PBS Host Tavis Smiley Ignores Folk Singer’s Sex Offense History

What’s worse than spending a half-hour revisiting the 60s with some old beatniks and their guitars? Spending that half-hour tip-toeing around the fact that one of them is a convicted sex offender.

On Nov. 18, PBS’ Tavis Smiley hosted Peter Yarrow and Noel “Paul” Stookey on his self-named show. Yarrow and Stookey are the surviving members of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. They talked about what Smiley called their “five decades at the crossroads of music and political action,” congratulated themselves for liking “social justice,” and played some songs, including a peppy number that asked “have you gone to jail for justice?” They also reminisced about their contemporaries, including comedians of the time, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby.

So, just to recap, they talked about going to jail, and they mentioned two men who very recently – in Cosby’s case, currently – have been the subject of particularly nasty sex abuse allegations.

And yet Smiley never thought to interrupt the reverie with a question about Yarrow doing jail-time for sex-offenses with a minor? In 1970, he spent three months in prison after pleading guilty to “taking indecent liberties” with a child. According to the New York Post, Yarrow had engaged in “a sex act with a 14-year-old girl in a Washington, DC, hotel room in front of her 17-year-old sister.”

It’s not as if its all long-forgotten. Last April, when Yarrow’s old high school in Manhattan wanted to honor him with a “Hall of Fame” award and an event involving current students, parents were publicly angry with the administration, according to the Post, which quoted one parent who asked if it was “even legal for [Yarrow] to be in a school."

From the Post:

Yarrow said in a statement to The Post on Monday that he was grateful for the pardon he received from President Jimmy Carter in 1981 and “I hope that my contrition and my efforts to help humanity over the years will allow me a measure of the public’s forgiveness.”

Well, it certainly got him Smiley’s forgiveness. Hey, if you’re on the side of “social justice” or just really good at doing stuff liberals care about (Roman Polanski, anyone?), come on home. All is forgiven.

Crime Culture/Society Sexuality PBS New York Post Tavis Smiley

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