Multiple news sources regaled the public with the gruesome details of Vick’s operation. A July 2007 CBS/Associated Press report explained, “Fights would end when one dog died or with the surrender of the losing dog, which was sometimes put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gun shot, electrocution or some other method, according to the documents.” To this day, Vick routinely tops lists of most disliked athletes, despite his many efforts to make amends for his past.
For years, the same media outlets have not deemed Gosnell’s crimes worthy of much coverage. While details of Vick’s operation dominated television news for weeks on end, major network news shows have been completely silent on the inner city late-term abortion facility as of this writing. But are Gosnell’s crimes really less newsworthy? According to testimony in the trial, the unlicensed medical school graduate beheaded nearly 100 living infants who were outside the womb and breathing on their own. Body parts of aborted babies were reportedly stuffed in cabinets and jars, and blood stained the furniture and carpet in the clinic.
Vick has repeatedly apologized for his actions in writing and in person. As part of his plea bargain, he was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and three years’ probation. While in prison, he was frequently visited and counseled by former NFL coach Tony Dungy. Vick has volunteered for the Humane Society, testified before Congress in favor of stricter regulations against dog fighting, and has made numerous public appearances before at-risk youth, with whom he is an in-demand speaker. In contrast, Gosnell has yet to express any remorse for his actions.
History reminds us that America is capable of forgiving public figures whose sins are discovered. President Bill Clinton, after having an affair with an intern and lying about it; Director Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl are just two examples of persons who have been released from the fickle court of public opinion. Yet an apologetic Vick cannot go on a book tour without fearing for his life.
I do not blame the media entirely for the state of supreme moral confusion in America. The voices of institutions like the Church have been compromised by recent corruption scandals. But the editorial decisions of key media outlets concerning “newsworthy crimes” have contributed to the problem. For example, many Americans may never get a chance to make a judgment about Gosnell’s actions, because they haven’t even heard of him.
While I do not condone any of Vick’s crimes against dogs, I think he deserves forgiveness and a second chance. Do Philadelphians really care less about crimes against human beings than they care about crimes against dogs? I don’t think so. What do you think?
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.