Lately, the media has been abuzz with two very different sexually-based controversies: that of David Letterman’s scandals with his young staffers, and the international arrest of Roman Polanski. The public and the media have each taken sides on both of these issues, and they are not what I had expected.
It was recently brought to the attention of the public, by David Letterman himself, that he had commited indiscretions with several women on his show’s payroll.
Stemming from a $2 million extortion threat, his nationally televised confession outed him as a cheater (on his then-girlfriend, now wife) and elicited public outcry for his firing. Andrea Peyser, of the New York Post, called for Letterman to be fired, even asserting that “CBS will have lost any remaining shred of credibility, not to mention common decency” if he were kept.
Now, Letterman may have done moral wrongs in the arena of public opinion by sleeping with women other than his girlfriend, but he did nothing illegal.
I do not know the policy at CBS for inter-office dating, but as far as I am concerned, a personal life is a personal life. Letterman did not do anything that requires legal action, and it is my belief that he has suffered enough from public scrutiny and the apparent anger of his wife that losing his job is rather unnecessary.
In contrast, Roman Polanski committed serious crimes. In 1977, Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse—with a 13-year-old girl. A year later, he fled for France and remained in Europe until his arrest in Switzerland this past September.
In the last 30 years, Academy Award-winner Polanski has continued to make films and win awards, and many prominent figures have come out in his support. Celebrities like Monica Belluci have signed a petition urging his release, and Harvey Weinstein called the situation “terrible.” Swiss newspapers have also rallied against authorities, with one newspaper calling Polanski’s arrest “a nasty trap.”
Both Letterman’s scandal and Polanski’s arrest have stirred up strong emotions and passionate public opinion. What baffles me is that the dominating views on both are the opposite of what I would expect.Polanski committed serious felonies, and his status as a filmmaker should not exempt him from the criminal punishment he is subject to. He caused significant harm to a child and has been living freely in Europe for the past thirty years; he was arrested as he arrived in Zurich to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Polanski has already pled guilty and only fled because he was sentenced to more time than had been agreed upon; for him to be pardoned at this point is ridiculous. While there are many rallying for his release, I have heard no plausible reason for him to not be held accountable for his actions. Even Letterman was punished by the public tarnishing of his reputation. Polanski, however, is glorified for his accomplishments in the entertainment industry as his felony crimes are ignored.
So I must ask the general public: why lash out against Letterman but support Polanski? Letterman did nothing wrong, outside of what the American public would consider moral violations, and needs no reprimands outside of what he has already received. Polanski, however, deserves the jail time that was assigned to him 32-years ago.
Although, I must contradict myself briefly to say that I believe the most important opinion is that of the victim. Samantha Geimer, now 45-years old, has asked that the charges against Polanski be dropped; she has received an undisclosed amount of money from Polanski as a result of her lawsuit against him.
So, while it is my personal opinion that Polanski be punished for his crimes, I regard Geimer’s request as the most important. I wish the public opinion were a bit less skewed in terms of leniency for Polanski and harshness for Letterman. It seems Letterman is being unfairly punished while Polanski is unfairly supported.