Brent Bozell

That mind-boggling sense of persecuted righteousness is suffusing the Francis media tour. His appearance on ABC's "Nightline" was amazing. Its online headline was his assertion, "The only criminals are those persecuting me." When Panama City prosecutor Steve Meadows showed ABC's Martin Bashir the film of the two 17-year-olds, Francis and his lawyers tried to argue that it was Meadows who was now distributing child porn.

ABC's interview with Francis didn't feature any video of the two underage girls interacting on camera, but Bashir explained to viewers that the camera operator asked the girls to perform sex acts and offered from $50 to $400 for the scenes. The girls said they were uncomfortable and refused.

At the segment's beginning, Bashir asked Francis if he was making porn. No, he said. "You know what I like to call it?" he said. "European television. It's naked girls having fun."

But when Bashir asked about his minions and their sickening financial inducements to the unwilling 17-year-old girls, Francis compared himself to Steven Spielberg: "Just like Steven Spielberg pays an actor to be in a movie. Yes, 'Girls Gone Wild' pays some of its performers to be in their movies."

That crash you heard was Stephen Spielberg throwing a plastic "E.T." figurine across his living room.

Without any pause for giggles, Bashir pressed on, wanting to know if Francis paid more for more adventurous performances. Francis replied: "Just like Playboy would pay more for a more adventurous performer, probably, you know, 'Girls Gone Wild' would, too." So much for his product not being pornography.

It's too bad these TV interviewers didn't mention Francis assaulting Los Angeles Times reporter Claire Hoffman last year, pressing her face into the hood of a car, twisting her arms behind her back and shouting, "This is what they did to me in Panama City!" Hoffman wrote: "I'm thinking he's about to break my left arm. My eyes start to stream tears."

Stories like that caused one Internet wag to really aim low. Joe Francis, he wrote, is no gentlemanly porn merchant, like Hugh Hefner. He's just scum.

Brent Bozell

Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.
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