On last night's Election Center, CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN Anchor Campbell Brown continued to promote the Obama talking point that John McCain had lied in an ad about Barack Obama's record on a sex education bill in the Illinois state Senate.
McCain's ad says Barack Obama's "one accomplishment" as a state senator was "legislation to teach ‘comprehensive sex education' to kindergarteners."
Toobin listed it among several "outright falsehoods" from McCain, and Borger claimed the Obama-backed bill was "about teaching children to recognize sexual predators."
The Obama camp and many media have repeated the line that the bill was only about protecting kids from sexual predators. But the McCain ad is correct. The bill, SB 99, is a radical expansion of sex education, ratcheting down the initiation age from sixth grade to kindergarten, and eliminating moral language that supports marriage and abstinence. Only a tiny portion of the bill addresses how kids can be protected from unwanted sexual advances.
As NRO's Byron York reports in his article "On Sex Ed Ad, McCain Is Right," the groups that pushed the sex ed bill issued a press release describing as "comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education" and did not mention anything about protecting kids from sexual predators. If that had been the main focus of the bill, surely it would have been in the release from the bill's major backers, which include Planned Parenthood, NOW and the Illinois chapter of the National Education Association.
Toobin and Borger are not alone. A survey by CMI's Colleen Raezler of the last week's media reaction has turned up more than a dozen instances in which journalists repeat the idea that the bill was only about sex predators.
CBS, MSNBC, PBS, TIME magazine, the New York Times and the Washington Post accused John McCain of "sleazy" tactics, "flat-out lies" and being "dishonest" and "deceptive."
Here are some examples:
• Sept. 15, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "Obama supported legislation to help keep kindergarteners safe from sexual predators, and turning that into some creepy, anti-sex ed ad, it's not just a McCain lie, it is a prevarication miracle, totally unknowable through rational means."
• Sept. 12, PBS' Judy Woodruff on NewsHour: "Obama supported a law to educate children on the dangers of sexual predators."
• Sept. 12: A New York Times editorial: "The kindergarten ad flat out lies. ...at most, kindergarteners were to be taught the dangers of sexual predators.
Here is a partial transcript from CNN's Election Center on Sept. 16:
JEFFREY TOOBIN: We do a lot of parity here at CNN, and we match things up, but there is no comparison. John McCain has told outright falsehoods about Obama and sex education, about the bridge to nowhere, about earmarks, about taxes, and the examples we cited in those Obama ads are not even close to the falsehoods that have been said about Obama by the McCain campaign.
CAMPBELL BROWN: And, Kevin, even some conservatives essentially last week, especially after that sex education ad, I think came forward and said, whoa, we are really crossing a line here. But I know you think this is just politics to a certain extent.
KEVIN MADDEN [GOP strategist]: Well, you know, look, remember in 1988 where there was a big moment where Bob Dole said, stop lying about my record. I feel like we have three moments like that a day here on this campaign. But look, you know, John McCain campaign, well, they documented every single charge that they've made against Barack Obama. And at the end of the day, they still have the truth on their side, they believe, with all of these, and they continue to document them and make sure that reporters know about those charges.
GLORIA BORGER: Well, I don't think they did that really on the ad that Jeff Toobin was referring to on sexual -- on sex education because that legislation was about teaching children to recognize sexual predators.
MADDEN: Well, the first thing you have to remember about that charge is that I think it even came up during the Democrat primary. And secondly, Byron York had a very lengthy examination of that charge today in the National Review that documents entirely what is in that bill, and it would be troubling to a lot of Americans to see that Barack Obama supported that.
TOOBIN: It was a bipartisan, non-controversial program. Look, this last week, since Sarah Palin has been on the campaign, they brought out Sarah Palin saying, she was the woman who fought the bridge to nowhere. And we now know that she is someone who embraced the bridge to nowhere, who has sought out earmarks, that kind of thing. The focus that the McCain campaign has put on something that turns out not to be true is simply unprecedented in this campaign and frankly, in any recent campaign.
If the bill was "a bipartisan, non-controversial program," as Toobin asserts, then why did the Illinois senate reject it? SB 99 passed the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Barack Obama, who voted with the 7-4 majority to send the bill in March 2003 to the full Senate, where it was shelved.
Bill sponsor Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) said in the press release that the bill mandates that any school that has sex education must provide "comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education." And what would that consist of for kindergarteners? The groups listed in the release support the definitions provided in the SIECUS Guidelines used and promoted by Planned Parenthood nationally. Here are the SIECUS guidelines for kindergartners through third grade, as excerpted from a report by Fran Eaton in the Illinois Review:
"In Illinois circles, those groups promoting comprehensive sex ed often referred to the standards set up by SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States). SIECUS standards for comprehensive sex ed are available online here in the 2004 form. The legislation and standards set the year before on SB 99 were the same as these:
Developmental Messages: Level 1 (ages 5-8)
• Each body part has a correct name and a specific function.
• A person's genitals, reproductive organs, and genes determine whether the person is male or female.
• A boy/man has nipples, a penis, a scrotum, and testicles.
• A girl/woman has breasts, nipples, a vulva, a clitoris, a vagina, a uterus, and ovaries.
• Some sexual or reproductive organs, such as penises and vulvas, are external or on the outside of
the body while others, such as ovaries and testicles, are internal or inside the body.
• Both boys and girls have body parts that feel good when touched.
• Vaginal intercourse - when a penis is placed inside a vagina - is the most common way for a sperm and egg to join.
Developmental Messages, Level 1 (ages 5-8)
• Most children are curious about their bodies.
• Bodies can feel good when touched.
(Page 51. Interesting language, "Most children are...." Wouldn't be any peer pressure there, now would there?)
Subconcept: Masturbation is one way human beings express their sexuality.
• Touching and rubbing one's own genitals to feel good is called masturbation.
• Some boys and girls masturbate and others do not.
• Masturbation should be done in a private place.
Topic 3:Shared Sexual Behavior
Subconcept: Individuals express their sexuality with a partner in diverse ways.
• People often kiss, hug, touch, and engage in other sexual behaviors with one another to show caring and to feel good.
Topic 5:Human Sexual Response
Subconcept: Female and male bodies respond both similarly and differently to sexual stimulation.
• Both girls and boys may discover that their bodies feel good when touched.
Illinois Review gives a hat tip to Wisconsin's Arlen Williams for helping locate this information.