Anne Applebaum: liar or laughingstock?

This is interesting. Roman Polanski, a movie director who has been on the lam since pleading guilty to statutory rape in 1978. (Testimony indicates the crime was far worse, but statutory rape is what he was convicted of, so we’ll go with that.) For the past 30 years, Polanski has been living in France — who refused to extradite him — making movies and travelling internationally, but avoiding the US and UK.  Last Saturday, Polanski was detained for extradition by Swiss authorities. A variety of people are horrified by this development, apparently believing that three decades in France is punishment enough.

One such person is Anne Applebaum, a columnist and blogger for the Washington Post. Applebaum called the arrest “outrageous” and said that Polanski has paid for his crime in “many, many ways”. For example, he was unable to go to Hollywood to receive his Oscar. Well, boo hoo. She also said his decision to flee justice was mitigated by an “understandable fear of irrational punishment” because he was a Holocaust survivor. So surviving the Holocaust is a get-out-of-jail-free card? I suspect that most Holocaust survivors would be offended at the idea.

Here’s where the Applebaum sub-story gets interesting. Patterico (a blogger who works for the LA DA’s office) revealed that Applebaum’s husband is the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who is personally lobbying to get Polanski released. (Polanski is a dual citizen of France and Poland.) Applebaum was happy to disclose her connection to Sikorski a week ago when it made her sound important, but did not do so in this case where it gives her a conflict of interest.

In response, Applebaum wrote another post expressing her deep offense at the suggestion that she had a conflict of interest. Following the standard playbook, she began her rebuttal by quoting an offensive piece of hate mail and insinuating that it is typical of the response. With the context established (people who disagree with her are evil), she then addressed the Sikorski angle. The most relevant portion (as quoted by Patterico) read:

Also, when I wrote the blog I had no idea that my husband, who is in Africa, would, or could do anything about it, as Polanski is not a Polish citizen.

(You won’t find this sentence in her post now, as I explain below.)

Her claim that Polanski is not a Polish citizen is simply wrong, but beyond that, Patterico pointed out that the Washington Post article linked from her original post reported the Sikorski angle:

Polanski also received support from Poland. . . “I am considering approaching the American authorities over the possibility of the U.S. president proclaiming an act of clemency, which would settle the matter once and for all,” said Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, according to the PAP news agency.

Subsequent to that, Applebaum revised her defense to read:

However, I will also note that at the time I wrote the blog item, I had no idea that the Polish government would or could lobby for Polanski’s release, as I am in Budapest and my husband is in Africa. (My editors later added a link to a news story that mentioned him.)

She made this substantial revision without marking an update, which is very shoddy practice in the blogosphere, but we’ll set that aside. What are we to make of her defense? There are two possibilities. First, she could be lying. Second, she is telling the truth and thoroughly incompetent. Let’s run down what she is asking us to believe:

  • She spouted off without familiarizing herself with the facts (Polanski is a Polish citizen).
  • She has less idea what her husband is doing in regards to the very subject she is writing about than an unrelated blogger. In fact, she has less idea than anyone who reads her own newspaper.
  • She wrote her blog post without including a single link to any news story covering the affair. The post’s sole link was added by her editors.

In short, Applebaum wants us to believe that she blogs without making even a cursory effort to know what she is talking about. She might do better to say she lied.

POSTSCRIPT: Since it won’t do for me to go on at such length without expressing any opinion on the underlying controversy, I’ll just say that rapists should always be brought to justice, even if they avoid capture for thirty years. If there was some sort of misconduct in the case, as Polanski’s apologists allege, a court is the only institution competent to consider it. Also, the victim’s wish that Polanski not be punished is not germane. There may be crimes for which the victim’s reluctance to pursue justice is dispositive, but statutory rape is not one of them.

(Via Instapundit, who adds: You can tell a lot about a governing class from who it’s willing to cover for.)

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