PBS Reply

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on additional replies to the Breaking the Silence program that PBS aired in October, 2005.

Boston Globe Columnist Urges PBS to Cover Fathers' Views (11/21/05)


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Boston Globe Columnist Criticizes Breaking the Silence, Urges PBS to Cover Fathers' Views

Columnist Cathy Young criticized PBS's Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories and urged PBS to air fathers' views in her new column PBS's negative picture of fathers (Boston Globe, 11/21/05).

In the column Young noted "Film producer Dominique Lasseur told me he was shocked by the backlash" to the film. This is true, but not in the way one might think.

Lasseur and his cothinkers are accustomed to having carte blanche to bash men and fathers. Lasseur isn't surprised that there are people who don't like his film--what surprises him is that this time his opponents organized themselves properly and lit him up. A PBS internal memo sent out after we launched the campaign gives a sense of PBS's surprise and coordinated effort at damage control--see PBS Internal Memo Tells Affiliates to Stonewall Protesters (October 23, 2005).

Lasseur is now learning the lesson that John Burton, Todd Goldman, Verizon, Mike Cox and others have learned--while the fathers' movement still has a long, long way to go, we are now a credible force quite capable of organizing popular protests and gaining media attention.

Young debunks claims made by law professor Joan Meier, one of the film's main experts, that ''75 percent of contested custody cases have a history of domestic violence" and that about two-thirds of fathers ''accused or adjudicated of battering" win sole or joint custody of their children.

She also discusses the case of Tom Gallen, a father who lost custody of his children to an abusive wife and who approached Lasseur about being in the film. Though Lasseur concedes that Gallen's case was "well-documented," he declined to include Gallen or any other male victims in the film.

In her writing Cathy Young works hard to be fair to both sides of an issue, which is commendable. However, in discussing the Loeliger case, there are a couple of problems.

For one, she writes that there were "fairly serious child abuse allegations against" Sadia Loeliger. There were plenty of allegations, many of them quite serious. But more importantly, there were court findings of multiple acts of child abuse. The victims were Scott & Sadia's daughter Fatima (interviewed and dubbed "Amina" in the film) and also Sara, Sadia's niece who lived under her care. For this reason, all three of the children living under Sadia's care were adjudged as dependents of the juvenile court.

Young also writes "The documents also reveal a messy, complicated case in which most evaluators concluded that both parents were behaving 'abominably.'"

In the context of nightmarish custody battles with accusations on both sides, it is tempting (and often accurate) to throw up one's hands and say "a plague on both your houses." In this case, however, it hardly seems appropriate.

Sadia Loeliger committed numerous acts of violence against the children under her care, against Scott Loeliger, and against others. As one of the judges in the case noted, she also waged a long and ultimately successful campaign of parental alienation against Scott.

Scott is criticized at times by the evaluators and third parties in this case, but there's nothing credible in the record which compares to Sadia's behavior. And there's not even an allegation that he ever physically abused either his alienated daughter Fatima or his ex-wife Sadia.

The column also contains a nice plug for Fathers and Families of Massachusetts--let's hope it helps them. Their leaders, Dr. Ned Holstein, M.D, M.S. and Dan B. Hogan, J.D., Ph.D., have a tough row to hoe in pro-feminist Massachusetts. Massachusetts family courts are known for their anti-father custody bias, no evidence required restraining orders (209As), and a child support guideline that is one of the most unfair in the nation.

PBS Miami Affiliate Announces it Won't Run Breaking the Silence

WLRN, PBS's Miami affiliate, will not be airing Breaking the Silence, according to Heather Stever, the station's Audience Response Coordinator.

The Air War

Now that we're in the holiday season, getting media will be increasingly difficult. However, since the airing of Breaking the Silence last month we have generated a good deal of publicity for our side. By contrast, the opposition--despite being vastly better funded and much more connected--has made few inroads in the media since the original broadcast.

Concerning opinion columns, ours include:

Cathy Young's PBS's negative picture of fathers (Boston Globe, 11/21/05)

Wendy McElroy's PBS Film Ignites Fathers' Rights Debate (Fox News, 11/7/05)

Jeff Leving & Glenn Sacks' Film Goes Too Far as Advocate for Cutting Fathers Off From Kids (Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal, 11/1/05)

Jeff Leving & Glenn Sacks' Film gives distorted view of family law (Albany Times-Union, 10/20/05)

Jeff Leving & Glenn Sacks' PBS's Breaking the Silence: Family Law in the Funhouse Mirror (Norfolk Virginian Pilot, 10/24/05)

To my knowledge, the only column published on the opposition's side was Critics of Child Abuse Film Miss the Point in Rush to Defend Fathers (Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal, 11/1/05).

We have also received significant media attention on radio shows and other media. These include: nationally-syndicated radio talk shows such as the Dennis Prager Show and the Michael Reagan Show; networks such as American Family Radio and Focus on the Family Radio; and local shows like NPR's CrossTalk and the Scott Sloan Show in Cincinnati.

We have also appeared on PBS affiliates in Houston, Texas, Columbus, Ohio and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

An Answer to Trish Wilson

As I noted last week, feminist blogger Trish Wilson, a longtime opponent of the fatherhood movement, has decided to become Sadia Loeliger's defender. Trish has described my work around the Loeliger case as "heinous" and "horrid."

