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Polanski Brings Out the Worst in Hollywood

Posted on Oct 1, 2009

By Eugene Robinson

Could it be that the conservative culture warriors who portray Hollywood as a cesspool of moral bankruptcy have been right all along? Not really. But in the case of Roman Polanski, the Puritan scolds definitely have a point.

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Even the French government has backed off its defense of the fugitive director. Polanski, who has dual French-Polish citizenship, fled the United States in 1978 before he could be sentenced on a charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. He spent the past three decades mostly in France, and officials in Paris reacted angrily when he was nabbed at the Zurich airport. In more recent statements, however, French leaders have taken a much more measured position, saying that justice should run its course.

But some of Hollywood’s most prominent luminaries contend that Polanski’s crime—which he acknowledged in a guilty plea—really wasn’t so awful. Or that maybe it was a big deal at the time, but now we should let bygones be bygones. Or that maybe it’s still a big deal, but whatever sins Polanski may have committed are outweighed by the brilliance of his art.

More than 100 movie-business heavyweights—including directors Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Mike Nichols and Pedro Almodovar—have signed a petition calling on Swiss authorities to set Polanski free. Piling chutzpah upon gall, Woody Allen is among the petitioners. You will recall that Allen shocked non-Hollywood sensibilities by acknowledging his romance with Soon-Yi Previn, the daughter of Allen’s longtime companion, Mia Farrow. At the time, Allen was 56 and Previn was 21.

Actress, comedian and “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg has come under well-justified fire for making a jaw-dropping statement about Polanski’s crime: “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.”


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Really? The Web site The Smoking Gun has posted the victim’s grand jury testimony and Polanski’s admission of guilt. Although a plea bargain reduced the charges to unlawful sex with a minor, the documents make clear that what the victim alleged was “rape-rape” of the vilest kind.

She described being lured by Polanski to the home of actor Jack Nicholson, given champagne and half a Quaalude, feeling intoxicated and frightened, being groped in a hot tub, telling Polanski to stop, being accosted on a couch, telling Polanski again to stop, being violated in ways I couldn’t describe in a family newspaper, and finally weeping as she waited for her assailant to take her home. 

Was Polanski filled with remorse? Not when the British novelist Martin Amis interviewed him in 1979. “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see?” Polanski told Amis. “But ... [having sex], you see, and the young girls. Judges want to [have sex with] young girls. Juries want to [have sex with] young girls. Everyone wants to [have sex with] young girls!” For “having sex,” he used an Anglo-Saxon vulgarity.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been circulating the pro-Polanski petition, wrote in an Op-Ed in the Independent, a London newspaper, that “whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time. A deal was made with the judge, and the deal is not being honored. ... This is the government of the United States not giving its word and recanting on a deal, and it is the government acting irresponsibly and criminally.”

So the government is to blame? For apprehending an unrepentant sex offender who fled before being sentenced for his reprehensible acts?

The Los Angeles Times quoted Weinstein as saying in an interview that he doesn’t believe public opinion is running against Polanski—or that Hollywood is out of step. “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion,” Weinstein said, according to the newspaper. “We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe.”

Hollywood was there, all right, whenever the tragedy was distant, the victims were anonymous and the “compassionate” concert or telethon had acceptable production values that made all the stars look their best. How heroically they rearranged their busy schedules!

The brutalization of one young girl, it seems, leaves Hollywood’s big heart awfully cold.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)

© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Laugher, October 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Its sad how quickly everyone in America turns to over fanatical Nancy Graces

He did not admit to rape as Robinson claims He admitted to statutory rape.  As Whoopi correctly points out they are two very different things
I applaud her for not going with the knee-jerkers and thinking for herself

If only she could apply that same thought to foreign policy I would like her a lot more

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By Virginia777, October 2, 2009 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

Look who else is jumping on the smear Polanski bandwagon, Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Something is very fishy about this issue, and I don’t trust Robinson here.

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By tropicgirl, October 2, 2009 at 10:02 am Link to this comment


The problem with your moralizing is that what goes around comes around.

We all don’t really need to hear this. Events that happened so long ago can
never be understood correctly, either way. Now it is ancient history.

Whether Polanski was in a mental condition after his wife’s brutal murder by
Mansons, or whether the girl was a partyer, or whether he is now or still a
predator is for the legal system to decide. Hopefully they will be fair. All
around, these things are sad.

