THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Child Rapist Is Not a Political Prisoner

Right-minded souls who reject claims of mitigating circumstances in the case of Roman Polanski should follow the example of Fred Goldman. He's the father of Ron Goldman, the waiter who was butchered along with Nicole Simpson, O.J. Simpson's ex-wife. Since Simpson's acquittal in 1995, Mr. Goldman has refused to utter the name of his son's accused murderer. Instead he calls him "the killer." This is what Polanski's opponents should do on TV. Refer to him only as "the child rapist." Remind people of what he is. Put his defenders on the spot. Notice how they avoid mentioning the specific crime to which he pleaded guilty. And when they do, they're made to wish they hadn't. (We'll get to Whoopi Goldberg in a moment.) So let them bring up the Holocaust, Charlie Manson, Judge Rittenband. It'll make no difference. Every time viewers hear "the child rapist," their hearts will harden against any morally relativistic argument.

As for his defenders, many of whom I've admired, they should be ashamed. Among those who've signed the petition demanding the child rapist's release: Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Darren Aronofsky, Sam Mendes, Mike Nichols, Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodovar, Alfonso Cuaron, Bernardo Bertolucci, Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Paul Auster, Jeremy Irons, Harrison Ford, Penelope Cruz, and Natalie Portman. (Woody Allen signed it too, but I crossed off the little creep when he slept with his lover's adopted daughter.) I was especially disappointed to see Rushdie's name. I've interviewed him. He's a warm, funny, brilliant man who was forced to go into hiding for years after publishing a novel that offended militant Muslims. But the child rapist spoke up for him during that dark period so Rushdie may be repaying a debt. Whoopi Goldberg has no such excuse. "Rape-rape"? A curious observation from an actress whose first leading role was as a young victim of repeated sexual abuse in The Color Purple. If what Goldberg says is true and there's a difference between "rape" and "rape-rape," every convicted date rapist should be pardoned. Unless they used provable physical violence, they did nothing wrong. As my Cuban parents would say, "Que comemierda!"

Since she shot herself in the foot on The View, Goldberg has been awfully quiet. As have most of the signatories to the petition. Their agents and publicists probably advised them to shut up after public opinion was found to run overwhelmingly against the child rapist. I'll be charitable. Maybe they were unfamiliar with the details of the 30-year-old case. Maybe they believed the child rapist was a worthy cause to rally around. But a child rapist is not a political prisoner. Political prisoners tend to be brave and selfless. A middle-aged man who treats a 13-year-old girl like an inflatable sex doll, and who then flees justice, is a degenerate and a coward. This is Humbert Humbert we're talking about, not Nelson Mandela.

Conservatives have trouble fathoming why writers and filmmakers attack the rich and the powerful. Why don't they produce works like Atlas Shrugged, which celebrate the strong at the expense of the weak? But art requires empathy. If you're an artist, chances are you're drawn to underdogs. And yet Hollywood overlooked a horrible act perpetrated on a helpless minor by an acclaimed director. Another Oscar-winning director, Bernardo Bertolucci, signed that petition. In his film, The Dreamers, a poet's son quotes one of his father's lines: "A petition is a poem, a poem is a petition." Last week, Bertolucci and his friends wrote a lousy poem.