One of Trish's main accusations against me--repeated many times on her blog--is that when I first set up the Loeliger page on my website, I listed a statement posted on the internet in Fatima Loeliger's name in a section called "Opposition Views." Trish wrote:

"A teenaged girl's own story of abuse at the hands of her father and stepmother is seen by fathers' rights activists as 'The Opposition.' As I have noted elsewhere, that was one hell of a Freudian slip."

I posted Fatima's letter on my website because I like my audience to be able to read and hear what the other side has to say on any issue I'm discussing. Trish, by contrast, does not have a single link to my work on Loeliger on either her blog or on the website she set up for defending Sadia Loeliger. Both in last week's enewsletter and on my website I urged my readers to go to Trish's site and read her material.

I listed the statement written for Fatima Loeliger and posted on the internet in her name in the section called "Opposition Views" because the views expressed are the product of Sadia Loeliger's long, relentless and ultimately successful Parental Alienation campaign. They are Sadia's views, and Sadia is the opposition.

I later switched it from "Opposition Views" to Sadia Loeliger's Side of the Story because feminist blogger Ampersand--who I respect--wrote me and told me that my wording was "tacky." I hate to be "tacky", so I changed it.

There are times when I ask myself why fatherhood advocates and feminist organizations are at such odds. Since I was an activist in the feminist movement in the '80s and early '90s, the question is particularly relevant for me personally. I think the clash between Wilson and I helps answer this question.

When we released the Loeliger revelations someone asked me what I thought Wilson's reaction would be. I told them "Trish will sit this one out." I honestly believed that even a dedicated opponent such as Wilson would not want to defend a mother with such a long and well-documented history of violence and child abuse.

Sad to say, it turns out that I was wrong--Wilson has decided to become Sadia Loeliger's defender, posting Sadia's problem-riddled defense of herself on her website.

According to Wilson, "most heinous of all is that with the help of one of the named fathers in the documentary, they [Sacks & Co.] have taken to attacking one of the [film's] protective mothers." Here Wilson writes that "fathers' rights activists are attacking a protective mother and her abused child. The campaign against the documentary shows how horrid fathers' rights activists really are."

(Sigh)...Sadia Loeliger, "protective mother."

I would pose Ms. Wilson and her co-thinkers a few questions. In custody cases where there are accusations back and forth, both parents often claim to be the "protective parent." If we declare Sadia Loeliger to be a "protective mother," could we ever decide that the protective parent is the father?

I don't see how. There have been findings of child abuse in this case--against the mother, by the clear and convincing evidence standard of juvenile court. Numerous third parties have testified to Sadia's violence, yet Scott Loeliger has never even been accused of hurting Sadia or Fatima. Despite this, the mom is the "protective parent." Under what standard then could we ever declare the father to be the "protective parent?" Using this logic, I can't think of one.

Another question--Wilson and Breaking the Silence's other defenders assert that because Sadia Loeliger lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband, she is the victim of a sexist, anti-mother court system. Again, using this logic, could a father ever justly be awarded custody of a child?

Again, I don't see how. Here we have a father who received custody only after the mother was found to be physically abusive by the clear and convincing evidence standard of the juvenile court. It doesn't matter--mom is still a victim and dad is the evil man who stole a loving mother's kids.

Wilson criticizes me for posting "outdated" documents on Sadia Loeliger's violence. Why "outdated?" Because she was found guilty of multiple acts of child abuse seven years ago. How this is "outdated" or somehow not relevant is unclear. These findings are the only findings of child abuse in this case--how could they not be relevant?

Sadia Loeliger has responded to our charges, and her views are posted on the Wilson's website here. There are a host of problems with the defense. Given the constraints of time, I chose 14 of the more important ones to discuss. This can be read here.

PBS Pledges 'Review of the Research Behind and Conclusions Presented' by Breaking the Silence, Says It Will be Completed by Early December

PBS is now sending a response to those protesting against Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories which says that they "have initiated a review of the research behind and conclusions presented" by the film, and that their review will be completed by early December.

I was contacted a couple weeks ago by Jan McNamara, PBS's Director of Corporate Communications, who informed me of this review. I offered McNamara the input of fathers' advocates for the review, explaining that I couldn't see how it could be complete without it. Reading their letter, it does not appear that any fatherhood advocates are involved in the review. I hope I'm wrong.

Nevertheless, I commend PBS for acknowledging and responding to our concerns. As I've said from the beginning, our goal is that fatherhood advocates be given a meaningful chanced to present our side of these issues on national PBS. PBS affiliates in Houston, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton, Pennsylvania have already done this, and in each case the 30 or 60 minute program was professional, respectful and informative. Hopefully national PBS will see the wisdom in this and follow suit. PBS's new letter can be read here.

Have You Been the Victim of a Child Support Error?

If you feel you have been billed for child support payments that you believe you do not owe, or if you believe you have experienced a questionable practice by a child support agency, Jane Spies and the National Family Justice Association are conducting a study on this issue and want to hear from you. Click here for more information.

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