linked Shales column:
Correction to This Article
This preview of the HBO documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” incorrectly said that Polanski was never charged with rape. The charges against Polanski included rape; he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.
So Shales not only wrote an article minimizing Polanski’s crime, but he even suffered the professional rebuke of a correction. But he doesn’t remember it! Let’s further remind him of his portrayal of Polanski as a man “hounded” by my employer, the Los Angeles County District Attorney:
Polanski belongs to a rarefied subculture: celebrities hounded by the state. His case brings to mind that of Charles Chaplin, pestered for years with sexual allegations, including a phony paternity suit, and otherwise hounded by authorities for his political beliefs.
Let’s quote Shales again from today: “I didn’t realize I had written a column defending Roman Polanski and minimized his crime.”
Realize it, Shales.
P.S. I can’t end this post without making an observation about the other portion of Shales’s comment from today, for this is perhaps the stupidest thing he has said yet on this topic: “it may sound like a hollow defense, but in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.”
You know what? That, to me, sounds like more than just a “hollow defense.”
To me, that sounds like a quote that, in a year or so, Tom Shales will not remember even having made.