I can’t help thinking that a Pulitzer prize winner like yourself can hear a
political soundtrack as loud as this. It adds to the forces that want to pull this
nation toward the right so much that the right seems centrist. Pumping this
issue is like a Christmas present to the right. Its a whipping post. Gleeful
entertainment as “I told you about those people…”

And Eugene, I hate to tell you that, if you dig into everyone’s past, you will find
things that you would rather not have. Even the Obama’s have that all-too-
perfect facade. Sounds a lot like Edwards and Clinton. Then the shock comes. I
believe that many psychologists can see that possibility with the Obamas. They
have all the “signs” of trouble.  Maybe that is why just about everything about
their past is censored?

This is all beneath you. You are just making Hannity happy. And “morality” is
Beck’s theme for the day a la Letterman. Seriously, you don’t hear the neo-
con/evangelical soundtrack?  Perhaps because you are playing an instrument?

I swear, you and Arianna have really turned into something else.

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By @CT, October 2, 2009 at 8:31 am Link to this comment

Gordy writes:
“It is clear that [Roman Polanski] has responded
without proper remorse or dignity, seeking only to
protect himself.”

Polanski did make a financial settlement on the family he wronged—something Robinson hasn’t mentioned in his bazillion words of puffed-up retro-indictment.

Will Robinson and his “moral” colleagues do the same, when they’ve finished shredding the privacy of the long-ago victim’s family—she has three children, after all.

Meanwhile, the Obamas seem to have struck out, somehow, in Copenhagen. Maybe Robinson should write some more about THAT.

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By @CT, October 2, 2009 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

When Eugene Robinson writes:
“being violated in ways I couldn’t describe in a family newspaper . . . “, one gets the creepy feeling that he’d really, REALLY like to describe them. Instead, Robinson merely LINKS to the information “in a family [does he mean the Graham family?] newspaper”.

On the unusual side, Robinson dings a black person—Whoopi Goldberg, formerly-underclass woman—in his unseemly zeal to milk this sorry story for another day.

Better Robinson should apply whatever talent may have survived his Pulitzer in a withering expose of Michelle Obama’s claim, in Copenhagen, to have been sitting on her Daddy’s knee, thrilling to Carl Lewis in the Olympics, at a time when in fact she’d have been in her upper teens, and at Princeton.

Or maybe Robinson could unleash some prurient prose write about Scarlett Johansson (“Sen. Barack Obama’s go-to Hollywood hottie”, according to one writer, before the campaign dropped her), or the salacious Obama Girl ads, or Obama’s Hollywood donations. Or maybe he could come up with Oprah Winfrey’s take on Goldberg’s take on “‘rape-rape’ of the vilest kind” . . .

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By Virginia777, October 2, 2009 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

I’m with Russian Paul, this gossipy crap is getting far too much attention, send Robinson over to People mag.

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By GlendaG, October 2, 2009 at 7:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rape-Rape?  Isn’t sodomy rape?  What ever you think of this young girl- sent by her mother or not- both vaginal and anal rape is rape-rape!!

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By RobertinWestbury, October 2, 2009 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

Bubba said,

“...the trouble with your “moral compass” is that it doesn’t have the freedom to point to wherever the moral position might actually be.”

That philosophy is a ‘Anything goes’ philosophy.  And it’s dangerous, indefensible, and just plain dumb. 

There are absolutes.  The rape of a child is always wrong no matter how much some want to sweep it under the rug.

And camnai, your assertion that the girl was coached is nothing more than a fantasy.  The man himself admitted to doing these things to her.  He gave her alcohol and drugs before doing them to her.  She was a child for God sakes. 

He’s a criminal.  A ‘brilliant’ director criminal whose talent is meaningless in this case. Bringing this man to justice is not a ‘travesty.’  Those arguing for his freedom are the travesty.

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By Gordy, October 2, 2009 at 7:20 am Link to this comment

I don’t understand where the room for debate is here:
he got a 13 year-old intoxicated in order to have sex
with her, having lured under the pretext of work. 

You can legitimately question whether what really
happened constituted ‘rape-rape’ (we do not know and
may not find out even after a court-case) but it is
crystal clear that Polanski behaved in an unethical,
exploitative way.  It is clear that he has responded
without proper remorse or dignity, seeking only to
protect himself. 

