A staff writer for the prominent progressive site Daily Kos has repudiated her support for Kaitlyn Ashley Hunt, the Florida teenager whose sex crime case became a cause célèbre of the gay-rights movement in the past week. The 18-year-old on Friday rejected prosecutors' offer of a plea bargain on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a 14-year-old girl, meaning the case could go to trial next month in Indian River County.
The story gained nationwide attention after Hunt's family claimed Kaitlyn was a victim of anti-gay prejudice and launched a "Stop the Hate, Free Kate" campaign that has been supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the gay-rights group Equality Florida, and the 501(c)3 non-profit Purpose Foundation. (See my Thursday article, "#FreeKate? Movement to Normalize Pedophilia Finds Its Poster Girl.")
Daily Kos journalist Joan McCarter had enthusiastically endorsed the "Free Kate" movement, publishing a May 20 article that described Hunt as being victimized "simply because ... she fell in love with a younger girl who has vindictive bigots for parents.” However, in an update appended to the article Thursday, McCarter admitted that "public scrutiny of this case" had contradicted much of what inspired her original article:
Previously, Hunt’s parents said that the younger girl was 15, and Hunt 17 when the relationship began. The release of the arrest warrant made clear, as subsequent news stories report, that the younger girl was 14 and Hunt was indeed 18 when the relationship began.
These corrections, and the initial dishonesty of Hunt’s parents, make this story much more problematic, and our original petition moot.
That petition, which accused Florida officials of "prosecuting an 18-year-old for being in love," is now listed as "no longer active." The facts of the case as stated in the affidavit (including Kaitlyn Hunt's own admissions) also conflict with the "being in love" description of the relationship, which began with a December tryst in a school restroom toilet stall, described in the affidavit by Indian River County Sheriff's Office Detective Jeremy Shepherd:
"The first time occurred in the bathroom of the W wing at Sebastian High School. [The 14-year-old] stated that they sent text messages to each other to meet in the bathroom. [The 14-year-old] and Kaitlyn went into a bathroom stall and started kissing. Kaitlyn then took [the 14-yea-old's] pants off and put her finger inside of [the 14-year-old's] vagina."
Romantic, isn't it? Perhaps the most devastating blow to the "Free Kate" campaign's narrative of victimhood, however, was a local TV station's interview Thursday with the younger girl's parents, a mixed-race couple who scarcely appeared to be "vindictive bigots." Jim and Laurie Smith (he's white, she's black) told WPEC-TV reporter Jana Eschbach that they had twice asked Hunt to leave their daughter alone, and only went to police after a January incident in which their daughter ran away and spent the night at Hunt's house:
The Smiths are portrayed by the Hunt Family as going to the law first.
"It's not the way it was. It was quite different. We had actually told Miss Hunt that this was wrong," Laurie told CBS12's Jana Eschbach.
But, according to the Smiths Kate was warned, not once, but twice to stop.
"Another adult, a mother, came to me and said 'Ms. Smith you need to know this...we told Miss Hunt to leave your daughter alone. But they are in a relationship, and she's 18.' 18? My daughter is only 14," Laure said.
Their 14-year-old began to act out, and one weekend morning they opened her door and she was gone.
"It's the worst thing that I've ever experienced," Jim said. "Somebody took her is what we thought. Because her running away is the furthest thing from my mind. You hear kids getting abducted out of your home. That was heart-wrenching."
Reported missing, and found safe, the Smiths found out she was with Kate, who picked her up even though she had been told to stay away.
"Didn't stop, then we didn't have an alternative but to turn to the law, use it as a last resort," said Jim.
"This whole story about you blaming Kate for making your daughter gay...where did that come from?" asked CBS12's Jana Eschbach.
"I don't know. It didn't come from us. That's not how we feel," Jim said.
Dishonest attacks on the Smith family from the Hunt family, repeated by "Free Kate" activists, were enough to outrage many conservatives. But even before the Smiths gave their TV interview, one lesbian blogger publicly rejected the idea that the "Free Kate" campaign is about gay rights.
"The truth is this is not a case of homophobia; it's a case of a family trying to protect their daughter by using the gay angle of this case to rally sympathy and support from the gay community," T.J. Askren wrote Wednesday at her Red Treehouse blog. "Kaitlyn Hunt is not a lesbian hero. She is not a gay martyr. ... Getting in trouble for finger f*cking your underage girlfriend in the school bathroom is not a noble cause."
In fact, according to conservative blogger Becca Lower, it may be unfair to lesbians to call Kaitlyn Hunt a lesbian: Her mother said that she had "always dated boys" until beginning her affair with the 14-year-old girl.
The Bisexual Coalition for Teenage Toilet Sex could not be reached for comment.
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