The Today show doesn’t like to judge. In the past, they have used the HBO series Big Love as a pretext to describe polygamy as the "next civil rights battle." They also had a serious piece on an "artist" who was promoting female public nudity. And now we have the lighter side of child rape. The May 26 edition of NBC’s Today featured an interview with Mary Kay LeTourneau. You may remember her as the women who was convicted in 1997 for having sex with her then 12-year-old student. She has since served a seven year prison sentence and is now married to the former victim, Vili Fualaau, 21. Here’s how Matt Lauer introduced the piece at 7:32AM EDT:
Lauer: "Most skeptics thought it could never last. Theirs was truly a love against all odds. He was a sixth grader in suburban Seattle. She was a star teacher and a married mother of four. What began as a mentorship quickly developed into a sexual affair."
Remember, we’re talking about child rape. This set the tone for the rest of the segment. The NBC host also noted that the couple has "pledged to stay faithful to one another." Ms. LeTourneau was married with four children at the time she began this illicit relationship. (A fact which NBC, to their credit, did mention.) So what exactly is the point of referencing this current vow of fidelity, other then to elicit sympathy for the couple’s relationship?
LeTourneau and Fualaau now have two daughters of their own. Lauer attempted to very gingerly broach the subject of talking about their relationship with the children:
Lauer: "I have a 5-year-old, Mary and Vili. And, you know, from time to time he asks me those questions, you know, how did you meet mommy and all things like that. What, what at their ages have you shared with them and what haven't you shared with them?"
This is, perhaps, Lauer’s non-judgmental way of wondering, "How do you explain that mommy, who is 23 years older then daddy, engaged in an illegal relationship with a child?" And this is the answer that he allowed LeTourneau to get away with:
LeTourneau "I was actually very honest with her. She already knew that her dad was a student of mine. I said, well, I had a hunch that, that he really liked me and- but I was trying to ignore him."
Did Lauer respond by saying, "How would you feel if a 40 year old male teacher began a sexual relationship with your young daughter? Would you accept such a ridiculous, cutesy answer?" No, he didn’t say that. In fact, here are some of the other softball questions that the veteran NBC journalist asked:
Lauer: "Do you think, Mary, in some ways, the fact that you two are still together after this year of marriage proves some of the naysayers wrong?"
Lauer: "Obviously besides the two adorable girls you have, what’s, what do you have most in common?"
Lauer: "...Now you have a year of marriage successfully behind you. And, and you have a lot in the future. What are your hopes and dreams from this point on?"
Lauer: "All couples fight, from time to time. What do you two fight about?"
The above question prompted an extremely insightful response:
Fualaau "She’s really bad at directions."
Matt Lauer used the phrase "child rape" exactly once. After that, his tough questioning amounted to this solitary query:
Lauer: "Let me just ask you, if someone is watching this interview right now, Mary, in particular, who is still just shaking their head about this relationship saying, you know what, there is just something wrong. What would you say to that person?"
There certainly is something wrong here. It’s NBC’s complete horror at the thought of being "judgmental." Raping a child? It’s just an alternative love story.