Even IF the girl was herself far from innocent,
Polanski’s defence hardly absolves him of all guilt:
it amounts to an argument for total lawlessness and
irresponsibility - “I was horny, she was horny, ah
come on you know deep down you want to fuck young
girls too.”  Not an impressive argument.  You can
argue similarly that everyone experiences the desire
to maim and kill so we should not convict murderers. 
Or maybe just not rich, talented, famous murderers. 

I don’t think this is a non-issue like some posters
are saying here; it’s a legitimate thing to write

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By Bubba, October 2, 2009 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

peterjkraus, the trouble with your “moral compass” is that it doesn’t have the freedom to point to wherever the moral position might actually be.  Instead it’s stuck pointing to where you’d like it to point.  Take your finger off it now and then and see what happens.

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By Paracelsus, October 2, 2009 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

I want to talk about mountain top removal mining, and how it is devastating West Virginia. I want to talk about industrial pig farming in North Carolina. I want to talk about why is it the antiwar movement is getting edged out of the liberal press. I want to talk about rolling back homeland security and the police state. Barring that let’s talk about ass bombs. Maybe Robinson could speak to that.

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By peterjkraus, October 2, 2009 at 5:41 am Link to this comment

Again, just like a week ago, Eugene Robinson is absolutely on point.

And again: Polanski raped a child. Period. He needs to atone, finally.

Reading some of these comments makes clear that our moral compass as a society is seriously out of whack.

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By Mike Havenar, October 2, 2009 at 5:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Polanski should be a man, return to California, and take his medicine. It won’t be the end of the world, and after he gets out of jail, he can work in Hollywood again. Even though the “girl” is a grown woman now, who seems to have forgiven Polanski, justice has not been done to the young girl, who long ago was violated. I love Roman Polanski’s movie work, and think he is a great creative artist. But he is still a man; like all men he made a mistake, and like a real man he should pay for it and move on. What is basically at stake here is whether he, and the California legal system, has any respect for the law, which is the foundation of our society.

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By camnai, October 2, 2009 at 5:04 am Link to this comment

Robinson is cheerleading for a travesty.

He does not mention that Polanski only pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain
that was reneged upon, and he buys the girl’s story completely, presenting her
claims (‘she described being…’) as truth; even a cursory reading of her
testimony, the way she flips back and forth sounding like a 13 year-old and
then sounding like a doctor, makes it pretty obvious she was coached. And
there is only one kind of parent I can think of who would let a 13 year-old go
driving off with an adult who was going to ‘take her picture’...even if (or
‘especially if’) that adult was a famous director. Cue the Michael Jackson story.

It’s true that we can’t have people fleeing justice; in this case, however,
Polanski only pleaded guilty because the officials charged with administering
justice lied to him. And 30 years on, with the internet having fanned child
pornography into a much more serious problem than it ever was before, he will
not get the trial he would have had if the promise of ‘time served’ had not been
made to him.

I’ll be interested to hear the screaming that arises when the U.S. reneges the
same way that the judge in this case did on its promise to go easy on Swiss
banks, which is the only reason I can imagine the Swiss authorities suddenly
decided they would hand Polanski over.

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By Commune115, October 2, 2009 at 2:13 am Link to this comment

Hollywood celebrities are just as hypocritical as most of our “liberal media.” Ariana Huffington was promoting war with Iran on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow obsesses over the Green movement in Iran but ignores the resistance fighting repression next door in Honduras. These people are mostly frauds.

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By Bubba, October 2, 2009 at 1:45 am Link to this comment

Robert, eliminate Eugene’s leverage so you can rid Truthdig of him.  Take your cue from David Letterman.  Let the world know you and Arianna have been having an affair for years.  It’ll be okay.

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By Russian Paul, October 2, 2009 at 12:36 am Link to this comment

Two in a row?! This schmohawk Robinson writes a warm, cuddly article to honor
Michael Jackson, but Polanski, who didn’t screw nearly as many kids (and is far
more respectable an artist) is the most evil man in Hollywood?

Unbelievable. How many things are happening in the world right now that
Robinson could have written about? Maybe he should start writing for People and
get off Truthdig.

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