Saturday, March 12


Judge Rodney S. Melville -- the judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case -- ruled yesterday, according to FOX News, that "Tonight Show" host and comedian Jay Leno is free to tell all of the Michael Jackson jokes he wants, provided he "stays away from details of his potential testimony." Leno wasted no time in exercising his rights under the law. If you were, as I was, among the millions of viewers who tuned in last night, you were regaled with a seemingly endless stream of vile, double-entendre jokes about pedophilia, which at best were distasteful and at worst were so over-the-top that they arguably pandered to the immoral and amoral alike in the audience. For me the laughter was akin to hearing hearty guffaws as a man is being tortured. Neither the victims of pedophilia, nor the accused pop star, nor even Catholic priests for that matter, were shielded from Leno's sickening monologue, which seemed to continue ad nauseam long after the early, uninhibited audience laughter became uneasy and halting.

There was a perverseness to Leno's concatenation of jokes that went far beyond defaming a pop music icon on trial for purportedly molesting a young boy at his Neverland Ranch. The jokes were not just mean-spirited. They suggested that pedophilia is just a funny fetish, rather than the sick, horrific crime it is, a crime perpetrated on innocent, unwary children. And as if this so-called "Jackson Monologue" were not distasteful enough, the NBC star felt duty-bound (effete Hollywood Liberal that he is) to draw in a President George Bush look-alike to complete the tasteless routine, suggesting that even the president of the United States finds the charges leveled against Jackson a source of amusement and his purported fondling of a young cancer victim appropriate fodder for comedians and presidents alike.

Leno's entire routine struck me as despicable and beyond the pale. I am not a Michael Jackson apologist or fan. I find his eccentricities to be more than curious; I'm convinced he's mentally unbalanced. I'm not a champion of men who sport lipstick, build fortress-style bedrooms, and unabashedly admit on national television that they delight in bringing young children into their bed for sleepovers, and regardless, I should add, of whether or not "affirmative, offensive conduct" occurs. But I also believe in "due process" and the concept that the accused is "innocent until proven guilty." So it's bad enough that Leno relentlessly attacks Jackson night after night under the guise of "topical humor." But now he's thoroughly pushed the envelope by making jokes about the sexual predation of young boys his stock in trade, something not even heard in the smoke-filled, backwater burlesque clubs of a bygone era.

What Leno did last night was a form of abuse. It abused the rule of law; it abused the notion of fair play; it coarsened America. His monologue would play well on most any stage in secular Europe, but it doesn't belong on any stage in this country. There's nothing -- nothing at all -- funny about child pornography, child molestation, or the persistent belittlement of a man not yet found guilty of odious crimes against unwary adolescents. Leno ought to be ashamed of himself and those who laugh ought to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror.